The Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported that approximately 100 million Americans are living with chronic pain. This exceeds the number of people suffering from heart diseases, diabetes, and cancers combined. Conditions that can result in chronic pain include arthritis, fibromyalgia, and lower back pain.
Though it’s safe to say that chronic pain is a physical condition that is experienced by people nationwide, IOM concludes that optimal pain management lags in the United States. Therefore, many patients’ quality of life is affected.
Chronic means the pain persists for a long time or recurs constantly. Enduring pain for an extended period can affect both the physical and psychological aspects of a person, especially if left untreated. Following are various side effects that can occur due to poor management of chronic pain.
Pain can wear a person down, leading to depression. Depression is a psychological condition that doesn’t happen in an instant, but instead rather slowly and unnoticeably. At first, a person suffering from chronic pain may feel exhausted all the time. This lack of energy effectively drains their motivation and desire to interact with their environment. Because of this, many patients become withdrawn and prefer an isolated, quiet environment. However, diminished social contact furthers the downward spiral by extinguishing hope and positivity. If this cycle is not disrupted by proper treatment, the combination of all of these factors over time will send a person into a deep state of depression.
Sleeping can provide a temporary relief to pain. People, however, often find that sleep is difficult to achieve because of the pain. About 50-80% of patients with chronic pain suffers from insomnia. They find themselves often waking up in the middle of the night because of their pain. Worse, researchers say this lack of sleep simply exacerbates pain and, therefore, perpetuates a vicious cycle that threatens overall health.
Blurred thoughts and forgetfulness commonly afflict people experiencing pain. Chronic pain, however, causes even more complications. Through brain scans, research finds that people with chronic pain possess a smaller hippocampus than normal. This is a region of the brain responsible for learning, retaining memory, and emotional regulation.
Chronic pain diminishes a person’s quality of life by fomenting a litany of symptoms and negative side effects. A never-ending, vicious cycle of such pain worsens many facets of a patient’s overall health. Therefore, proper pain management is imperative in breaking this cycle and healing both body and mind. Visit an experienced pain clinic to find proper treatment.
How Chronic Pain Affects Memory and Mood, ScientificAmerican.com
The Long Term Effects of Untreated Chronic Pain, Ipcaz.org