Chronic Pain

What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is any type of persistent pain that lasts for an extended period of time. Whereas acute (temporary) pain naturally resolves or heals over time, chronic pain can last for months at a time or even years.

In September 2018, the CDC reported that nearly 50 Million Americans suffer from chronic pain. 20 Million of those have what is called “high-impact” chronic pain. This means they are often in so much pain that it is quite debilitating throughout their daily life.

Signs & Symptoms of Chronic Pain

Anyone can suffer from chronic pain and you’d never really know. Millions of people go throughout their daily lives fighting to push past the pain in order to keep going.

Some of the most common symptoms with chronic pain include:

  • Intense joint pain

  • Backaches or neck aches

  • Headaches, migraines

  • Muscle spasms

  • Nerve pain

  • Shoulder tension

  • Spinal injury

  • Pelvic pain

  • Hip problems

  • Inflammation after a serious injury


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Negative Side Effects of Chronic Pain

Because these are typical reasons for chronic pain, a wide variety of negative side effects can result. Not only does the person struggle with immense physical pain every day, but they might also struggle with distressful emotions because of it.

Anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, or feelings of helplessness can be a major part of someone experiencing chronic pain for a long period of time. These emotions combined with chronic pain can cause negative side effects, such as:

  • Mood swings, irritability

  • Changes in appetite or weight

  • Decrease in immunity, sometimes due to chronic illness

  • Fatigue

  • Foggy mind; forgetfulness

  • Frustration, outbursts of anger

  • Social complications

  • Sleep issues like insomnia

  • Digestive problems

  • Skin Irritations

  • Unexpected flare-ups of pain

  • Loss of interest in regular hobbies or fun activities

Risk of Prescription Drug Abuse

Common Medications for Chronic Pain

We all know of the huge opioid issue in the United States. The Journal of Neuroscience reported the relationship between chronic pain and opioids shows a startling pattern of drug dependency.

Opioids (also categorized as Narcotics) are prescription drugs that act much like morphine to release a sense of pleasure in the brain and relieve extreme pain. Many prescription pain medications are mainly made up of hydrocodone or oxycodone. Common examples include:

  • Vicodin
  • Valium
  • Oxycontin
  • Percocet
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Dilaudid

Addiction & Overdose

When taking prescription painkillers for chronic pain, it’s crucial to follow the medical instructions to prevent chemical dependency. Since most opioid prescription pain pills cause a sense of well-being while blocking pain at the same time, they are easy to misuse.

Many people form a tolerance to opioids when they take them for chronic pain. This means that their regular prescribed dose begin to have less of the desired effect to block pain the longer they use it. Therefore, the dose is often increased, usually without the approval of a doctor. If this happens multiple times, addiction can happen or worse, accidental overdose.

Signs of Painkiller Drug Abuse

Over time, the body and brain get used to the presence of opioids in the system. When dependence forms, a cease to continue prescription painkillers can cause withdrawal.

Withdrawal happens when the body goes through a series of negative symptoms while detoxing the drug.

To avoid withdrawal discomfort, many patients believe it’s often easier to continue abusing the prescription medications. However, as the cycle continues, this pattern can grow into desperation. Sometimes people in chronic pain end up turning to outside illicit sources to obtain more pills.

Warning signs of opioid abuse usually look like:

  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Pupil dilation
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive sweating
  • Confusion
  • Isolation; social withdrawal
  • Visiting multiple doctors to obtain extra medications
  • Mood changes
  • Deceptive behavior
  • Strange decision-making patterns

How to Avoid Prescription Dependency When You Have Chronic Pain

The best way to avoid an opioid addiction is to try other means of pain relief before turning to prescription drugs. There are pain-relief options such as:

  • Physical Therapy
  • Chiropractor
  • Herbal supplements
  • Acupuncture
  • Exercise
  • Biofeedback
  • Stress-reduction therapy
  • Massage

It’s wise to get several opinions from different medical professionals before deciding on a treatment plan that seems best to you.

If pain medications seem to be the final last resort in treating your chronic pain, or if all other remedies have proved ineffective, you need to be responsible and carefully follow the dosages and doctors’ instructions. The only way to prevent an opioid addiction from chronic pain is to take as little amount as possible.

If you or a loved one need help to break an addiction from opioids resulting from chronic pain, contact us today. Our Costa Mesa detox and residential treatment programs have given many people their lives back, free of opioid dependency.