This September Pain Awareness Month 2021, let’s come together to #KnowYourPainWithCPI!

What is pain? 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage.”

Different types of pain – Acute & Chronic Pain

Pain can be of numerous types. Let us look at the classification of pain based on its duration.

Acute pain is the pain that typically lasts for 3 to 6 months or less. It can also be understood as pain that occurs as a result of soft tissue damage. For instance, a sprained ankle or a paper cut.

Chronic pain, on the other hand, is pain that lasts for a much longer duration than acute pain. At times, it even spans months and years.

We’ll be delving deeper into it in our subsequent posts. Stay tuned!

What is Chronic Pain?

According to the International Association for the Study of Pain, chronic pain refers to pain that has no biological cause and stays for a long time much after recovery from the pain-causing illness. Chronic pain can also occur with a pre-existing health condition, such as arthritis.

Simply put, chronic pain is any pain that persists for 3 months or more (Treede, et al., 2019). 

For some, chronic pain may be present continuously, for others it may function like an on and off switch. However, irrespective of the duration of chronic pain, it has been seen that it affects people drastically, including their work, physical health, and ability to participate in activities and enjoy life.

When does Pain Become Chronic?

While there is no fixed definition of chronic pain, usually pain that lasts beyond 12 weeks to months and years is considered chronic. 

There may be an injury or physical trauma causing pain that continues beyond the usual healing time. 

However, for most CP warriors, it is connected to some underlying condition.

Some common conditions linked to chronic pain include fibromyalgia, migraine, arthritis, etc.

Is Chronic Pain a Disability?

Whether chronic pain is a disability or not depends on the definition of disability which varies across countries. At the global level, chronic pain isn’t considered a disability in itself. In India, even if your chronic pain is debilitating and severe, you won’t be eligible for any benefits under the law. In India, a person with chronic pain would get benefits that are available for persons with disabilities under the law, if their underlying conditions fall within the list of 21 disabilities.

Is Chronic Pain a Diagnosis?

No. Chronic pain is one of the symptoms of many underlying conditions. Your doctor will do tests and examinations to determine the cause of chronic pain. The diagnosis will involve identifying the underlying condition that causes the pain.

Chronic Pain and its Relationship with Mind

Chronic pain and mental health are closely connected. On one hand, living with chronic pain has severe mental health repercussions. It can lead to anxiety as we don’t know what our next day would feel like and if the pain will surface again to crash our plans. 

Some of us lose a lot from our old lives and it can lead to depression, self-worth and self-image issues, etc. It is also very isolating as we often can’t participate in social activities fully.

On the other hand, mental health conditions can cause chronic pain such as migraines and body pain. For example, Fibromyalgia, which is a chronic pain condition, has been linked to stress and depression.

Usually, it is not possible to tell, which came first – chronic pain or mental health challenges. They go hand-in-hand and heighten each other. A holistic treatment plan that looks into the body and mind is needed for chronic pain warriors.

Chronic Pain and its Relationship with Body

Those living with chronic pain often have a tricky relationship with their bodies. Sometimes, it feels like our bodies have failed us with the constant pain affecting our daily lives. We have to give up our plans and change our ambitions/dreams.

There are also body image issues that may arise with some of the symptoms of various chronic pain conditions and due to side effects of some of the medicines such as weight gain, acne, hair loss etc. 

Living with chronic pain is an important lesson in loving and caring for your body. It means listening to its needs like a good diet, exercise, adequate rest, good posture, sleep – whatever works for you.

It’s good to build a respectful and peaceful relationship with your body. Our journeys with chronic pain lead to more self-awareness and empathy.

….to be continued…