Most of us think of pain as a result of an injury or disease. We expect it will go away once we have medical treatment or the injury heals.
For many people, this is the case. However for others, the pain doesn’t go away. In some cases, you can have pain even without an injury or obvious body damage.
This ongoing type of pain is called chronic pain. It’s estimated that one in three Australians live with chronic pain.
Acute pain and chronic pain – what’s the difference?
- Acute pain is usually short term. It tends to be more associated with damage to the body, and will usually go away after healing. Acute pain is a very important alarm system – it alerts us that some action is needed.
- Chronic pain lasts longer, beyond the time you would expect an injury to heal. Chronic pain often does not indicate ongoing damage in our body – it’s like the alarm has been left on and someone’s turned the volume up. The pain is less to do with an injury to body tissue and more to do with what’s happening in our nervous system.
How long does chronic pain last?
Chronic pain can last for more than three months, or in many cases, beyond normal healing time. It doesn’t obey the same rules as acute pain.
The longer pain persists, the more complex it becomes. Even if it is caused by a disease, it now involves multiple body systems beyond the nervous system.
People can have different pain experiences
Everyone’s experience of pain is different. Two people with the same injury, such as a sprained ankle, can have a very different pain experience.
This is because pain is complex – how we perceive pain involves an interaction between our mind and our body.
How do you manage chronic pain?
Because chronic pain is complex, there is no ‘one size fits all’ way of treating it.
To be successful pain managers, we may have to use a combination of things such as:
- Thinking strategies.
Over time, you can turn down the volume of your pain.
At PVH Medical, our doctors work alongside our on-site allied health professionals as a multidisciplinary team. This means you may also get help from a physiotherapist, exercise physiologist, podiatrist, psychologist, speech therapist or dietitian, in addition to your GP.
This can help produce the best results.
National Pain Week
Each year Chronic Pain Australia, the national voice of people living with chronic pain, organises National Pain Week to champion the needs of the many Australians living with some form of chronic pain.
In 2019, it runs from 22-28 July. You can share your experience of chronic pain by using #PAINWEEK2019 on social media.
One thing to remember
Chronic pain can be overwhelming and affect all aspects of your life.
However, with time, perseverance, and support from others (including your GP and allied health professionals), you can turn down the volume of your pain and get back to an enjoyable life.
Source: National Pain Week
Note: This information is of a general nature only and should not be substituted for medical advice. It does not replace consultations with qualified healthcare professionals to meet your individual medical needs.