If you’ve ever experienced chronic pain, you know the effects go beyond hurtful physical sensations and ongoing discomfort. You’re not alone—pain is the number one reason people seek medical care.

Research shows that unrelieved pain negatively impacts patients in every way – socially, physically and financially. But did you know that chronic pain also changes the brain structurally and chemically?  

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Chronic pain can lead to a faster loss of gray matter, which is the part of your brain that communicates information, and loss of it causes: 

  • Increased sensitivity to pain signals
  • Reduced ability for the brain to release its own natural painkillers
  • Changes in emotions (such as anxiety disorders or depression) 
  • Lack of cognition
  • Trouble walking or doing daily activities 
  • Malnutrition 
  • Increased risk of falling 

 Even though chronic pain can cause changes in the brain, research also shows that when effectively treated, these effects may be reversible. 

Go see your primary care physician or a doctor for an evaluation, even if your pain does not seem to require immediate assistance. If you have been experiencing any pain for several days or longer, this could be because of another underlying condition, so seeing a doctor early can help you have less pain, recover faster and prevent future issues. 

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Your doctor will diagnose the cause of your pain and help you devise a treatment plan for coping and healing. Some of the most common medical interventions for pain are: 

  • Physical therapy—strengthening and mobility exercises, along with applying hot or cold packs and doing breathing exercises, can help control pain and improve physical function
  • Relaxation techniques—stress and tension can make pain worse, so using these techniques can help relieve any stress caused by anxiety 
  • Massage therapyresearch shows massage has both mental and physical benefits on chronic pain, like: patients become more relaxed and have a smaller perception of pain; patients encounter fewer muscle spasms or cramps; and patients have decreased symptoms overall  
  • Medication or ointment—in severe cases where other interventions cannot provide relief, medications or skin ointments can be prescribed and could include: anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications, prescription pain pills or steroids 
  • Alternative treatments—when other routes do not provide relief, your doctor may suggest: acupressure, acupuncture, electrotherapy, or guided imagery and relaxation techniques, which have all been suggested to aid in pain management 

 You can have a higher quality of life. Contact your primary care physician for information if you are experiencing chronic pain. 

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please speak with your doctor if you are experiencing chronic pain. 

By Blair Klayko