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September. It’s a month full of new possibilities as we shake off the laid-back summer vibes and get back to business at school, work, and home. It’s a time for new beginnings. For those of us who live with chronic pain, September is especially noteworthy because of its designation as National Pain Awareness Month. Twenty years ago, the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA), a non-profit organization that offers help to chronic pain sufferers (1), established Pain Awareness Month in September to raise awareness about chronic pain issues and management.
What Is Chronic Pain? How Does It Impact Us?
Unlike acute pain that comes on quickly and then goes away once its underlying cause is resolved (usually in less than six months), chronic pain is ongoing; generally persisting for half a year or longer. Many times recurrent pain like this continues even after the initial illness or injury has gone away or healed (in some cases, an underlying cause is never even found). Common conditions related to chronic pain include cancer, arthritis, headaches, fibromyalgia, and back pain (2).
This type of pain tends to make a significant impact in so many areas of our lives. A study published in Pain Medicine on the long-term consequences of chronic pain found that chronic pain pervades our moods, sleep, mental and sexual health, cardiovascular wellbeing, and brain function (3). In other words, our overall quality of life can be dramatically and negatively affected by the constant presence of pain. It can also induce depression. According to one study, a staggering 85% of chronic pain patients were found to be severely depressed (4).
Chronic Pain Affects Many Of Our Friends And Family
In terms of the prevalence of chronic pain in society, the statistics are astounding. It’s estimated that nearly 100 million people in the U.S. live with chronic pain. According to a National Health Interview Survey that was conducted in 2019, 20% of American adults had experienced chronic pain in the past three months and 7% were limited in their ability to conduct their regular personal and professional activities because of the pain (5). So many of us deal with pain in our lives.
A New Way To Overcome Persistent Pain
The good news is that there is a new way to approach this type of pain: holistically. Rather than simply masking the pain we feel with prescription drugs, the latest neuroscience points to the effectiveness of an integrative approach that utilizes complementary, non-invasive treatments to address all areas of our lives that are affected by pain. So while prescription drugs may play a role in some of our pain management plans, there is a whole spectrum of non-addictive treatments that will also address the areas of life that pain impacts, like sleep, mental and behavioral health.
Brain-body methods like Pain Reprocessing Therapy (PRT) and Pain Neuroscience Education (PNE) can also play a role in a holistic approach to chronic pain. These methods come into play when you can rule out that your body’s tissue is not damaged and is not the reason for your pain. In those cases, it’s possible that the brain isn’t processing pain signals correctly. If you’ve been injured for a long time, your brain may think your body is still damaged even if it’s not. Or maybe emotional distress is causing physical discomfort. In either of these cases, retraining the brain and recharacterizing pain can help manage it effectively.
To summarize, a far more effective way to treat chronic pain is with a comprehensive approach, that offers a wide range of treatments unique to each patient. Studies have found that people who attend a multidisciplinary pain treatment center that includes psychological therapy, vocational counseling, stress management, nutrition education, and massage are better able to cope with and can even overcome their chronic pain. Just the awareness that persistent pain impacts multiple parts of our lives and then implementing a program that takes all of these aspects into account can be a gamechanger!
Since recurring pain is a fact of life for so many of our friends and neighbors (perhaps even ourselves), Pain Awareness Month is the perfect time to acknowledge these struggles and bring awareness to the evidence-based solutions, advancements, and discoveries that might indeed help to to reduce or even eliminate pain.
At Lin, we exist to help people who are seeking to reduce chronic pain. If you are feeling misunderstood and in need of guidance and support through your pain, Lin can help. We will pair you with a personal health coach who is compassionate, empathetic, and understanding, and who will work with you to develop an effective care plan to tone down your pain. In honor of Pain Awareness Month, Lin is running a special campaign. Sign up during September and the entire proceeds of your first month of care will go to a non-profit of your choosing. Don’t wait – contact Lin today!