What is Chronic Pain Syndrome?
By Dr. Brad Culling
People often use chronic pain and chronic pain syndrome synonymously, and for good reason. In both cases, patients have been suffering from life-debilitating pain for at least three months to be technically diagnosed with chronic pain.
However, in some cases, chronic pain develops into something so severe that it begins to affect the emotional and mental well-being. When a patient’s pain causes them to develop depression, anxiety, or hopelessness, their condition has evolved into chronic pain syndrome.
According to the CDC, at least 20% of Americans suffer from chronic pain, and from experience, we estimate around 50% of those cases go on to develop chronic pain syndrome.
Even though chronic pain is treated relatively well, chronic pain syndrome goes relatively untreated due to its more challenging, multidisciplinary, and personalized nature. But at Advanced Pain Care, we are firm believers, that anyone with chronic pain, deserves access to relief, no matter the complexity.
Even though chronic pain syndrome is intricate and multifactorial, we hope to show that treatment for chronic pain syndrome is possible with a comprehensive assessment and a multi-modal approach to your care plan.
Patients With Underlying Mental Health Issues are Most at Risk for Developing Chronic Pain Syndrome
Anybody can develop chronic pain syndrome once their chronic pain impacts their mental and emotional wellbeing.
Life-debilitating pain often forces people to retire early, like in the case of our patient Saundra, who was forced to quit her job as a nurse because of severe leg pain. In other cases, pain causes patients to be chained to their bed, like in the case of our founder Dr. Malone, who found himself spending most of the day lying down because his back pain was crippling. Once the pain has robbed a patient’s livelihood, it leaves them vulnerable to a spectrum of depression and anxiety.
However, patients with underlying mental health issues are at risk of developing chronic pain syndrome. These patients already struggle with chronic anxiety or depression; thus, the onset of chronic pain can exacerbate their condition.
Other people who are at risk include those that are:
- Socially isolated and lack access to quality social support
- Economically disadvantaged with financial hardship
- Prone to more stress due to either work, lifestyle, or family
- Chronically tired due to poor sleep hygiene or unrecognized sleep disorders
If you identify with any of the symptoms above, especially a sense of hopelessness about your chronic pain, we urge you to get professional support. As soon as possible, reach out to your primary care provider or a pain management specialist who can help you properly manage all aspects of your pain and get you on a wellness path.
Treatments for Chronic Pain Syndrome Require a Multidisciplinary Approach
The cornerstone of any effective treatment plan for chronic pain syndrome starts with a thorough physical exam and detailed assessment of your medical history. From sitting down and engaging in thoughtful conversation about how chronic pain has affected your life, your pain specialist begins to piece together the source of your chronic pain syndrome.
From there, specific complaints and symptoms such as numbness, weakness, or tingling can be followed up with an X-ray or MRI to help clarify the more significant issue. Imaging helps to target the physical cause behind the pain and find the most beneficial modality or medication.
However, in many instances, chronic pain syndrome patients have chronic pain that is not 100% curable, which is why their pain impacts them on a deep emotional and mental level. Thus, as mentioned, effective treatments for chronic pain syndrome must be multidisciplinary with an equal emphasis on psychological components.
On a physiological level, the pain and emotional pathways are interconnected in the brain and spinal cord, to the point where we can see changes in chronic pain patients at the cellular level in the neurons and neurotransmitters in chronic pain patients. As a result, patients can get overly sensitive to the point where emotions like anger or frustration can cause flare-ups at the neurological level due to increased stress, anxiety, or depression.
If you’re not treating the emotional side of chronic pain, you’re missing a big piece of chronic pain management. At Advanced Pain Care, we emphasize psychological support the moment our patients step into the clinic. Not only are all our pain specialists trained in empathetic listening, but we also provide in-house social workers who specialize in helping patients with chronic pain syndrome.
Clinical social workers utilize a range of therapies and techniques to help you find healthy ways to accept, cope, and manage chronic pain in an emotionally healthy way. All of which are proven to dramatically improve the quality of life in cases where pain does not completely go away. Even though it’s a widely accepted and proven method to manage chronic pain syndrome, we find that many clinics don’t offer this extremely beneficial branch of medicine in-house. By providing this powerful therapy in our clinic, we have found that we can make a more significant and effective impact on our patients’ lives.
As we mentioned in “6 Coping Mechanism to Help Manage Your Chronic Pain,” our therapists help patients realize that even though they have pain, it’s vital for them to continue to do things they enjoy. This allows patients to receive the self-care they need while respecting their body’s boundaries. Depending on the patient, that can mean clearing their house, cooking for their family, or walking their dog. Anything that brings a sense of fulfillment and happiness is essential to continue, and our therapists can help patients find those crucial outlets that can reduce pain levels.
Related: 6 Coping Mechanisms to Help Manage Your Chronic Pain
When To Call a Pain Specialist for Your Chronic Pain Syndrome
Living with chronic pain is hard.
Living with chronic pain syndrome is even harder.
Depression and anxiety historically magnify the effects of chronic pain and can make you more sensitive in places where you never felt symptoms before.
Chronic pain syndrome is severe but treatable, so we must reiterate that if you’ve been in pain for several months and are starting to feel any of the symptoms below, you seek professional help:
- Hopeless about your condition
- Anxiety about completing simple tasks in fear of pain
- Depressed about the quality of your life
- Socially isolated from friends and family
- Unmotivated to seek support
- Chronically tired from lack of sleep
Reach out to us sooner rather than later so we can help you right away. Our same-day appointment guarantee ensures that you get the care you need now.
Book an appointment with one of our pain management specialists who will help you create an effective multidisciplinary plan of care for chronic pain syndrome.