Lingering Pain From an Old Injury? How to Address Pain That Doesn’t Go Away
By Clayton Adams, M.D.
Lingering pain can come from many different sources: an old trauma, surgery pain, or pretty much any injury that should have gotten better, but hasn’t. It’s usually a frustrating experience to be saddled with pain when it should have gone away.
We know that any kind of pain can affect our mindset and mental health. This is especially true with lingering pain or pain that doesn’t go away, because there’s a whole other dimension of helplessness that colors the experience. However, the unfortunate truth is that the experience of pain varies widely and no two people have the same experience with any surgery or injury. Many people experience lingering pain and there are ways to manage and treat it!
Managing Lingering Pain at Home
Many people with lingering pain find that they can manage that pain at home. Depending on the location and root cause of the lingering pain, exercise, mindfulness exercises, anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications, chiropractic care, or acupuncture can help to reduce pain.
Exercise such as stretching, yoga, walking, or even running can help minimize pain. Movement reduces inflammation and improves blood circulation. Many types of lingering pain can be positively impacted through a regular exercise routine. However, make sure not to over-exert yourself and start slowly. You can always build up to a more intense or longer workout over time. Exercise is also great for mental health, which can take a hit from the experience of lingering pain.
The link between physical pain and mental health means that chronic pain can induce depression, anxiety, and self-isolation. Pain and mood go hand in hand, as many of us know, so getting centered and focused on yourself and how you’re feeling can be empowering and helpful for managing pain at home. When you check in with yourself frequently, you know yourself better and are more attuned to what makes your lingering pain better or worse.
Meditation is a great strategy for increasing mindfulness and can be done on your own or with the help of a meditation app or class. You can also take a few minutes each day to consciously focus on different areas of your body and how they feel. How intense is your pain one day, versus the next? Finally, keeping a journal is a great way to practice mindfulness. Whether you go for a more traditional journaling practice, or a journal about what you did and what you ate in a day, partnered with your pain level, journaling can be a great way to get to know your body.
For many people with lingering pain, anti-inflammatory medications such as Advil or Tylenol can be very helpful on an as-needed basis, when the pain is at its worst. Chiropractic appointments can also do wonders if your lingering pain is concentrated in your back, shoulders, or neck. Finally, many patients with lingering pain find that acupuncture works well for them. Acupuncture can reduce tension and inflammation, and help you center yourself and practice mindfulness.
Whether you find the perfect strategy for managing your lingering pain or decide on a combination of several methods listed above, lots of lingering pain can be managed well at home. However, if your lingering pain is severe and you find that managing it at home isn’t working, it may be time to seek professional medical treatment
What Treatment Options Are Available When Lingering Pain Can’t Be Managed at Home?
Depending on the root cause of your pain, a physician will likely recommend different treatment options. However, these options are largely divided into two main groups: procedures and medications.
Under procedures, we have things like injections, epidurals, or surgical interventions, but also physical therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Physical therapy allows you to receive personalized treatment from professionals who recommend helpful stretches, exercises, and other physical movements to get you back to a fuller range of function. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you to dive deeper into the mind-body connection and get help at the intersection of physical pain and mental distress. If your doctor decides that you need medication to help manage the pain, they’ll work with you to find the best match with the least risk and potential side effects!
As a physician at APC, I work with patients experiencing lingering pain to evaluate where they’re at and what may be causing the pain. Together, each patient and I make a treatment plan. I think of myself as a quarterback, helping the patient to begin their journey and then passing them on to other specialists. I may refer a patient to physical therapy, psychotherapy, orthopedics, or neurosurgery. Other times, I stick with the patient, administering injections or prescribing medications to target the pain and get past it.
Getting Through the Frustration of Pain That Doesn’t Go Away
For a patient with lingering pain, it can be hard to maintain a positive outlook. You’ve likely already gone through surgery, physical therapy, and/or other pain management procedures. You might have been told that the pain would disappear with time and treatment, only to be disappointed when it didn’t. It can be hard to trust new treatments, medications, or procedures when you may have experienced a letdown in the past.
However, there’s still hope! At APC we prioritize function and comfort, and we’re determined to help you get to the point where you can do the things you enjoy and spend time with your loved ones. You may have lost some function to lingering pain, but there’s plenty that can be improved and new ways to do the things you want to do. It’s empowering to realize that there’s a treatment out there that will work for you. When you find a physician that’s willing to work with you on a treatment plan, you’ll work towards real relief.
Chronic pain of any kind affects our mental outlook, and it’s important to focus on that mind-body axis when tackling pain. Pain might never totally go away, but we can adapt and learn to live with it through mindfulness, focus, and mental self-care. At APC, we treat the whole patient, not just the physical symptoms. We’re equipped with a broad array of resources, to help you access the total care you need.
If you’re struggling with lingering pain or pain that doesn’t go away, come into APC!