Chronic Pain & Depression Part 1
Pain serves an important function in our lives. When you suffer an acute injury, pain warns you to stop the activity that is causing the injury and tells you to take care of the affected body part.
Chronic pain, on the other hand, persists for weeks, months, or even years. Some people, often older adults, suffer from chronic pain without any definable past injury or signs of body damage. Common chronic pain can be caused by headaches, the low back, and arthritis. Unfortunately, there is scant objective evidence or physical findings to explain such pain.
Until recently, some doctors who could not find a physical cause for a person’s pain simply suggested that it was imaginary— “all in your head.” This is unfortunate because we know that all pain is real and not imagined, except in the most extreme cases of psychosis. Emerging scientific evidence is demonstrating that the nerves in the spinal cord of patients with chronic pain undergo structural changes.
Psychological and social issues often amplify the effects of chronic pain. For example, people with chronic pain frequently report a wide range of limitations in family and social roles, such as the inability to perform household or workplace chores, take care of children, or engage in leisure activities. In turn, spouses, children, and co-workers often have to take over these responsibilities. Such changes often lead to depression, agitation, resentment, and anger for the pain patient and to stress and strain in family and other social relationships.
Signs and Symptoms
Some of the common signs and symptoms of chronic pain include:
- Pain beyond 6 months after an injury
- Allodynia—pain from stimuli which are not normally painful and/or pain that occurs other than in the stimulated area
- Hyperpathia—increased pain from stimuli that are normally painful
- Hypersensation—being overly sensitive to pain