Updated: Jun 1
Chronic pain is a lot like a roller-coaster ride – it rarely keeps a steady rhythm. As someone living with chronic pain, you'll experience periods of ease along with heightened pain. This generally happens at least once a month. These patterns are known as your chronic pain cycle.
There are various treatment options at our Manhattan pain management clinic for chronic pain. But what is a chronic pain cycle? In this article, find out how the cycle works and how you can stop that cycle.
What is the chronic pain cycle?
The chronic pain cycle is a vicious circle of symptoms and behaviors that maintains and worsens chronic pain. It is a pattern that is repeated over and over again. It's like a broken record that just keeps playing the same song over and over again.
It can start when you experience pain that has not been treated correctly and healed properly. Pain is the body's way of telling you that something is wrong, but when the pain continues or becomes chronic, it can lead to a whole new set of problems.
When the nervous system stays in emergency mode and never switches back to normal functioning, it can disrupt your body's natural balance and ability to heal itself, which can lead to more pain and disability. The good news is that there are ways to break out of this vicious cycle and start living life again!
How does the chronic pain cycle work?
The pain cycle begins with a painful condition like an injury. Your body responds to the injury by sending out signals that are meant to protect the injured area. These signals can include physical symptoms such as fatigue, swelling, stiffness, and spasms in muscles, as well as changes in sensation such as numbness or tingling.
Your body may start to react even more strongly than normal when you move around or put pressure on injured parts of your body. It means that even light movements can cause increased sensitivity and increased pain levels. These symptoms can make it difficult to do things like work, care for others and participate in social activities. It can make you feel worse about yourself or your ability to cope with your condition.
As a result, you may feel less confident and less hopeful about getting better. You may also feel like you are not in control of your own health and well-being, leading to anxiety and stress that can worsen chronic pain.
The longer you have chronic pain, the more your brain gets used to expecting that constant feeling of pain, which makes it harder to stop expecting and start feeling normal again. Also, there are things called "triggers" that cause you to feel more pain than usual.
Chronic pain can make you rely on prescription drugs to control the pain instead of changing behavior patterns and finding other treatments that might work. In addition, the drugs often cause side effects that make it harder for you to function normally in your daily life. This leads you back into the same pattern of avoiding movement, so they don't hurt as much — which only makes things worse! But with proper treatment from a pain management specialist, you can break free from the chronic pain cycle.
How does stress worsen chronic pain?
Stress is something that many people don't feel comfortable talking about. But if you're experiencing chronic pain, it's important to understand how stress can affect your health.
The chronic pain cycle is the process by which the body responds to stress by activating certain hormones and chemicals that cause physical sensations of pain and discomfort. These symptoms can be both mental and physical in nature and include:
People who have experienced trauma or stressful events in life may be more susceptible to developing chronic pain symptoms. Research shows that people with chronic pain often have high levels of stress, which can contribute to their pain experience and make them more sensitive to pain.
When you are stressed, your body releases chemicals called "stress hormones" into your bloodstream. The stress hormones tell your body to prepare for danger by increasing blood pressure and heart rate. If this often happens enough over time, it may damage certain organs in your body, such as your heart and kidneys.
Stress hormones also affect how your brain works – they make new memories stronger than old ones, so things like remembering where you parked your car can become impossible when we're really stressed out!
Stress affects everyone differently — some people are more sensitive than others — but research shows that stress can increase sensitivity to all kinds of stimulation, such as touch or heat. In some cases, this heightened sensitivity could lead someone who is already experiencing pain to feel more pain.
What is the relationship between pain and mood?
Chronic pain is often accompanied by depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. It can be difficult to know whether these conditions are caused by chronic pain or vice versa. But regardless of the order in which they appear, it's clear that there is a strong relationship between chronic pain and mood disorders.
Pain may lead to depression because it causes changes in brain chemistry that lead to decreased motivation and a decrease in positive emotions like joy and happiness. Chronic pain also makes it difficult to concentrate on anything except your own body's discomfort, which can lead to feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.
The relationship between chronic pain and mood disorders is complex and not completely understood. But studies have shown that people with chronic pain are more likely to experience mood disorders than those without chronic pain. And people with depression are more likely to develop chronic musculoskeletal conditions like fibromyalgia than those without depression.
How to stop the chronic pain cycle?
You may be in a chronic pain cycle if you feel like your pain is never-ending. Breaking the cycle of chronic pain can help you avoid getting stuck in a situation that takes away your life and the life of those around you. To be able to make changes, it helps to understand one's own cycles. Learning about your own cycles means knowing what sets off your pain and what makes your pain come back after days, weeks, or months of being away from it.
Also, determining your pain cycle is important for an effective treatment plan because if you don't know what's causing your condition, you won't know how to treat it effectively. Here are some common signs:
You have been living with chronic pain for a long time, but you haven't made any progress in getting better.
You find yourself doing the same things over and over again, but nothing seems to work.
You don't enjoy anything anymore because the pain takes up all of your attention.
You worry about the future and fear more pain, so you avoid doing anything that might cause additional injury or stress.
The truth is that chronic pain can be managed and treated, but it does require a long-term approach. Chronic pain is often a symptom of another underlying health problem or injury. For example, if you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic back pain, or arthritis, these conditions may require ongoing treatment to manage your symptoms and keep them under control. Here are some tips for dealing with your chronic pain cycle:
Take care of yourself
Chronic pain is exhausting, both physically and mentally. Make sure you're eating well and getting enough sleep. Don't let stress or anxiety get the best of you — seek out relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation if necessary.
Exercise can help alleviate stress and improve mood, which are two major factors in chronic pain management. Find an exercise routine that works for you — whether it be walking, swimming, or gardening — and stick with it! It's also important to check with a pain specialist before starting any new exercise routine because some exercises may worsen certain conditions.
Get enough sleep
Sleep helps improve your mood and energy level, which makes it easier to cope with pain and other symptoms associated with chronic illness. Here are some ways to help you get better sleep:
Try going to bed earlier than usual if you're having trouble sleeping through the night
Limit caffeine intake
Avoid staying up too late watching television or working on your computer
Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and comfortable
Make sure you have an alarm clock next to the bed so that you don't oversleep in the morning (which could lead to decreased energy levels throughout the day).
Get support from those who understand what you're going through
You can talk about how you're feeling when it comes to managing your pain with someone who understands your condition or has experienced something similar — such as an organization that provides support for people dealing with long-term illnesses.
Chronic pain can make you feel like you're under constant stress, which can make your pain worse, so it makes sense that managing stress will help manage your pain too. Find ways to reduce stress in your life by spending time relaxing or doing activities you enjoy or doing breathing exercises when you feel stressed out.
Seek professional help and find the right treatment
Suppose you suspect you might have chronic pain or another medical condition. In that case, it's important to discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider so they can determine what's the best treatment for you based on your individual needs.
Consult a pain doctor who specializes in treating people with chronic conditions to provide accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. The best way to break this cycle is by starting a comprehensive treatment plan right away! Comprehensive treatment plans include combined strategies such as physical therapy, acupuncture, and massage therapy.
The goal of these treatments is to help reduce inflammation in your body while also giving you tools for managing your symptoms when they arise (such as relaxation techniques). It's important to remember that each person has an individualized treatment plan based on their specific needs and goals.
The most important thing to remember is to never give up hope
If you feel overwhelmed, think back to when you first started this journey and how far you've come. It really is possible that one day, you could be pain-free. You may even discover a new lease on life as your focus shifts from managing your pain to discovering what life has to offer in the absence of pain.
Managing your condition, seeking help and support from a Manhattan pain management specialist, and trying to find ways to deal with it are all essential parts of breaking the cycle. Doing these things might seem like a lot of work, but what's important to remember is that you deserve to be in control of your life and do not need to live with this pain.