Chronic Pain can be described as having the following symptoms:
- Pain that has lasted 6 months
- Pain that may no longer have a biological protective function
- Pain that persists after healing of an injury
- Pain that impairs the function of the individual
- Pain that dominates the person’s life
Chronic pain can be a disabling condition which can change a person’s life from one of activity to one of misery. Common examples of chronic pain that we see at our treatment center include migraine or tension headaches, neck or lower back pain, fibromyalgia, generalized body pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and neuropathic pain.
Even though the injury may be over the body may still generate pain. Recovery from chronic pain may require a combination of medical treatment and medication, physical retraining and conditioning, learning how to reestablish one’s role in life, setting boundaries and reducing stress, and grieving the loss of function from the injury. A multidisciplinary treatment program addresses each of these areas and coordinates the patient’s recovery so that he or she both manage the pain and return to a rewarding life.
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Chronic pain commonly happens to people with an active lifestyle or who may work with their bodies for a living. At the heart of the problem of chronic pain is often the reality that the nervous system is continuing to send pain signals after an injury is over. Another part of chronic pain is an injury to a part of ourselves that we have to continue to use and which causes pain in the process of use.
We have come to recognize that it is very difficult for people to fight the illness by themselves and that people can have a better outcome through the use of a program that meets multiple needs. Chronic pain is not just about a physical injury that happens but how it affects the person’s lifestyle and how it affects their moods. They may become physically dependent on medications that help them function (and may be confused with drug addicts). Or the need for pain medication may have changed but they fear coming off the medication. Patients with chronic pain may also suffer from Mental Health Disorders or Chemical Dependency.
Multidisciplinary treatment of chronic pain has been shown to improve the function of patients with this disorder. For some, it also assists in reducing the level of pain that they experience. The program utilizes structured activities, daily pain logs, and cognitive behavioral therapy provided in a group modality. Patients also meet weekly with their counselor to monitor progress towards their goals in their treatment plan. One of the medical directors also meets with the patients weekly regarding medication and medical concerns.
Patients are evaluated for anxiety, mood disorders, and other mental health disorders. Referring physicians and therapists may be consulted periodically throughout the program.
Patients are also assessed for addiction. The use of addictive medications in patients with chronic pain needs to be assessed and managed so that the benefits of such medication outweigh any negatives. Treatment plans will be discussed with the referring physician.
Patients normally also participate in physical therapy through outside providers. They may also be referred for biofeedback training, occupational therapy or other modalities provided by other specialists.