Chronic pain

About chronic pain

What is chronic pain?

Nerves originate from the spinal cord and distribute into the arms, legs, and internal organs. They carry information in two directions, both transmitting signals out from the brain and sending pain and other sensations felt in the hands, feet, and elsewhere back to the brain. When the skin or another organ is injured, we feel pain as a danger signal, and this is transmitted to the brain via the nerves. In most cases, the injured area heals naturally, but if the problem extends to the nerves that transmit the pain, then pain-causing substances are released by the nerve tissue into the surrounding areas, generating a vicious circle of repeated bouts of pain. If this vicious circle continues long-term, it is known as "chronic pain."

Transmission of pain

Types of pain

Back and leg pain

If there is a problem with the spine, which forms the body’s core, that causes the spinal or peripheral nerves to be compressed, this can cause pain extending from the lower back to the legs. Surgery can be performed to remove the vertebral bone or other elements causing the compression, but the pain may persist and become chronic even after surgery.

Causalgia

This is related to a disorder with the long name of “complex regional pain syndrome.” It consists of long-term severe pain following nerve damage. It may sometimes occur after a minor injury, causing pain out of proportion to the severity of the injury. Even putting on clothing, feeling a mild breeze, or just being touched can be painful. The skin may sometimes become swollen or change color, and abnormal sweating may occur.

Shingles

In this condition, caused when the herpes virus invades the nerves, the skin above the course of the nerve becomes red and covered with small blisters, and severe pain is also present. Today, this virus can be treated effectively with medication, and there are also highly effective drugs to deal with the pain. Stubborn pain may still persist even after the skin has recovered.

Spinal cord disorders

Chronic pain may appear in a number of disorders of the spinal cord, which transmits pain from the nerves to the brain.

Phantom limb pain

After the loss of an arm or leg, it may feel as if the lost limb is still there, and abnormal sensations of pain or tingling may be felt.

Psychosomatic pain

Stress, social background, and other psychological and social factors can cause pain. This pain is generally treated by doctors of psychosomatic medicine, psychiatrists, and clinical psychologists, and it is unaffected by the spinal cord stimulation therapy described below.

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