What is Chronic Pain and How Can You Treat It?

by | May 25, 2021 | Personal Injury

You may be reading this and wondering why personal injury lawyers have decided to advise you about chronic pain.

You’re right to be confused. We’re not medical professionals and therefore anything we recommend here should be verified by and discussed with your doctor.

However, as personal injury lawyers, we have been fighting for clients suffering from chronic pain for 10 years. This has given us some insight into the different pain management practices available and which ones are worth considering for your injury.

First, let’s start by defining chronic pain. What is it? How can it be identified?

Chronic pain is pain that lasts for longer than 3 months despite medication or treatment. This persistent pain can be caused by soft-tissue injury.  Many people refer to this type of pain as an “invisible disability” because there is often little to no evidence that there is anything wrong with the individual suffering from it. Unfortunately, with little evidence and no proof to be found from X-Rays, CT scans or MRIs, many medical practitioners are quick to dismiss their patient’s concerns. This means that chronic pain is often disregarded and ignored because it is invisible to the naked eye.

Sometimes chronic pain can be the result of an objective, visible injury such as a broken bone or torn ligament. Once these heal, however, many people continue to suffer from pain. Unfortunately, the subjective ‘invisible’ nature of chronic pain makes it a hard to treat this condition.  For people suffering from this type of pain, it can be physically daunting to live day-in, day-out with it. It can also become psychologically exhausting explaining to friends and family that there is something wrong even though it can’t be picked up on a test. 

The truth is that chronic pain is real for many people even if it can’t be diagnosed or confirmed by a test. This can impact a person’s life in the most significant ways.

So, what can be done about chronic pain?

The first line of treatment is generally conservative therapy. This often requires a combination of physiotherapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractics and consultations with your primary doctor. Your doctor may try to prescribe opioid or anti-inflammatory medication (we’ll discuss this in more depth soon) to treat your pain while your other treatment providers try to put you back together gently. Some people also seek out aqua therapy, osteopathy and naturopathy to assist with their pain management.

 If conservative therapy doesn’t work, there are a few more options.

 You can, when and if you are ready, work with a trainer. A good trainer can be invaluable to improving your pain. The right one can help improve your tolerance for various physical activities. 

 Let’s say you have tried all of the front line treatments and you’re still struggling to get through your day, fear not because there are a few more options (although sadly most of these are geared towards hiding the pain rather the getting rid of the pain).

 When a client feels that they aren’t getting any better with treatment from their family doctor, we often recommend they consider asking for a referral to a pain clinic. Pain clinics are, as you guessed, geared towards the treatment of pain. Oftentimes, the doctors at these clinics are sports medicine specialists, which is essentially a family physician with a specialty in pain and injury, or physiatrists. 

 At a pain clinic, the clinicians generally have a lot more experience dealing with chronic pain, but the options are still limited. The two main types of treatments you may receive at a pain clinic are: 

  1. Medication (especially opioids and medicinal pot)
  2. Injections

Regarding medication, it’s unfortunate to say that some people have no choice but to use opioid meds – otherwise they can’t get through their day. It’s also unfortunate that opiate users are often lumped into the category of drug addicts. The reality of the matter is that, for many, opioids are lifesaving drugs. Very often doctors will start with less serious medications like Tramacet/Tramadol and work their way up the ladder to stronger opioids like Fentanyl and hydromorphone. Another medication that is becoming more popular is pot/marijuana. We have heard from many clients that pot produces some great results, but it can be tough to use during the day while driving and at work because of its intoxicating effects. 

For injections, there are many different types: cortisone injections, trigger point injections, rhizotomies and prolotherapy.  The most common is cortisone, which requires the doctor to inject cortisone into the area where the patient has pain. Initially, this can provide a lot of relief and can last four + months. But over time, as your body gets used to the cortisone, it can become less and less effective. Unfortunately, some of the other options are, from what we have learned, a bit more experimental with less conclusive data on how they help (e.g., prolotherapy). 

Alternative Options

With all these pain management options available, it can still be difficult to find one that helps with long-term chronic pain management. 

In the US, there are surgeries that can be performed for certain types of pain. For example, surgery can be performed to force stability of the joints like the pelvis or an implant like a spinal cord stimulator. In Canada, however, these surgeries are practically unheard of.

Final Thoughts

While we are definitely not medical professionals, we care about the health and wellness of anybody suffering from an injury or pain. We hope this article offers some insight or assistance to those suffering from chronic pain. As noted above, please consult with a doctor prior to seeking out any of the treatments we’ve mentioned.

If you’re suffering from chronic pain due to an injury, contact us at any time for a free legal consultation.

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