Natural Pain ReliefPage 2 of 4
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While acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury and the need to take
care of yourself, chronic pain is different. Chronic pain persists. Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years.
There may have been an initial mishap -- sprained back, serious infection, or there may be an ongoing cause of pain -- arthritis, cancer, ear infection,
but some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of body damage. Many chronic pain conditions affect older adults.
Common chronic pain complaints include headache, low back pain, cancer pain, arthritis pain, neurogenic pain (pain resulting from damage to the
peripheral nerves or to the central nervous system itself), psychogenic pain (pain not due to past disease or injury or any visible sign of damage
inside or outside the nervous system).
Is there any treatment?
Medications, acupuncture, local electrical stimulation, and brain stimulation, as well as surgery, are some treatments for chronic pain. Some
physicians use placebos, which in some cases has resulted in a lessening or elimination of pain. Psychotherapy, relaxation and medication therapies,
biofeedback, and behavior modification may also be employed to treat chronic pain.
What is the prognosis?
Many people with chronic pain can be helped if they understand all the causes of pain and the many and varied steps that can be taken to undo what
chronic pain has done. Scientists believe that advances in neuroscience will lead to more and better treatments for chronic pain in the years to come.
What research is being done?
Clinical investigators have tested chronic pain patients and found that they often have lower-than-normal levels of endorphins in their spinal fluid.
Investigations of acupuncture include wiring the needles to stimulate nerve endings electrically (electroacupuncture), which some researchers believe
activates endorphin systems. Other experiments with acupuncture have shown that there are higher levels of endorphins in cerebrospinal fluid following
acupuncture. Investigators are studying the effect of stress on the experience of chronic pain. Chemists are synthesizing new analgesics and discovering
painkilling virtues in drugs not normally prescribed for pain.
What Are the Risk Factors for Back Pain?
Although anyone can have back pain, a number of factors increase your risk. They include:
Age: The first attack of low back pain typically occurs between the ages of 30 and 40. Back pain becomes more common with age.
Fitness level: Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit. Weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine.
"Weekend warriors" - people who go out and exercise a lot after being inactive all week – are more likely to suffer painful back injuries than people who make
moderate physical activity a daily habit. Studies show that low-impact aerobic exercise is good for the discs that cushion the vertebrae, the individual
bones that make up the spine.
Diet: A diet high in calories and fat, combined with an inactive lifestyle, can lead to obesity, which can put stress on the back.
Heredity: Some causes of back pain, including disc disease, may have a genetic component.
Race: Race can be a factor in back problems. African American women, for example, are two to three times more likely than white women to
develop spondylolisthesis, a condition in which a vertebra of the lower spine – also called the lumbar spine – slips out of place.
How Is Back Pain Treated?
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