There are certain illnesses, disorders and diseases in this world that baffle medical experts to this day. From the causes, risk factors and the symptoms to the medications and treatments prescribed, these ailments tend to affect individuals at their own free will. And the lack of knowledge about them helps these ailments to create whatever havoc they want on the body.
Chronic Pain Syndrome (commonly referred to as CPS) falls into this particular category. Unlike normal body pain, CPS tends to persist for days, months and even years. In the worst case scenario, it may turn into a non curable lifelong condition. And unlike normal body pain which can be diagnosed and easily treated, CPS is almost impossible to diagnose. Worse, it usually shows a very poor response to treatments and therapies.
A normal body pain is usually diagnosed as CPS if it persists for more than 6 months. On the other hand, CPS is diagnosed in cases where the pain remains in the body well after the expected healing time (in case of injuries). CPS is not known to attack only a specific part of the body. It can occur anywhere in the body from the head, neck, arms and chest to the stomach, back, knees and ankles etc. In certain cases, CPS can also attack the nerves that run through the body.
Causes for Chronic Pain Syndrome
CPS has no known causes. It may stem from an accident or mishap (like a sprained ankle or back), and may persist long after the body has recovered. It could also start from an infection or could be triggered by existing medical ailments like rheumatoid arthritis or cancer. In certain cases however, CPS can attack an individual who has not suffered from any kind of injury, infection or disease in his/her lifetime.
Complications Arising from Chronic Pain Syndrome
CPS can be extremely demoralizing, both physically and psychologically. The pain experienced due to the condition can do more than just affect a person’s body. The pain which is usually unbearable will affect an individual’s ability to perform physical activities like walking, exercising, working etc. without cringing in pain. In most cases, individuals with CPS would stop all kinds of physical activity and remain stationary indoors.
They would lose their appetite and possibly develop conditions like anorexia. They would feel sexually inactive (an issue that can cause marital or relationship problems). The pain and discomfort would make them depressed and irritable. Sleep disturbances (the pain would make it hard for them to sleep properly) would cause them to become more stressed out. With time, they would sink into a condition called the ‘Terrible Triad’ (described by sleeplessness, suffering and sadness). And this would make them fall into a vicious cycle that affects their body and mind considerably.
Severe cases of CPS can also lead to more serious complications. Individuals suffering from severe CPS would be too preoccupied with the pain to think about anything else, even their loved ones. They would get to the point where anything and everything would be considered as a way to get rid of the pain. This would include opting for repeated surgeries, seeking fake practitioners and medications that promise quick relief only to worsen the pain, alcohol consumption, drug abuse and dependant behavior (depending on others to do everything for them). In the worst case scenario, an individual suffering from severe CPS would start getting suicidal in his/her thoughts and actions. He/she would perceive this to be the only way out of the situation.
General Types of Chronic Pain
CPS can affect any part of the body. The various types of CPS can be classified into a few broad categories based on the specific area of the body they affect. Accordingly, the different categories of CPS include Bone Pain, Headache Pain, Muscle Spasm, Visceral Pain, Circulatory Problems, General Somatic Pain and Peripheral Neuropathy.
Diagnosis of Chronic Pain Syndrome
Since CPS does not have a specific reason, it is usually hard to diagnose. The doctor would be able to diagnose the condition based on a few questions he/she would want the individual to answer. These include asking the individual to rate the pain (usually on a scale of 1-10), to point out any specific history of chronic complaints, to mention about any other medications or treatments he/she had taken for the pain, to point out whether he/she is able to work, exercise, sleep and have sex without any hindrances etc.
A few signs would also indicate the possibility of CPS in an individual. These include aggravated symptoms during a physical examination, minimal or no response to standard medications and treatments, and the necessity to combine multiple nonspecific medications to treat the issue.
Treatment Options of CPS
CPS is quite hard to manage and treat. The treatment options chosen for the condition would vary based on individual body conditions and constraints. Usually, an individual suffering from CPS would be given the maximum dosage (determined as the highest limit the body can take without contracting side effects) possible for the pain.
Doctors urge individuals against exceeding the maximum dosage as doing so would not provide extra relief but would only introduce a lot of toxic side effects into the body (like liver damage, stomach ulcers, kidney failure and even death).
The medicinal options available for CPS include:-
Long and Short-Acting Opiod Medications to Manage CPS:
The best known remedies for CPS are long and short acting opioid medications that as the names suggest, provide long term and short term relief from the pain. In this case, the doctor would prescribe a long acting opioid (usually a tablet) to control the pain for longer intervals, and a short acting opioid (usually a tablet or liquid) to handle sudden flare ups. This would mean that an individual with CPS would need a long acting opioid once a day (in most cases) to keep the pain under control, and would need to opt for a short acting opioid only when he/she feels the pain flaring up.
Strong Opioid Medications to Manage CPS
Severe cases of CPS can be managed by strong opioid medications, the dosage of which would vary according to the intensity of the pain. The more intense the pain, the higher the dosage. The good thing about strong opioid medications is that individuals can take very high dosages without worrying about unnecessary side effects.
Individuals can take extremely high doses for pain relief and still proceed with their daily duties without any hindrances. In certain (rare) cases, they can opt for dosages that would otherwise instantly kill or cause fatal side effects to a normal person (who does not suffer from CPS).
Note: Strong opioid medications should not be used along with other non-opioid medications for the treatment of CPS. They have high chances of reacting with the other medications and causing fatal side effects.
Controlling CPS through Preventive Measures
Chronic Pain Syndrome is mostly non-curable and can only be managed. The individual in question and the others around him/her need to understand this clearly. Getting to know the basics of CPS and its effects could help individual come up with a comprehensive plan to manage the condition.
Individuals with CPS need to remain healthy and active despite the pain that they experience. They should practice good eating and sleeping habits, should exercise regularly and should opt for de-stressing techniques like yoga and relaxation techniques to remain physically and mentally fit. This would in turn ensure that they successfully manage to cope with CPS and still live a healthy, beautiful life.