Diagnose/Treat Chronic Pain

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago www.ric.org has put together some helpful suggestions to raise awareness around diagnosing and treating chronic pain.

Chronic pain affects nearly 90 million Americans and costs an estimated $50 billion annually. It is difficult for medical personnel to detect, is associated with several other conditions, can be elusive to modern medical treatments, and, has only recently been classified as a disorder by healthcare organizations. Many people who suffer from chronic pain do not even know they have it. Most think the pain they are suffering is acute or short-term pain, and do not seek the proper treatment for chronic pain management.

According to Dr. Steven Stanos, medical director of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) Chronic Pain Care Center, “Chronic pain is long standing pain that persists beyond the usual recovery period after sustaining an injury or occurs along with a chronic health condition, such as arthritis.” Stanos added, “In many cases chronic pain may be confusing because it can be either intermittent or continuous. It has been known to affect people to the point that they cannot work, eat properly, participate in physical activity, or enjoy life. This is a serious condition, and one that rehabilitation medicine has been working to deal with for years.”

To help address this issue and raise the awareness of chronic pain, Dr. Stanos and the RIC Chronic Pain Care Center have developed a set of key indicators for people who are suffering pain symptoms to let them know if what they have may be chronic vs. acute pain. You may be suffering from chronic pain if:

• Pain symptoms no longer respond to analgesic medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen;

• Pain symptoms lead to decreased function at home or work and loss of interest in leisure and social activities;

• Pain symptoms contribute to feelings of depression, anxiety and irritability;

• Pain interrupts normal sleep patterns including difficulty in falling asleep, frequent awakenings and daytime sleepiness;

“Given the current issues with pharmacological treatments for pain management, such as the recall of cox-2 pain inhibitors, finding an effective rehabilitation regime has never been more important for treating chronic pain,” Dr. Stanos stated. “The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s physicians and therapists know that for most chronic pain conditions, physical medicine and rehabilitation, in conjunction with some approved drugs, and even non-traditional therapies greatly improves the condition of many chronic pain sufferers.”

Among those non-traditional therapies Dr. Stanos recommends to help treat chronic pain are:

• Daily aerobic exercise;

• Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, imagery, self-hypnosis and distraction;

• Psychological counseling;

• Stretching and strengthening exercises;

• Mind/body therapies such as yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi and Feldenkrais;

• Optimizing posture, assessing and adjusting worksite ergonomics;

To learn more about RIC visit www.ric.org.