One of the reasons why chronic pain can be so difficult to treat is it can stem from so many different causes or even a combination of root problems.
Chronic pain is a common issue for people who have had:
- Recent surgeries
- Injuries in the distant and not-so-distant past
- Health issues like obesity or stress that put too much pressure on a specific part of the body
But an alarming study recently published in the medical journal JAMA Oncology found there is another underlying medical condition that can lead to chronic pain – cancer.
Effectively treating cancer has advanced in recent years, and more and more people who are diagnosed with cancer can detect it early and get it resolved much more often, leading to longer and healthier lives across the board.
But with that being said, there are lingering effects that can last years after the cancer has been treated, and one of the most common long-term effects is chronic pain.
In fact, the researchers behind the study found that about one out of three cancer survivors reported having chronic pain. And one out of six reported suffering from high-impact chronic pain that restricted daily functioning.
In the United States alone, this means that 5.39 million cancer survivors suffer from some chronic pain, and 2.51 million survivors suffer from chronic pain that severely interferes with their daily life.
Large Sample of Survivors
The statistics and rates were generated from data that was collected from the National Health Interview Survey from 2016 to 2017. From this vast database of information, the researchers were able to identify a total of 4,526 cancer survivors from 59,770 survey participants, allowing them to examine a large sample.
From these 4,526 survivors, 1,648 (34.6%) reported having chronic pain after they had been treated for cancer, and 768 (16.1%) reported having high-impact chronic pain.
The researchers also noted there did not seem to be an obvious pattern of which cancer patients would eventually have chronic pain. There were no significant variations of the data based on age, sex, marital or familial status, or even region of the country, which means that all cancer survivors are equally at risk for chronic pain.
The researchers did identify chronic pain was more prevalent in certain types of cancer. The highest prevalence was for survivors of:
- Bone cancer (54%)
- Kidney cancer (52.3%)
- Throat-pharynx cancer (47.9%)
- Uterine cancer (44.5%)
Survivors of all types of cancers reported chronic pain in some form.
Getting to the Root of Chronic Pain
The good news is there is effective treatment available for chronic pain.
With in-depth consultations and examinations, we can get to the root cause of your chronic pain and can help you feel better through treatments that work best for you.
So if you are a cancer survivor and still have lingering chronic pain, don’t wait to seek help! With the assistance of an interventional pain management specialist, you are steps away from feeling better from the inside out.
Common Pain Relievers for Treating Chronic Pain
When patients are first struggling with chronic pain, they may be advised to take over-the-counter pills to address their problem temporarily. This is often one of the first recommended treatments by family physicians or general practitioners.
These practitioners may not have an in-depth knowledge of chronic pain. They want to help their patient feel better as soon as possible.
While these medications can certainly help with immediate pain relief, there are some underlying issues chronic pain sufferers should know.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is typically one of the first medications that chronic pain sufferers may take to mitigate their pain.
Easily a common pain reliever with minimal side effects, acetaminophen can be taken with few risks. However, patients should note there are some potential issues to keep in mind.
Large doses or regular use of acetaminophen can damage the liver, especially when combined with alcohol. In addition, taking more than 4,000 milligrams (mg) per day can also cause potential health issues. And acetaminophen may not mix well with other medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin).
Similar to Tylenol, NSAIDs are anti-inflammatory and over-the-counter drugs that are readily available and can provide some short-term relief. This group of drugs can help reduce plan as well as reduce inflammation and includes:
- Ibuprofen (Advil)
- Naproxen (Aleve)
The problem with taking NSAIDs on a regular basis is that they can cause long-term health issues, including:
- Stomach bleeding and ulcers
- Kidney issues
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of heart attack or stroke
Heart issues are especially worth keeping an eye on, as even short-term use of NSAIDs can enhance these risks.
Prescription painkillers may provide the most effective pain relief. However, they also have the highest number of potential side effects and a high risk of long-term health issues.
Addiction is a major concern when it comes to common painkillers such as oxycodone (Oxycontin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin), but so are side effects including:
- Confusion and slowed reaction time
- Breathing problems
- Constipation and stomach or digestive issues
As such, you should not use prescription painkillers on a long-term basis.
A Better Solution….
While finding short term relief through medications can be helpful, the better way to address chronic pain is to find a long-term solution with an experienced interventional pain management specialist.
A pain management specialist goes miles beyond what a general practitioner or doctor can do. They address the root cause of your chronic pain problem to find definitive and concrete relief.
By digging deep into your specific pain and history, and understanding all the factors that make your condition wholly unique, working with an interventional pain management specialist if the best way to treat your chronic pain and not just the symptoms.