FAQs about curing & treating chronic pain

August 13, 2020

chronic pain common questions What exactly is chronic pain, and can it be cured? These are common questions we hear from patients often. Chronic pain is a condition that describes persistent pain that lasts from weeks to years. While the duration of pain is not definitive, the term typically applies to pain that endures for more than 12 consecutive weeks. Chronic pain is most common in people between 40 and 60 years of age.

While we often can effectively treat chronic pain, there very rarely is a cure. It is likely that patients will need ongoing treatments for months, years, or an indefinite amount of time to manage their pain. At Southside Pain Specialists, we have a team of pain management doctors who will be with you every step of the way. We offer a comprehensive selection of treatment options to our patients dealing with chronic back, neck, leg and arm pain, and more. 

Chronic pain common questions

To understand more about what chronic pain is, how we treat it, and why there is not really a “cure,” here are answers to several commonly asked questions. 

What is the difference between chronic pain and acute pain? 

Acute pain occurs suddenly and is associated with injury or short-term illness. Pain that is acute will resolve within three months. Examples of acute pain include sprains, minor burns, cuts, and muscle spasms. Unlike acute pain, chronic pain is persistent, subjective, and may arise from a variety of illnesses or psychological states.

What causes chronic pain? 

The causes of chronic pain are as broad as the condition itself. Some reported causes of chronic pain are illness, an old injury, and genetic conditions. More specifically, some patients have been able to establish a correlation of their pain with arthritis, nerve damage, depression, motor vehicle accidents, and more.

What are the symptoms of chronic pain? 

This varies greatly from person to person. Chronic pain can cause discomfort, but it can also negatively impact sleep cycles and appetite. This often results in extreme fatigue and mood changes, with an increased risk of depression. The severity of pain can vary greatly. Patients on the higher end of the pain spectrum may end up on disability and may face serious decreases in quality of life.

How is chronic pain diagnosed? 

Pain is both personal and subjective. Because of this, it may be difficult to diagnose chronic pain. We rely on a “pain history” to determine the optimal diagnostic method. This history includes a description of pain (sharp, dull, constant, etc.), as well as the type, location, and severity. There are dozens of tests that can be run to precisely locate the pain and potentially uncover the cause.

What exactly is a pain management specialist? 

A pain management specialist, like the ones at Southside Pain Specialists, is a physician with special training in evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of all different types of pain. Pain management specialists have many tools in the toolbox for treating pain, such as:

  • In-depth knowledge of the physiology of pain
  • The ability to evaluate patients with complicated pain problems
  • Understanding specialized tests for diagnosing painful conditions
  • Appropriate prescribing of medications
  • Skills to perform procedures (such as nerve blocks, spinal injections and other interventional techniques)

What will a visit to a pain management specialist be like? 

We will get to know you and begin to evaluate your particular pain problem. This will usually involve a detailed history, a physical exam, and a review of any tests you have had performed. The questions we ask and the physical examination will focus on your current problem, but we will want to know about past and current medical history as well. 

How can I be referred to a pain management specialist? 

The best way to be referred to a pain management specialist is through your primary care physician. We work closely with primary care physicians to ensure good communication so we can all provide the best treatment possible. You may also be referred by specialists who deal with different types of pain problems, such as back surgeons, neurologists, and oncologists.

At Southside Pain, we accept patients on a referral-only basis. If you are a resident of Birmingham, Alabama, or the surrounding region and need advanced pain management, contact Southside Pain Specialists, and we will work with you on getting the process started!