Chronic pain may lead to worse health outcomes, study says

  • New research published in the journal one more found associations between midlife chronic pain and poor sleep, mental health struggles, and unemployment.
  • Experts suggest visiting a doctor as soon as you experience chronic pain before it becomes chronic.
  • Keeping activity levels up, working out with friends, good sleep habits and stress management can also help you avoid chronic pain.

Pain that lasts at least three months is classified as chronic, and it’s a widespread problem—by one estimate, more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. This type of problem can cause short-term difficulties not only with mobility and emotional health, but also a new study published in the journal one more suggest that it may have long-term effects, even decades later.

To reach that conclusion, researchers looked at nearly 12,000 people enrolled in an ongoing study in Britain that began in 1958 and has been collecting health and lifestyle data ever since. The study followed individuals all born during the same week in England, Scotland and Wales.

The researchers assessed pain data for 2003, when participants were 44, and then looked at pain levels in 2008, 2013 and 2021. After five years there was severe pain.

In 2013 numbers, chronic pain, but not short-term pain, was associated with poor sleep, mental health struggles, and unemployment. Additionally, they found a higher incidence of COVID in 2021 among people who had midlife pain.

“This means that chronic pain is associated with widespread health vulnerabilities that can persist for decades,” said co-author Alex Bryson, PhD, a researcher at University College London. cycling. “This is a major reason to take chronic pain seriously, especially because it has a variety of consequences for people, including life expectancy.”

For example, people with pain at age 44 reported more problems falling asleep and staying asleep at age 50. THERE’S THE PROBLEM: A wealth of research has linked sleep issues to difficulties with brain function and the development of higher health risks, such as heart disease. Poor sleep can also worsen pain, which means people with chronic pain may be in an even more difficult situation.

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Although treatment of chronic pain will depend on each individual’s underlying cause, there are some prevention steps that may be helpful, such as reducing stress, improving sleep habits, and most of all, according to Medhat Michael, getting enough exercise. Staying consistent with getting activity. MD, pain management specialist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.

“Joining a group of friends for your exercise is especially powerful because not only do you get the benefits of the activity, but you also get the benefits of social time, which is an under-appreciated aspect of pain management,” he explains. cycling. “Being sure to challenge yourself gradually is another plus when it comes to prevention.”

Also, if you already have some pain and it’s persisted for a few weeks, don’t hesitate to visit your doctor, he said. Catching pain before it becomes chronic can be an important step toward making it a short-term problem rather than a long-term one.

Finally, as another recent study suggested, combining physical therapy with cognitive behavioral therapy (a form of mental health therapy) may also help with chronic pain – the research looked specifically at back pain. Gone. That study also says that a more tailored approach rather than a generic program is best for dealing with chronic pain.

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