This is Part 1 of a series on CHRONIC PAIN, specifically regarding MUSCULOSKELETAL PAIN. We will review the medical communities current understanding of causes, treatments, and future hopes.
Before we start talking about the current treatments for chronic pain, we must first talk about our current understanding of pain.
1) HOW COMMON IS CHRONIC PAIN AFTER ORTHOPEDIC INJURIES?
Over $100 BILLION is spent in the United States every year on treating Chronic Pain. So the answer is: Very Common.
Poly-trauma patients (people with multiple fractures, common in people with a femur fracture, or tibia fracture) have an 80% incidence of chronic pain one year after their injuries.
Trauma patients that require a limb amputation have a 50% incidence of chronic pain one year after their surgery.
Hip Replacement and Knee Replacement patients have a 10% incidence of chronic pain one year after their surgery.
2) WHAT IS CHRONIC PAIN?
Chronic pain is generally defined as persistent pain that extends beyond the expected period of healing. Some doctors define it as any pain that lasts more than 6 months.
Chronic pain is a complex, multi-factor condition that doctors are only beginning to understand. The science of chronic pain is in its early stages.
3) HOW IS CHRONIC PAIN DIAGNOSED?
Before the diagnosis of chronic musculoskeletal pain can be made, doctors must first rule out every day causes for the pain, like poor blood flow (vascular insufficiency); compression on a nerve; fibromyalgia; or complex regional pain syndrome. Although these conditions all cause long term pain, the cause of pain is expected to persist for a prolonged time and therefore does not fall into this "Chronic Pain" classification where the pain extends beyond our expectations.
Patients are diagnosed with chronic musculoskeletal pain once their injury has healed, yet their pain persists despite trying various treatment approaches like physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication.