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Pain is personal. While it’s something you feel physically, your emotions and thoughts play a significant role in how you experience pain.
Pain is your body’s warning system alerting you to harm. Your brain interprets pain signals from your nerves (usually starting from those closest to the source of harm) based on their intensity and location, as well as your surroundings, previous injury experience, your beliefs, your emotional state, and many other factors. You feel the pain after your brain has processed all of this information. This is why each person’s experience of pain is unique – even between people with the same disease or injury.
There are different types of pain:
Chronic pain, in particular, may affect all aspects of your life. It interferes with sleep and raises your stress levels, which may make the pain feel more intense. It may also take a toll on your mental health, making you feel angry, depressed, anxious, and frustrated.
People living with chronic pain caused by a chronic disease often believe that the effects are inevitable, so they don’t take active steps to manage their pain. But, that doesn’t have to be the case.
For example, osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease of the whole joint that leads to the breakdown of cartilage and the underlying bone. Its symptoms include pain, swelling, or stiffness of the joints, which may make it difficult to perform ordinary tasks. Simple acts like tucking in bed sheets, opening a box of food, grasping a computer mouse, or driving a car might become difficult.
However, mild to moderate OA symptoms are improved with physical activity. While it may be hard to think of exercise when the joints hurt, strengthening exercises build muscles around affected joints, easing the burden and reducing pain. Losing weight can also help reduce pain for all stages of OA and limit further joint damage.
Medications are available for pain relief, ranging from oral analgesics to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to corticosteroids. Pain management procedures may also be an option:
There are many more treatments options for osteoarthritis pain, including physiotherapy and surgery. If you are affected by chronic pain, take the next step to relieving your symptoms and speak with your health care practitioner about options for pain management.
Arthritis Society (2022) “Arthritis Pain Management Guide.” www.arthritis.ca. Accessed January 10, 2022.
Ambardekar, N. (2021) “Do I Have Chronic Pain?” www.webmd.ca. Accessed January 10, 2022.
Deardorff, W. W. (2017) “Understanding Chronic Pain.” www.spine-health.com. Accessed January 10, 2022.