Patients with chronic pain often want to know two things after a diagnosis: “Does chronic pain get worse over time?” and “what can I do to make the pain better?” Chronic pain is something that is hard to get treatment for and even harder to cope with because of its unpredictable nature. You might be feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and depressed at the thought of living with pain indefinitely—particularly if that pain gets worse over time.
So, if you’ve been diagnosed with or think you have a chronic condition that causes pain, this is a starting place to ask questions, figure out tips and tricks, and prepare if chronic pain really does get worse over time.
What Conditions Make Chronic Pain Get Worse Over Time?
As said above, chronic pain can be unpredictable. And even if it has been well researched, people with chronic pain experience different symptoms that range in severity. The reality is that chronic pain is a unique experience for each individual person. This is simply the nature of chronic pain.
But generally speaking, does chronic pain get worse over time? Well, this all depends on the diagnosis and symptoms. There are countless causes behind chronic pain, including injury, illness, and underlying medical conditions. For some health conditions that cause chronic pain, the pain can get worse overtime as the disease also progresses.
For others, there are conditions that could result in either improving or worsening with time. Cancer pain, for example, could get easier to manage as someone gets further into recovery. But certain types of cancer can actually leave patients with long-term symptoms, including chronic pain that flares up. Additionally, pain that comes with chronic conditions, such as fibromyalgia, can change from day to day. The pain can even move from one area of the body to another.
Aging can also bring more wear and tear to joints and muscles that are strained, overused, or losing strength. Studies show that neck pain and spinal cord pain are two of the biggest complaints for people over the age of 70.
And then for some people with chronic ailments, the pain eases up as they age or as they find the right kind of pain management that works for them. Don’t forget that getting older also comes with hormone changes that can impact the way your body functions. In turn, your pain could change just as you do.
Will My Chronic Pain Get Worse Or Better?
As any patient with chronic pain wants to know: will your specific experience with pain get better or worse over time? This depends on a lot of different factors—many of which cannot be predicted, even if you have a diagnosis and treatment plan in place.
Now, this doesn’t really give a clear answer to the question, “Does chronic pain get worse over time?” But based on patients’ experience with chronic pain, you can get an idea of what could happen in the future.
If you are just learning about the condition that causes your chronic pain, it can be helpful to reach out to others who have similar stories or symptoms. They might be able to speak on their experiences with the condition as time moves forward. Keep in mind, though, that one person’s experiences with chronic pain doesn’t dictate what you will go through.
How Can I Stop Chronic Pain From Getting Worse Over Time?
If you’re wondering how your pain will affect you over time, you can talk to your doctor in order to come up with a treatment plan that will help you to protect your body from further pain down the line. Consider:
- Taking breaks from intense physical labor
- Using mobility devices
- Utilizing accommodations
- Physical therapy
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Lifestyle or diet changes
There are also ways to manage acute pain in the moment. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor could recommend prescription pain medicine. However, if you are genetically at risk for an opioid addiction or have another reason why you don’t want to take medication, you can try other methods of pain management.
This might look like doing gentle stretches, getting mental health help, or trying new forms of therapy. If one method of pain management doesn’t work, be sure to keep trying. Talk with your doctor and get ideas from others who are going through similar experiences. Finding the right approaches for pain management can greatly help to improve your quality of life now and in the future.
What Does the Future Hold?
So, does chronic pain get worse over time? In truth, there’s no easy answer to this question. The only answer that can be applied to anyone with chronic pain would be to say that chronic pain changes with time.
On the same hand, you also change along with your chronic pain. Some aches become so familiar that you hardly notice them. Or you find different ways of doing the things you love so that your body doesn’t hurt as bad afterward. There will be times when your chronic condition flares and you’ll feel like you’re newly diagnosed again, waiting to understand the pain signals. This can be quite an emotional roller-coaster as you experience the ups and downs of pain.
Another factor that can make pain worse would be depression. Unfortunately, depression and pain go hand-in-hand. The symptoms of depression can make aches and pains worse. On the flip side, not having the right pain management plan can make it harder to cope with the emotional aspect of going through pain.
This is why it is especially important for you to practice self care, utilize different pain management techniques, and get support from others throughout your entire journey with chronic pain. Luckily, you can do this and learn so much more with the Pain Resource Community online. Hear others’ experiences on chronic pain and be sure to share your own. The only way to get through the highs and lows of living with chronic pain is to do it together.
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