Is chronic pain common?

Based on recent worldwide systematic review, about 56% (about one in two) of people are having chronic neck pain, and about 20% (one in five) people are having chronic lower back pain. Many people with chronic pain don’t seek treatment actively or didn’t have successful treatment that lead to long term cure, therefore are just coping with the condition. Why is chronic pain so prevalent yet difficult to treat? Let us explain more about it.

What is pain?

Pain was traditionally defined as an “unpleasant sensation”. However, modern research has concluded that pain is rather something we “construct”, than something we “feel”. Pain mechanism is an essential security alarm system that warns us the body when it senses danger, no matter whether the danger is real or perceived. It is also a feedback mechanism for us to monitor body’s well being. Pain experience has both physical and emotional components. Each individual perceives pain differently as we have different believes, values, and past experiences.

For example when having an injection, one person may just feel a slight sting and don’t get too concerned, while another person can feel so devastated. To some of us, chronic pain may affect the quality of life significantly, unable to sit/stand/walk for prolong time, difficulty while moving in the bed, getting in/out of the car. Pain can be contained to one or a few areas after an injury or it can be more diffuse like in fibromyalgia. Emotionally a person may get affected as unable to work/enjoy sports/difficulty socializing.

Duration of pain

Acute/ Sub-acute Pain – Pain usually comes on suddenly and last for few mins to few days, but less than six months. Usually it is associated with underlying tissue injury or compromised function of certain system. Acute pain examples are sprains, bruises, fracture, ligament tear, burn, cut, childbirth, labour pain, etc.

When you sprain your ankle or have a cut on your hand, the body first “feels” the stretch on the ankle ligaments, or the cut on the hand; makes a judgement that these stimuli are dangerous to us, then “constructs” pain subsequently. With time the injury heals, and the body starts to think that it is not in danger any more. It switches off the “danger” signal, and pain is expected to disappear gradually.

Chronic Pain – Pain that usually last longer than acute pain more than 6 months to years. Pain signal remains active for weeks, months or years. Some people suffer chronic pain even when there is no past injury or apparent tissue damage. In some cases person doesn’t even remember how long he or she have been experiencing it.

In this case the cause of the pain experience may be more complexed and confusing. It may not be clearly associated to a specific part of the body. Some of the people with chronic pain may be very anxious and depressed about the situation. The fact is that pain experience is multi-factorial and has several different and inter-related mechanisms. Chronic pain examples are chronic headache, nerve pain, back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia pain (whole body ache), etc.


Pain mechanism

In general there are several different mechanisms that makes one in pain.

  • Local tissue irritation – based on our clinical observation, over 80% of people with pain have clear association with certain structures of the body. We can clearly identify a particular structure that is responsible for the pain experience, such as when there’s tissue damage, muscle spasm, fascia tightness, over pressure, joint misalignment, etc.
  • Nerve related pain – when the nerves of the body has been irritated, the pain experience can be more distant from the source of irritation, for example, a low back pain problem with nerve irritation can also have pain in the calf region.
  • Central pain experience – when the pain experience is highly influenced by psychological stress, perception and judgement. There are even cases of people suffering severe pain when there’s no clear tissue reference, but massive muscle overload due to mental stress and wrong habit.

The pain mechanisms are usually inter-related and co-exist with a painful experience, especially for people suffering from chronic pain.

In most cases, the reason behind the presence of recurrent pain is due to habitual errors in one’s lifestyle, from certain habitual working or resting position, to habitual method of exertion. As the mechanics of the body loading is wrong, yet the person is usually not aware of the error, thus repetitively loading the body in unhealthy ways, leading to chronic injuries or chronic adaptations. The pain will only be significantly reduced if one stops making the same errors, and adopt healthier ways to use the body.

Treatment for pain

When your pain doesn’t get better or disappear on its own, it is important that you seek help from the professionals who have in-depth knowledge and experience in treating acute/chronic pain.

After years of clinical reasoning and experimentation, Our clinic’s founder, Mr Michael Yan has formulated the concept of Intergrative Balance Principles. He found that only when ones’ body is maintaining the integrative balance of multiple aspects of our body, the body is functioning at its best. If any particular aspect is out of balance, it will influence other aspects as well and result into sometimes complex pain experiences. By restoring the integrative balance, those long standing problems will be able to stop worsening, and allow the body to heal on its own.

Growing on the consistent success with this principle, we use various treatment methods to help every individual restore their own integrative balance, therefore addressing the root problems and providing long term solutions. Click here to know more of our treatment approach.