Pain is a signal that travels from injured parts of your body to your brain. Normally, when you hurt yourself, nerves send messages that say, “This is painful.” Your brain processes these signals and tells your muscles to tighten and move away from the injury. When the pain is caused by a temporary problem, such as a sprained ankle or a broken bone, these nerve signals stop when the cause of the injury has healed. But chronic musculoskeletal pain can occur when the nerves that carry pain signals are damaged and keep firing even after the underlying injuries have healed.
Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain Services is an important health issue that can have a devastating impact on a person’s quality of life. It is a major contributor to reduced physical activity, increased frailty and depression, and leads to huge social and economic costs.
Whether the cause of the pain is an injury or an illness like arthritis or fibromyalgia, the resulting disability can be severe and debilitating. Many patients who suffer from musculoskeletal pain are unable to work and must rely on public assistance to support themselves. The pain can be so pronounced that it interferes with a person’s sleep, eating and daily activities. It can also affect their family and friends.
The pain can be localized to one area or be widespread in the body, and it can come and go. It may be acute, meaning that it is severe and short-lived, or chronic, which means that it lasts longer than three months. It can be confined to one area of the body, such as bones and joints, or spread over the whole body.
Chronic musculoskeletal pain is difficult to treat. The main goal is to reduce the pain and boost mobility, so that people can return to their regular daily activities without feeling discomfort.
Medications, exercise, physical therapy and other treatments may help to control the pain. Some people find comfort in prayer or meditation, and others use cognitive-behavioral techniques to manage their pain. These include relaxation training, distraction techniques (such as guided imagery—organized fantasies evoking calm and comfort—and self-hypnosis) and biofeedback. These methods can be taught by therapists or trained family members. Patients may need to seek counseling from a mental health professional.
There is increasing evidence that some musculoskeletal pain isn’t caused by physical damage, but rather by changes in the way the brain responds to pain. This new classification, called nociplastic pain, includes conditions such as fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome. The 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases adds this diagnosis to its list of chronic primary musculoskeletal pain diagnoses.