Questions and Answers About Chronic Pain
What is Chronic Pain?
By definition, chronic pain is pain that lasts more than six months after a triggering event such as a car accident
How Prevalent Is Chronic Pain in the Context of Car Accidents?
Most people who suffer back pain, neck pain and headaches in a car accident get substantially better after a few months. 10% to 15% do not get better after a few months and go on to suffer chronic pain.
Is Chronic Pain a Physical or a Psychological Phenomenon?
We know that the muscle tissue originally injured in the car accident heals within six months. So the muscles cannot be the source of chronic pain. Sometimes, the source is purely physical such as an undetected injury to the spinal joints. However, it is usually not that simple. The leading theory to try to explain chronic pain in most people is that the original injury alters the brain chemistry in these individuals so that things that didn’t cause pain before the accident and which would not be expected to cause pain now, in fact trigger a pain response.
What is the Solution for Chronic Pain?
The first layer of investigation has to always be to look for a physical explanation for the pain, a pain source that has been overlooked. Once all physical sources have been excluded, management of chronic pain is best accomplished by a multidisciplinary approach combining physical therapies, such as chiropractic, physiotherapy and massage with relaxation techniques such as biofeedback and yoga and psychological counseling and support. For some unfortunate individuals, the pain never goes away completely but learning what to do when the pain is bad is the key to achieving better function and minimizing lifestyle and vocational limitations.
Can Chronic Pain be Predicted?
Somewhat. Women are more vulnerable than men. Those with a history of psychological problems such as anxiety and depression are more likely to develop chronic pain.
Can Chronic Pain be Prevented?
No. However, we do know that the risk of developing chronic pain is minimized when persons suffering soft tissue injuries in car accidents get serious about treatment, which is, they get treatment early and stick with their treatment programmes. Those people who think that they are too busy to have treatment or quit after a few sessions are increasing their risks of chronic pain.
What is the Most Effective Treatment for Soft Tissue Injuries (back pain, neck pain, headaches) After a Car Accident?
The best programme is one that is multidisciplinary, which is one that includes all of the leading types of therapy:
- Usually starting with 8-12 sessions of chiropractic care to deal with any injuries to the spinal joints
- Followed by at least 20-30 sessions of physiotherapy to deal with the muscle injuries
- Ideally accompanied by 12–24 sessions of massage therapy to relax and stretch the damaged muscles
- After 8 to 12 months, the icing on the cake is the kinesiology/active rehabilitation which consists of 12–24 sessions of exercise therapy
See your doctor regularly, take your treatment programme seriously and try to have a good attitude – these measures will go a long way to minimize the chances of you becoming a chronic pain statistic.