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5 Surprising Triggers of Chronic Pain

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Defined as pain lasting six months or longer, chronic pain can have several triggers that can quickly change your level of discomfort from minimal to unbearable. There’s a nature inclination to common sources, such as the inflammation that can make arthritis painful. By focusing on the obvious, however, some lesser-known chronic pain triggers may go overlooked.

Muscle Knots

Thought to be neurological in nature, muscle knots can contribute to bouts of pain in ways that aren’t at all predictable or understood. The added strain caused by “knotted” or tense muscles can make the pain associated with some chronic conditions more intense.

Stress and Anxiety

The stress and anxiety that sometimes comes along with chronic pain may amplify pain signals in the brain. Persistent anxiety can also change how pain is interpreted due to chemical changes in the brain linked to emotional stress. People with persistent anxiety may also be prone to experiencing side effects associated with some chronic pain medications and have an overall heightened sensitivity to pain.

Referred Pain

The source of chronic pain isn’t always where the pain is felt. Pain felt in the legs, for instance, may be caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve, which originates from the lower spine. With referred pain, the true trigger points, often involving a nerve that’s compressed, are beyond where the discomfort is felt.

Muscle Imbalances

Muscles play a surprising role in all aspects of pain, especially when it comes to how certain muscle groups are used. Imbalances, or the overuse of one or more muscles, can occur from sitting or standing in one position for too long, which can aggravate chronic conditions.

Sleep Posture

While it’s known that chronic pain can affect sleep, how you sleep can also contribute to your discomfort. Sleeping on your stomach, for instance, forces your spine into an unnatural position that can make chronic pain worse. Pain can also be aggravated by sleeping on a mattress that doesn’t provide proper support. Not getting enough “quality” sleep, referring to the deeper stages of the sleep cycle, can also affect muscles and joints.

A pain management doctor can help with the management of chronic pain by fine-tuning the diagnosis and recommending treatment options that may not have been considered. Remedies for chronic pain management typically include prescription painkillers, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. Surgery only becomes an option for chronic conditions when a source has been clearly identified and a patient hasn’t responded well to other treatments.