Pain Disorder

What is pain disorder?

Pain disorder causes individuals to experience pain in varying degrees. The pain can cause a minor inconvenience or can be completely debilitating.

The cause of pain disorder is stress the person experiences over the course of time in conjunction with an illness or an injury. The time frame the disorder appears can be as short as just a few days or can last for an extended period of time. There is no particular age in which the disorder tends to appear, but is predominately apparent in adults, especially who are undergoing times of intense mental stress.

Overview of pain disorder

Pain disorder is not uncommon and can occur within a person at any given time when they experience times of intense stress normally as the result of an accident or illness. Pain begins to occur in most cases when the presence of a medical condition in conjunction with stress creates a condition separate from the original ailment. The pain can affect one or more parts of the body, and at times can become quite severe.

Patients complain of their decreased ability to participate in everyday activities and feel that they can’t do the things they once were able to do without the pain affecting them. There is no particular age in which the disorder tends to appear, but is predominately apparent in adults, especially who are undergoing times of intense mental stress. This disorder is more prevalent in females than it is in males, however, but the severity of the symptoms is the same for both sexes.

Some patients may experience the pain during a short frame of time, for example, they may have pain for a few weeks, and then the pain disappears. Others may suffer from pain disorder for years before they finally get the symptoms under control or see some type of relief. Statistically speaking, pain disorder is less common in the United States than it is in countries such as Mexico, China, and Japan.

Symptoms of pain disorder

In most cases where individuals develop pain disorder, they have experienced some type of psychological stress in conjunction with an accident or illness. The combination of factors can create symptoms which begin to become recurrent and persistent. The level of pain associated with the disorder ranges from noticeable to extreme. Individuals who are experiencing times of stress will begin to notice aches or pains which become more noticeable and persistent without relief.

This may cause the person to seek pain relief from over the counter medicine frequently. If the condition persists long enough or becomes unbearable, the person may seek assistance from their health care provider. If the doctor feels the condition warrants treatment, they will prescribe pain relieving drugs temporarily to help the person manage the disorder until they can solve the root of the problem.

Some other symptoms a person with pain disorder may experience is a hindrance of cognition. They may also experience a negative mind frame which ultimately can result in depression. Anxiety is also another common symptom associated with the pain and can compound the disorder and make it even more unbearable. One of the most dangerous facets of pain disorder is the likelihood of individuals to begin to abuse pain medication or begin taking illegal substances in an attempt to deal with the pain and psychological aspects of the illness.

Although the condition can affect anyone, at any age, it is more common for children to only experience one symptom rather than multiple symptoms. Children more commonly experience either an issue with their stomach or tend to develop headaches rather than a persistent pain in another part of the body.

Causes of pain disorder

The cause of pain disorder is normally related to an injury or some type of illness which has become serious in nature and has caused its own pain. The pain and any psychological stress associated with the event can then take on a life of its own and create an entirely new condition, which is the pain disorder. Once a person develops the disorder, they begin to notice a significant impact in their daily lives as a result. Underlying anxiety issues also make a person more likely to develop pain disorder because their already stressed mind takes a new issue, which causes it to blossom into the new conditions.

If the person already had a great amount of stress in their life, then any new accident or injury is likely to cause them to develop a pain disorder as a result. People who are prone to anxiety and other mental conditions tend to develop the disorder for the long term, and tend to have more of a problem controlling the symptoms, and are also more likely to develop a substance abuse problem as a result. It occurs more commonly in children who are unable to express their distress or cause of the problem effectively and develops into a physiological experience because of their inability to express themselves.

One of the other factors which are involved with the person who develops a pain disorder is a history of the same type of issues in the family. This is one of the things a doctor takes into consideration while diagnosing and treating the condition. People who have family that has experienced the disorder are more likely to experience it themselves.

Treatment of pain disorder

When an individual begins to experience pain which is not associated with the original illness or injury, and the symptoms begin to linger and cause distress, there may be a cause to believe there is a pain disorder developing within the person. Although there is no physiological cause, the pain becomes persistent and can be intolerable. It seems to be more severe in people who report pain over a larger part of their body rather than those experiencing pain in one isolated part of the body.

Because of the level of pain, the person may seek help from a medical professional. Depending on the doctor’s analysis and personal practices, they may or may not prescribe pain medication for the patient. Some doctors don’t believe prescribing additional pain medication is the best course of practice for individuals who develop pain disorder. Some will prescribe non-narcotic pain relievers, which prove to be fairly effective for the majority of people who experience this disorder. Most mental health professionals recommend the person receive some type of therapy from a mental health professional to assist patients with getting their pain under control without opioids or narcotic medications.

It is well known that people who develop pain disorder will easily develop some type of addiction, whether it be alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs. Because of those odds, the doctor may be hesitant to treat the pain disorder on a physiological basis and will direct the patient to approach it from a mental health perspective. Some of the treatments which seem to be more effective than just over the counter medications include massage therapy and trigger point injections. Massage therapy works to release the tension in the muscles which press on the nerves and cause the sensation of pain. Trigger point injections deliver pain relief to precise parts of the body with non-narcotic pain relievers and anti inflammatory medications.

Before treatment can begin, the medical health professional treating the patient must get a complete medical and psychological history of the patient and any immediate family. Based on the patient’s history, the doctor can then outline an effective course of treatment to help alleviate the pain and help individuals return to their normal state. It is common for a doctor or mental health expert to prescribe an antidepressant to the patient to help them manage the psychological aspects of the condition which also can help treat the pain itself and minimize the duration and intensity of the pain.

If the person responds well to their treatment, there is thought to be a good prognosis for the patient and they will likely see relief in a more immediate sense as opposed to individuals who resist the efforts to treat the disorder and its underlying causes. If the person develops a chemical dependency or a substance abuse problem, they will become more likely to experience the symptoms over the long term because the substances add additional stress on the body and the mind. They are also less likely to seek treatment for the pain using tactics which do not involve medications. In order to get rid of the pain, they must first get rid of the addiction.

Prevention of pain disorder

The best prevention of pain disorder is to eliminate any unnecessary stress in your life before an accident or an injury occurs. Learning effective stress management techniques and relaxation techniques helps individuals not only cope with everyday stress more effectively, but can also help them deal with the pain which occurs after an unfortunate event that might trigger a pain disorder to develop as a result. Once a person has mastered coping skills and productive stress management techniques, they will be less likely to develop a pain disorder over their lifetime.

It is also recommended that a person who was recently ill or injured and begins to experience additional stress, as a result, should seek assistance from a mental health professional or therapist in order to deal with their feelings before they can create a pain disorder. A pain disorder has no physiological origin and is more closely related to a psychological disorder, however, the person with the issue will actually experience pain to varying degrees, which can become excruciating.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and talk therapy are both quite effective in treating this disorder and giving the patient long-term relief from the symptoms. Surgical ablation may also be helpful in some cases and may become an option for some individuals who seem to be a good candidate for the surgery. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is another less common method which has shown a good amount of potential when it comes to treating more stubborn cases. Luckily, there are many ways in which a person may seek treatment and relief from a pain disorder and should avoid the temptation to self-medicate, which seriously compound the effects of the condition and can lead to serious long term consequences.

Pain disorder is a combination of physiological issues which are spurred from an accident or illness in conjunction with psychological problems such as stress and anxiety. Most people who suffer from pain disorder are able to control the symptoms with relaxation techniques and therapy. Some severe cases may linger for years if not treated immediately.

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Last Reviewed:
September 17, 2017
Last Updated:
September 17, 2017
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