Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists over time, typically more than 3-6 months after the normal healing time. Chronic pain affects, for example, patients with common conditions such as low back pain, lumbar sciatalgia, cervicalgia and tension headaches, osteoarthritis, but also patients with rheumatic diseases, fibromyalgia or neuropathies of different origins such as diabetic neuropathy or following the fire of St. Anthony.
Patients suffering from chronic pain often also have disorders such as anxiety and depression, but what is the correlation between these conditions? We talk about this topic with Dr. Fabio Intelligente, anesthesiologist and coordinator of the Analgesic Therapy Service for Chronic Pain at Humanitas.
The risks of uncontrolled chronic pain
“The causes of pain can be many and it is important to intervene because uncontrolled chronic pain can have a very strong impact on the daily life of the patient and can give rise to the so-called “pain illness”, a picture in which pain is no longer a symptom but a real illness with important repercussions on the tone of the mood and therefore on social life, work life and economic capacity,” explains Dr. Intelligente.
Analgesic therapy and lifestyle
“Chronic pain must be treated in a timely manner, and this can be achieved not only through medication, but also through infiltration and minimally invasive procedures that do not require the use of scalpels or long recovery times. On one hand the aim is to preserve functionality and on the other hand to guarantee the patient a quality of life that is as good as possible.
Lifestyle also plays a fundamental role: a varied and balanced diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, is ideal for helping our body to control pain. Natural products, rich in fiber, “good” fats, fruit and vegetables are preferable, also in order to prevent or combat excess weight; in fact, excess pounds can aggravate the painful condition”, the specialist underlines.
Mood disorders and chronic pain
“Suffering from chronic pain alters the entire body, pain is no longer an unpleasant feeling, but involves the entire person, with repercussions not only on health, but also on love life, work and social aspects.
Such a complex picture can be ground for the onset of disorders such as anxiety and depression, as well as in patients already suffering from anxiety and depression, chronic pain can worsen symptoms.
There is therefore no doubt about the link between chronic pain and mood disorders; think, for example, that some drugs indicated for chronic pain are antidepressants and anxiolytics and act on pain and mood, for the involvement of the neurotransmitters themselves, such as serotonin and norepinephrine,” says Dr. Intelligente.