One out of every 4 Americans suffers from chronic pain. Outpatient clinics report that it is one of the most common complaints they hear from patients.
While chronic pain has many causes — from arthritis to nerve damage — it can and should be managed. There are long-term effects to untreated chronic pain that can have a significant impact on your life.
Below, we’ll discuss some of those effects and what you can do to prevent them.
3 long-term effects of untreated chronic pain
- Depression and anxiety — Studies show that long-term chronic pain sufferers are more likely to develop psychological disorders than people without chronic pain. One possible explanation for this is that chronic pain prevents people from engaging in physical activity, which can lead to a lack of dopamine. Sufferers might also avoid social situations because they’re in too much pain to go out, which can lead to a sense of isolation.
- Impaired memory — In one study, two thirds of patients with chronic pain showed signs of memory impairment. Chronic pain signals sent through the brain can interrupt the functioning of other regions in the brain, particularly the areas where memories are created and stored.
- Disturbed sleep — One lesser-known long-term effect of untreated chronic pain is that it can affect your sleep. Between 50% and 89% of chronic pain sufferers report that their condition prevents them from getting a good night’s rest. Unfortunately, a lack of sleep can lead to worse pain, which creates a cycle that worsens over time.
How to prevent the long-term effects of chronic pain
The only way to prevent the long-term effects of untreated chronic pain is to seek treatment. Depending on your condition, you may need specific types of treatment from a specialist, but physical therapy is a helpful addition to any treatment plan. In some cases, physical therapy may be the only form of treatment required.
A physical therapist in your area will help to diagnose the source of your pain and develop a plan to help you manage your pain and avoid any long-term effects. They may also apply manual therapy techniques, such as soft tissue mobilization, to activate and promote healing in areas where pain stems from an injury.
Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.