The Agony Matrix: Chronic Pain Syndrome
Sometimes, chronic pain is the sign of a bigger problem inside the body. It can be caused by damage to any number of areas of the body. One common example is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) which is frequently damaged by participants in contact sports. Chronic pain can may also occur if a broken bone has healed but has not healed properly. For the elderly, things like arthritis can be a source of chronic pain. However, these examples all have a physical cause in common.
There are rare cases when individuals will develop chronic pain for no physical reason. This mental health condition is often referred to as chronic pain syndrome. Chronic pain syndrome or CPS is a mental health condition that causes the body to feel pain that is genuinely caused by neurological impulses. To put it in basic terms, the body is being fooled into feeling pain by the mind. However, pain is not the only effect that this particular condition has on the body.
This problem has a few known side effects, with some of them being psychological in nature. One of the premier side effects is a change in lifestyle caused by the pain, as well as increased irritability and longer periods of anger. Anxiety and depression are also typical side effects associated with the syndrome by patients and medical professionals alike. The problem with diagnosing or treating CPS is that it is very difficult to concretely define and it has proven to be unresponsive to conventional methods of treatment. Medical science has yet to define a concrete cause for CPS, though there are several theories. Some suggest that CPS develops after a particularly painful experience essentially “wires” the brain to feel pain in that given area. The neurological stimuli may or may not actually be registered by the body, but if the person acknowledges the pain as being there, CPS is reinforced. In theory, if the person acknowledges the pain despite the lack of actual physical stimulation, then this “behavior” is continued indefinitely by the brain and body. It is worth noting that pain caused by this condition does not manifest any visible physical signs, and often only causes a general feeling of pain rather than more specific sensations. However, the fact that the cause is unknown and the only consistent symptom is the pain itself has made it exceedingly difficult to pin down any one area to focus research on.
Treatment has also proven to be a challenge to pin down. Conventional pain killers are typically not advised, as they may have pronounced side effects due to the absence of any actual pain. Counseling and therapy have proven ineffective in most cases. They are able to help alleviate the more mental side effects of CPS, but no concrete evidence has surfaced that these methods are capable of alleviating the physical pain or removing the cause of the said pain. At the moment, it is highly difficult to diagnose and treat CPS, mainly because of the nature of the problem. Some doctors may dismiss complaints of pain from people who don't have any indication of a physical cause for pain, which can leave the problem untreated for prolonged periods. Some people may also resort to self-medication, which may only worsen the pain or cause other side effects.
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