This month we are focussing on chronic pain, which is pain that lasts for more than three months. One in six New Zealanders live with chronic pain. Each person with chronic pain is unique, no two people are affected in the same way. We have included information on symptoms, management and lifestyle adjustments to minimise the impact chronic pain might have on living.
This newsletter also contains information on bites and stings, which can be common during summer. We have included information on the management of bites and stings.
If you have any questions about chronic pain, bites and stings, or if you have other health concerns, please talk to a pharmacist. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Symptoms of chronic pain
Pain is a symptom of an underlying condition. Everyone feels pain differently. Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting more than 3 months. Whereas acute pain is a normal sensation that alerts us to possible injury. Chronic pain may feel like:
Other health problems, such as tiredness, difficulty sleeping, decreased appetite, and mood changes often accompany chronic pain. Chronic pain can limit a person’s movement, which can reduce flexibility, strength and stamina. This can have an impact of daily activities and reduce independence.
Causes of chronic pain
Chronic pain is very complex and may be caused by several factors at once. It may occur alongside conditions such as arthritis, diabetes or fibromyalgia. It may occur after an injury or trauma to the body has healed. In some cases there may be no clear cause.
Pain is very personal and subjective experience. There is not a specific test or scan that can diagnose chronic pain, so it can often take some time to determine what is going on. Health professionals reply on your description of type, timing and location of pain. Keeping a record of your pain can assist health professionals with their diagnosis.
Chronic pain usually cannot be cured, but it can be managed. There is no one treatment or approach that is right for everybody. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and improve function, so the you can resume day-today activities.
Treating chronic pain requires a team approach with you as the central player in the team. Other players in your team include; your health care team (for example, your doctor, physiotherapist and pharmacist), family, friends and support groups. It is however important that you take control.
Treatment that only focusses on reducing your pain for a short time is not the most effective treatment for chronic pain. There are several things you can do to feel better, such as, a gentle exercise programme, managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, taking your medicines correctly and regularly.
These things will not eliminate pain, but they will help you to manage pain, and help you become more active and more involved in your life.
Bites and stings from insects are common. They often result in redness and swelling in the injured area. Most insect bites are harmless, though sometimes they can cause discomfort. Mosquito and flea bites can be very itchy. Bee and wasp stings, and some spider bites usually hurt.
To prevent insect bites and stings: don’t bother insects, use insect repellants, wear clothes that cover arms and legs, and be careful outside because food attracts insects.
If you know you have severe allergic reactions (such as anaphylaxis), carry an emergency Epipen. For less severe allergies and general first aid, it is best to always have antihistamines on hand even if no one in your household is usually allergic.
Treatment for insect bites:
Additional treatment for stings:
Remove the stinger and clean the site with a disinfectant. If severely allergic (anaphylaxis) administer an adrenaline injection (Epipen).
Scratching the area can increase the risk of infection. Signs of infection include increasing pain, redness, swelling, red streaks leading away from the bite/sting, and warmth. As the infection progresses fever or chills may become apparent.
Come in and talk to a pharmacist for advice and treatment on bites and stings.