Millions of Americans suffer from arthritic conditions, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and gout. These disorders are characterized by joint pain in the extremities. Many other inflammatory diseases affect the body’s soft tissues, including tendonitis and bursitis.
Back pain has become the high price paid by our modern lifestyle and is a startlingly common cause of disability for many Americans, including both active and inactive people. Back pain that spreads to the leg is called sciatica, a very common condition (see below). Another common type of back pain is associated with the discs of the spine, the soft, spongy padding between the vertebrae (bones) that form the spine. Discs protect the spine by absorbing shock, but they tend to degenerate over time and may sometimes rupture.
Cancer pain can accompany the growth of a tumor, the treatment of cancer, or chronic problems related to cancer’s permanent effects on the body. Fortunately, most cancer pain can be treated to help minimize discomfort and stress to the patient.
Carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway of ligament and bones at the base of your hand. It contains nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the nerve to be compressed. Symptoms usually start gradually. As they worsen, grasping objects can become difficult.
Fibromyalgia is a medically unexplained syndrome characterized by chronic widespread pain and a heightened and painful response to pressure (allodynia). Other core symptoms include debilitating fatigue, sleep disturbance and joint stiffness. Some patients may also report difficulty with swallowing, bowel and bladder abnormalities, numbness and tingling (paresthesia) and cognitive dysfunction.
Headaches affect millions of Americans. The three most common types of chronic headache are migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches. Each comes with its own telltale brand of pain.
Migraines are characterized by throbbing pain and sometimes by other symptoms, such as nausea and visual disturbances. Migraines are more frequent in women than men. Stress can trigger a migraine headache, and migraines can also put the sufferer at risk for stroke. Cluster headaches are characterized by excruciating, piercing pain on one side of the head. They occur more frequently in men than women.
Tension headaches are often described as a tight band around the head.
Head and Facial Pain
Head and facial pain can be agonizing, whether it results from dental problems or disorders, such as cranial neuralgia, in which one of the nerves in the face, head, or neck is inflamed. Another condition, trigeminal neuralgia (also called tic douloureux), affects the largest of the cranial nerves and is characterized by a stabbing, shooting pain.
The bones (vertebrae) that form the spine in your back are cushioned by small, spongy discs. When these discs are healthy, they act as shock absorbers for the spine and keep the spine flexible. But when a disc is damaged, it may bulge or break open. This is called a herniated disc. It may also be called a slipped or ruptured disc.
Myofascial Pain Syndrome
This disorder is a chronic form of muscle pain. The pain of myofascial pain syndrome centers around sensitive points in your muscles called trigger points. The trigger points in your muscles can be painful when touched. And the pain can spread throughout the affected muscle.
Most people will experience neck pain at some point in their lives. Neck pain can be acute, meaning it lasts a few hours to a few weeks, or it can be chronic. Neck pain that lasts several weeks or longer is considered chronic neck pain. Most causes of neck pain are not serious. Poor posture at work, such as leaning into your computer, and during hobbies, such as hunching over your workbench, are common causes of neck pain. But sometimes neck pain can signify something more serious. If your neck pain is so severe that you can't touch your chin to your chest despite a few days of self-care, seek immediate medical attention..
Neuropathic pain is a complex, chronic pain state that usually is accompanied by tissue injury. With neuropathic pain, the nerve fibers themselves might be damaged, dysfunctional, or injured. These damaged nerve fibers send incorrect signals to other pain centers. The impact of a nerve fiber injury includes a change in nerve function both at the site of injury and areas around the injury.
A distinct type of headache characterized by piercing, throbbing, or electric-shock-like chronic pain in the upper neck, back of the head, and behind the ears, usually on one side of the head. Typically, the pain of occipital neuralgia begins in the neck and then spreads upwards. Some individuals will also experience pain in the scalp, forehead, and behind the eyes. Their scalp may also be tender to the touch, and their eyes especially sensitive to light.
Phantom Limb Pain
Pain is felt in the area where a limb has been amputated. Phantom limb pain can be mild to extremely painful. In some cases, phantom limb pain can be disabling and can lead to a lifelong struggle with chronic pain. Phantom limb sensations usually will disappear or decrease over time. When phantom limb pain continues for more than six months, the prognosis for spontaneous improvement is poor.
A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues — such as bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons. This pressure disrupts the nerve's function, causing pain, tingling, numbness or weakness.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
Dysfunction in the sacroiliac joint, or SI joint, is thought to cause low back and/or leg pain. The leg pain can be particularly difficult, and may feel similar to sciatica or pain caused by a lumbar disc herniation.
- Anatomical Source of Sacroiliac Joint Pain
The sacroiliac joint lies next to the bottom of the spine – below the lumbar spine and above the tailbone (coccyx). It connects the sacrum (the triangular bone at the bottom of the spine) with the pelvis (iliac crest). The joint typically has the following characteristics:
- Small and very strong, reinforced by strong ligaments that surround it
- Does not have much motion
- Transmits all the forces of the upper body to the pelvis (hips) and legs -----Acts as a shock-absorbing structure
The term sciatica describes the symptoms of leg pain and possibly tingling, numbness or weakness that travels from the low back through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg.
Shingles and Other Painful Disorders
These affect the skin. Pain is a common symptom of many skin disorders, even the most common rashes. One of the most vexing neurological disorders is shingles or herpes zoster, an infection that often causes agonizing pain resistant to treatment. Prompt treatment with antiviral agents is important to arrest the infection, which if prolonged can result in an associated condition known as postherpetic neuralgia.
Spinal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the canal surrounding the spinal cord. The condition occurs naturally with aging. Spinal stenosis causes weakness in the legs and leg pain usually felt while the person is standing up and often relieved by sitting down.
Spondylolisthesis is a back condition that occurs when one vertebra extends over another, causing pressure on nerves and, therefore, pain. Also, damage to nerve roots is a serious condition, called radiculopathy, which can be extremely painful. Treatment for a damaged disc includes drugs, such as painkillers, muscle relaxants, and steroids; exercise or rest, depending on the patient’s condition; and adequate support, such as a brace or better mattress and physical therapy. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove the damaged portion of the disc and return it to its previous condition, especially when it is pressing a nerve root. Surgical procedures include discectomy, laminectomy, or spinal fusion.
Sports injuries are common. Sprains, strains, bruises, dislocations, and fractures are all well-known words in the language of sports. Pain is another. In extreme cases, sports injuries can take the form of costly and painful spinal cord and head injuries, which cause severe suffering and disability.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)
TOS consists of a group of distinct disorders involving compression at the superior thoracic outlet that affect the brachial plexus (nerves that pass into the arms from the neck), and/or the subclavian artery and vein (blood vessels that pass between the chest and upper extremity).
This is a neuropathic disorder of trigeminal nerve in the face. It causes episodes of intense pain in any or all of the following: the ear, eye, lips, nose, scalp, forehead, teeth or jaw on one side of the face.