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Chronic Bone and Joint Pain: Managing the Problem

First Posted: Feb 19, 2014 01:24 PM EST

Many Americans struggle with chronic bone and joint pain, particularly as they age. Yet for an estimated 100 million American, it's estimated that this pain persists past the point of normal healing.

According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the Albany Medical Center in Albany, N.Y., they found that the majority of complaints among chronic pain sufferers stems from concerns within the musculoskeletal system.

"As orthopaedic surgeons, we are experts in the management of acute injuries to the extremities and spine. As a specialty, however, we are admittedly less adept in the management of chronic musculoskeletal pain," said lead study author Richard L. Uhl, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at the center, via a press release. "Given its prevalence, and the profound economic implications of chronic pain on both healthcare costs and lost productivity, we have a duty to be proficient in its diagnosis and care."

Statistics show that approximately 80 percent of Americans suffer from low back pain, while many others also deal with chronic hip, shoulder and knee pain, which can be a symptom of chronic neuropathic pain seen in advanced diabetes.

And though non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are often the easiest ways to treat such issues, they may not always be effective in treating chronic pain.

"While far from the everyday 'arsenal' of orthopaedic surgeons, antidepressants and anticonvulsants (medications to prevent seizures) can have remarkable effects on many forms of chronic bone and joint pain. There are many readily-accessible, economic, safe and effective treatments for chronic pain," Dr. Uhl adds, via the release.

For some steps on how to manage chronic pain, check out these tips, courtesy of the release:

  • Avoid reasons for acutepain by using safety precautions including appropriate techniques and, above all, common sense when performing every day activities (e.g., driving), fitness routines (e.g., weight-lifting), or work place routines (e.g., operating heavy machinery)
  • Avoid behaviors (e.g., tobacco use), appropriately treating mood disorders (e.g., depression or anxiety), or controlling diabetes and other health issues may reduce one's risk of developing chronic pain.
  • Evaluate the source of the pain. Chronic pain from an undiagnosed tumor or infection won't improve until the underlying condition is addressed. "The majority of chronic pain cases are related to slow, degenerative joint processes; nerve impingement, compression, or damage; or simply unknown or unclear sources," says Dr. Uhl.
  • Physicians and patients should cooperate as a healthcare team. The authors offer a simplified treatment guide for specific pain scenarios, but recommend that all physicians tailor treatment for each individual patient.

More information regarding the findings can be seen via the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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