Complications of Pain

complications pain

20% of Americans suffer with chronic pain. Healthcare systems all over the world struggle to make the changes necessary to ensure a good or even acceptable quality of life.

Patients, families, and communities will need to fill the gaps in our healthcare systems.

Ideally, patients need to be the executive partner in their care, but when you’re in pain, it’s hard to even think straight, never mind find your way to healing. Not even pain specialists have managed to solve the problem yet.

Chronic pain causes disability, financial losses, relationships troubles, socialization issues, never mind extreme discomfort. There is a risk that your self image will suffer. When pain controls your life, it takes away your power. The pain becomes an abusive partner. The longer you’re in an abusive relationship, the harder it is to exit.

Chronic pain is all about Biology, Psychology, and Social interactions, or lack thereof. Acute injuries that are undertreated can lead to chronic pain. In Types of Pain, I have videos and information on various acute and chronic injuries. I am the working on this website alone, but will continue to add information. Use the Contact form for suggestions or questions.

Acute inflammation and tissue injury can be healed with rest, ice, gentle stretches, and elevation of injured lower limbs. Acute injuries need to be treated aggressively so avoid a persistent inflammatory cascade. Medications can help. Physiotherapists, occupational therapists, kinesiologists, pharmacists, healthcare providers, and the internet can help you seek your best solution.

Pain is Not all in the head, but when the brain’s alarm system is sick, and this happens with chronic pain, the brain influences the level of your pain. The Pain Center acts like a dial. Thoughts, emotions, and tissue damage dial the pain up. 

The brain is plastic. It can change. When acute pain is undertreated, it gradually changes the brain and the body. You can change this back but it is harder to change in the positive direction than it was to reach a negative level. 

The brain becomes very sensitive. Unfortunately, even when well, the alarm center cannot tell the difference between physical and emotional stress, not even bad stress from good stress. Stress is stress. Routine and using the body to calm the alarm center can gradually bring the alarm center back to normal or near normal.

Here are some short explanations of how stress acts on the body. 

Flight Fright Fight Response

The body responds with the flight fright fight response.  The changes that result from this stress response include increased adrenaline and norepinephrine. If these stress hormones are high for a few days, cortisol starts to rise. These hormonal changes can cause many different problems, long term even weight gain.  ADH, anti-diuretic hormone, is another hormone that can be released with stress and cause swelling of extremities, including fingers, toes, legs.


See another link I received from Twitter. Affects of chronic pain on the endocrine system.

Undertreatment of Pain

Undertreatment of pain causes complications as well and carries a risk to people suffering with pain. Not only can the suffering cause undue discomfort, but it can also lead to increased disability, financial loss, family distress and even poor health outcomes, and if the pain is severe, there is the risk of a person turning to “street” drugs.

Depression and anxiety  can result from undertreated pain and both depression and anxiety make pain worse. It is hard to break the vicious cycle. There are many mental health resources available and asking for help is a smart move.


Insomnia can be a complication of chronic pain or a cause of chronic pain. There are many options for managing insomnia that do not involve addictive medications. Sleeping pills, called hypnotics, and tranquilizers, may have sometimes serious and long-term side effects, including dementia. Speak to your healthcare provider about these side effects.

Many physicians choose a low dose antidepressant to help sleep. In low doses they are not helpful for depression. If you have depression, speak to your healthcare provider.

Website for sleep management: CBT for insomina


it is normal to have stress and anxiety. Pain causes more anxiety.

The need to control things around you – the more you feel everything has to be just SO – the need to have things perfect – the more likely you are to suffer from excess anxiety.

The art of living is learning that the more you try to control things, the more energy you use – the more tired you get and the more tired people get of you.

The more reassurances you need – the more likely you are to have anxiety. For example, if a doctor tells you everything is fine, but you continue to feel unsure, do express to the doctor that you feel something is wrong. Most of the time you will know if something is wrong. Unfortunately, people with anxiety often feel threatened by symptoms of pain. This makes pain worse.

You could be happy and still have anxiety. Even excess happiness is a form of anxiety. Stress, whether overly excited about something, or overly upset about something – is seen as STRESS by the body and the reacts accordingly – see above.

Thinking about tomorrow or the future – is anxiety

Thinking about the past – is depression

Palouse Mindfulness


Balancing the risks of medications with their benefits is difficult.  It can be a headache for the patient as well as the healthcare provider. Medication risks and side effects are too complex to discuss on this site. Please consult your healthcare provider.

PTSD can be a cause or a complication from painPTSD

I will continue to work on the website. Please join the pain community with comments or questions. Thank you. Judy