Everyone experiences pain at some time. It might be the result of an injury, operation, or pushing your body too hard. Headache, infection, arthritis, and other health problems cause pain. Unchecked, pain can rob you of the ability to sleep, work, and enjoy life. It can also lead to depression and anxiety.
We've come a long way from the days of "grin and bear it," or "no pain, no gain." Pain begets pain, so it's important to stop it early. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to pain relief. Standard medications can be a good option for many pain sufferers, but a wide range of effective nondrug therapies are also available.
The pancreas is the large gland located in the upper part of the abdomen, behind the stomach. It produces digestive enzymes and hormones. Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of this gland.
During acute pancreatitis, enzymes that are normally released into the digestive tract begin to damage the pancreas itself. The gland becomes swollen and inflamed. As a result, digestion slows down and becomes painful. Other body functions can be affected. The pancreas can become permanently damaged and scarred if attacks are severe, prolonged, or frequent.
Several things are known to trigger acute pancreatitis:
Celiac disease (also known as non-tropical sprue, celiac sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy) is a genetic, autoimmune disease. The immune system mistakenly recognizes gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, as "foreign." When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, the immune system attacks the gluten when it gets into the small intestine.
As the immune system wages war against gluten, it damages small, fingerlike projections in the small intestine called villi. Villi that make it easier for the body to absorb nutrients from food. As villi become eroded and flattened, they have trouble absorbing nutrients. The result is diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as a host of health problems related to malnutrition, including weight loss, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility, and nerve problems.
Chronic pancreatitis refers to severe or recurring inflammation of the pancreas. This large gland is located in the upper part of the abdomen, behind the stomach. It produces digestive enzymes and hormones such as insulin and glucagon, which are responsible for controlling blood sugar.
This long-term inflammation causes permanent damage to the pancreas, leading to digestive problems and nutritional deficiencies.
Causes of chronic pancreatitis include:
Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the digestive tract, usually the small and large intestines. This causes an array of digestive and other symptoms. Once the condition begins, it lasts a lifetime.
The inflammation most often injures the final section of the small intestine, called the ileum, and the beginning of the large intestine. However, the disease can affect any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. It can also affect other parts of the body, such as the eyes and joints.
Exactly what triggers the inflammation that starts Crohn's disease is still something of a medical mystery. A viral or bacterial infection may start the process by activating the immune system. Normally, the immune response fades away when the infection is over. In some people, though, the immune system stays active and creates inflammation in the intestines even after the infection goes away.
Raynaud's disease is a condition in which fingers, toes, or other body parts turn blue or white in response to cold. For some people, reaching into a refrigerator or freezer without gloves is enough to provoke an attack. Air conditioning can do it for others. Some people develop Raynaud's symptoms in response to emotional stress.
Named after the French physician who first described it in 1862, Raynaud's is caused by a problem in the body's arteries. In most people with Raynaud's, small arteries that bring oxygen-rich blood to the fingers spasm and close down in response to cold or stress. This reduces or cuts off blood flow through these small arteries (known as capillaries). Without a steady supply of warm blood circulating through them, the tissue nourished by the affected capillaries becomes pale. Raynaud's can also affect the nose, lips, ears, nipples, and other body parts.
After the affected tissue warms up, the capillaries open and blood flow resumes.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes tiredness and widespread pain, aches, and stiffness in muscles and joints throughout the body. Experts haven't yet found a cause or physical reasons for fibromyalgia, and blood tests, x-rays, and other tests usually are normal. This has made fibromyalgia a controversial disease.
It is possible that there is more than one cause for fibromyalgia. Possibilities include:
Fibromyalgia affects an estimated 3 million to 6 million Americans. It is more common among women than men. Many people with fibromyalgia also have mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or eating disorders.
Sciatica is pain along the sciatic nerves, the longest nerves in the body. The pain begins in the lower spine, passes through the buttock, down the back and side of the leg, and into the foot and toes. A common cause of sciatica is a herniated disk. It can also be brought on by spinal stenosis, infection, a broken pelvis or thighbone, or a tumor. Sciatica tends to affect people in their 40s and 50s, and it is more common in those who are overweight.
The main feature of sciatica is numbness, tingling, or pain in the lower back, buttock, and leg. It can be relatively mild or erupt into violent throbbing pain that grips the back and leg, making any movement excruciating.
Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. These are membranes near joints. Bursa act as cushions between muscles and bones. They reduce friction caused by movement and make joints more flexible.
Bursitis often happens when a joint is used too much, such as when throwing a baseball or painting a wall. It can sometimes be caused by gout or an infection.
Symptoms of bursitis include:
The carpal tunnel is a space in the wrist through which nerves and tendons pass. Because it is on the narrow side, a nerve called the median nerve that passes through the carpal tunnel can become irritated or compressed. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a combination of numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness in the hand caused by compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. It can occur in one or both hands.
Anything that narrows the carpal tunnel can compress the median nerve. Injury to the nerve also can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Common causes include:
Sometimes carpal tunnel syndrome occurs without a clear reason.
Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix. This small, fingerlike tube sits near the lower right side of the large intestine. It usually becomes inflamed because of an infection or an obstruction in the digestive tract. If untreated, an infected appendix can burst and spread the infection throughout the abdominal cavity and into the bloodstream.
Symptoms of appendicitis include:
Many things can cause abdominal pain. To make a diagnosis, your doctor will ask you about your current and past health. He or she will be especially interested in any digestive symptoms and your most recent bowel movements: their timing, frequency, character (watery or hard), and whether the stool was streaked with blood or mucus.