Got aches? You’re in good company. Around 100 million Americans have some sort of chronic pain, meaning the long-term kind that sticks around after an injury or illness. And millions more have from short-term (acute) pain.
Some types are more common during certain times of your life. “Knowing that may help you be ready for them, and sometimes even avoid irritation or injury in the first place,” says Jonathan L. Glashow, MD, chief of sports medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
On the night of March 28, 1986, Howard Heit's car was struck in a head-on collision. He left the scene of the serious crash thinking how lucky he was that he hadn't been hurt. "And then four to six weeks later, I started noticing twitches in the muscles of my neck and upper back. These progressed to marked spasms of my neck, shoulders, and upper back," he recalls.
The pain never ceased. All day, every day it plagued him. It became difficult for him to walk -- and almost impossible for him to work...
Here are seven types of pain you need to know about and tips to manage them.
1. Lower Back Pain
It’s the most common type of chronic pain in America.
“If you’re under 50 and haven’t had a back injury, your back pain is likely the result of sitting for long stretches. That puts too much pressure on the discs in your back,” says Robert Fay, PT, owner of Armonk Physical Therapy and Sports Training in New York.
Older adults, on the other hand, are more likely to have back pain from conditions like arthritis, Fay says.
It's most likely to strike: During your 30s and 40s, but it can happen at any age.
Ease the ache: Strength-training and cardio exercise are both helpful. “They increase blood flow, and help you build your core muscles, which support your spine. And that reduces pressure,” Fay says. Start slow and see a pro if you’re not sure what exercises to do.
Physical therapy is another option. Your therapist can show you exercises that may help you move better and relieve pain. Over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen may also help, though you shouldn’t use them for more than a few days without your doctor's OK.
Some people find using a heating pad eases pain, too.
Call your doctor if you have severe back pain or if you’ve been hurting for more than a week.
Regular ones and migraines -- a type of headache that may cause other symptoms, like nausea -- are the second most common type of chronic pain.