Chronic pain is often seen as an ‘invisible illness’ and can leave people in agony, with some conditions undiagnosed for several years before they are identified. The NHS 20 most painful conditions are –
1.Acute Pancreatitis – This is a potentially fatal, sudden swelling of the pancreas, a banana-sized organ that’s part of the digestive system. It is most commonly caused by gallstones and alcohol abuse, it causes severe abdominal pain and inflammation which suddenly appear.
2.Appendicitis – A painful swelling of the appendix, a finger-like pouch attached to the gut wall. Some of the first signs include sharp twinges of pain when moving or breathing deep. Pain moving down the right side of the abdomen is the most comment symptom.
3.Arthritis – A common condition characterised by inflammation of the joints, arthritis causes pain and stiffness that limit mobility and worsen with age. People with arthritis endure constant and often debilitating joint pain, usually in the hips, knees, wrists or fingers. The pain, which feels like a dull ache or a burning sensation, can come on suddenly or over time and is often linked with muscle aches and stiffness in the joints.
4.Broken Bones – A fractured ankle, hip, arm or nose are one of the most painful things you’ll experience, especially when you try to move it. Pain and inflammation caused by the break can limit movement of the affected area, which takes time to recover. Broken bones can heal by themselves, but they may need to be lined up and fixed in position so they are set properly. They say that as a general rule, the older you are and the bigger the bone that’s broken, the longer it will take to heal.
5.Cluster Headaches – A rare form of headache known for the excruciating pain in one side of the head, often felt around the eye and a pattern of occurring in clusters. They are often accompanied by agitation and restlessness.
6.Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) – A condition that usually stems from damage or malfunction of the nervous system, this can cause persistent, severe and debilitating pain in one limb after an injury. While the burning pain is usually confined to one limb, it can sometimes spread to other parts of the body. The skin of the affected body part can become so sensitive that just a slight touch, bump or even a change in temperature can provoke intense pain.
7.Endometriosis – A gynaecological condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other areas of the body, most commonly in the pelvic region. This tissue responds to hormones in the same way as the lining of the womb but, with no outlet, it can cause inflammation, scarring and adhesions, leading to severe pain and many other symptoms. Symptoms include severe pain during or between periods and very long, heavy irregular periods. Other symptoms include painful bowel movements, pain in the bladder and pain during or after sex. Extreme fatigue is very common, and fertility may also be affected. This is an extremely painful condition for anyone suffering from it. It affects 1.5 million women in the UK, causing many to take time off work due to severe pain.
8.Fibromyalgia – A chronic condition, that many of my readers suffer from which causes pain throughout the body, accompanied by fatigue, sleep problems, and emotional or mental distress. Pain often can be aching or burning from head to toe, usually becoming more severe in the most frequently used parts of the body. They now say that Fibromyalgia usually occurs after physical trauma, psychological stress, infection or surgery. It is linked to the brain’s ability to process pain signals, which can cause the body to amplify painful sensations.
9.Frozen Shoulder – Pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint that starts gradually and worsens over time, lasting for months and even years. Daily activities can become restricted and an ordeal. The NHS says it means the joint can become so tight and stiff that it is virtually impossible to carry out simple movements, such as raising your arm. It is unclear what causes frozen shoulder but it can happen after a shoulder or arm injury and is more common in people with diabetes.
10.Gout – A condition known for 2,000 years, gout is a form of arthritis that causes inflammation of the joints, often starting in the feet or toes, usually a joint in the big toe. Gout develops in people with high levels of uric acid in the blood. The acid gathers and crystallises at the joint, causing swelling and heat with the skin sometimes becoming purplish red. It mainly affects men aged between 40 and 60. It causes acute, intermittent and painful attacks of arthritis in the joints of the foot, knee, ankle, hand and wrist.
11.Heart attacks – One of the leading causes of death in the world, myocardial infarctions see part of the heart deprived of oxygen-rich blood, causing cells to die. Many heart attacks are caused when the arteries narrow and fill up with fatty materials which prevent blood from flowing properly. Smoking and living an unhealthy lifestyle are major contributory factors in heart attacks, so regular exercise and maintaining a good diet are vital. However, some people are more prone to having them as heart disease can be hereditary.
12.Kidney Stones – Caused by a decrease in urine volume or an excess of stone-forming components in it, kidney stones might be non-symptomatic unless it moves around the kidney and passes into the tube linking the kidney to the bladder. Passing a kidney stone can produce a sudden, sharp, cramping pain in your lower back or the side of your abdomen, or occasionally in your groin. Most kidney stones are small enough to pass out in your urine, and the pain disappears once the stone has been passed.
13.Migraine – more than “just a headache”, a migraine comes as a recurring attack of moderate to severe pain that pulses or throbs. It can last for a few hours or even days, migraines usually cause pain in one side of the head. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, extreme light and sound sensitivity and pain.
14.Pain After Surgery – It’s common to have some pain after surgery, though the intensity of the pain will vary according to the type of operation. Too much pain after surgery is not a good thing, according to the NHS, and you should never feel you have to “tough it out”.
15.Sciatica – This is a back problem that affects the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the body running from the feet to the hips. This condition occurs if the nerve becomes irritated or compressed in any way. The pain radiates down the spine and leg, the pain can be moderate or severe. It can be accompanied by tingling (like pins and needles), weakness and numbness in the affected leg, as well as cramps and shooting pain starting in the buttock region and travelling down towards the foot. The pain can be so severe that it is impossible to put weight on the affected leg. You can find out lots more about this on this website.
16.A Slipped Disc – Also called pelvic intervertebral disc prolapse, a slipped disc can cause sudden and severe lower back pain. The condition occurs when the soft cushion of tissue between spinal bones pushes out, which can irritate nearby nerves, resulting in pain and numbness or weakness in an arm or leg. It is often the result of a twisting or lifting injury. Although the pain is usually eased by lying down, it is also worse at night, often accompanied by burning, tingling, and aching sensations in affected areas. The pain is often made worse by moving your back, coughing or sneezing. A slipped disc can also cause leg pain. You can find out lots more about this on this website.
17.Sickle Cell Disease – The names for a group of inherited conditions that affect the red blood cells. A sudden episode of pain, known as a pain crisis, is one of the most common and distressing symptoms of sickle cell disease. The pain, which usually occurs in the bones and joints, can vary from mild to severe and last for up to seven days. Some people may have an episode every few weeks, while others may have fewer than one a year.
18.Shingles – Caused by the same virus as chickenpox, shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is an infection of a nerve and the skin around it which usually affects a particular area on one side of the body. The main symptoms are a sharp, burning pain and a painful rash that develops into itchy, fluid-filled blisters which contain particles of the virus. Shingles can occur at any age but are most common in people over the age of 70.
19.A Stomach Ulcer – Or peptic ulcer as they are also known – is an open sore in the lining of your stomach or your small intestine. It causes pain in the stomach and up to the neck, which may last briefly or for several hours. Typically occurring when the stomach is empty or right after eating, the symptoms are often described as similar to indigestion, heartburn and bad hunger pangs, with a burning sensation or pain in the upper abdomen Abdominal pain distinguishes a stomach ulcer from heartburn and indigestion, and it is often coupled with both bloating and abdominal fullness. Bacteria is the cause in almost all cases of these ulcers. The second most common cause is overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including the commonly used aspirin and ibuprofen which can irritate the stomach lining in some people.
20.Trigeminal Neuralgia– is a chronic pain condition that causes sudden, severe and sporadic facial pain, akin to a burning or electric shock sensation. Pain can affect the eyes, lips, gums, teeth, scalp, nose, upper jaw, forehead, and lower jaw. It usually occurs in short, unpredictable attacks that can last from a few seconds to about two minutes. The attacks stop as suddenly as they start.