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There are different types of pain:
Acute pain starts suddenly and is short-term. Acute pain often starts suddenly and feels ‘sharp’. It can be caused by many different things, such as:
A broken bone
Acute pain is usually short-term, but it can sometimes last for weeks or months. Most acute pain will go away when the reason for the pain has been treated or the tissues have healed. If acute pain is not relieved, it may become a chronic pain.
Common causes of acute pain include:
- Broken bones
- Dental work
- Labor and childbirth
Chronic pain lasts for a longer period of time. Chronic pain lasts for a longer period of time. It’s usually caused by the cancer itself, but it can sometimes be caused by the longer-term effects of cancer treatments.
Other symptoms that can accompany chronic pain include:
- Tense muscles
- Lack of energy
- Limited mobility
Some common examples of chronic pain include:
- Frequent headaches
- Nerve damage pain
- Low back pain
- Arthritis pain
- Fibromyalgia pain
Breakthrough pain often happens in between regular, scheduled painkillers. This is a sudden pain. It sometimes ‘breaks through’ when chronic pain is being well-controlled with long-acting painkillers.
It may be brought on quite suddenly by an activity, such as moving or coughing. It may happen when the effect of the regular painkiller wears off. Sometimes it’s not clear why someone has breakthrough pain.
Breakthrough pain is common, but it can usually be successfully managed. It is treated with short-acting painkillers.
Bone pain happens when cancer is affecting a bone, it can cause pain. The cancer may have started in the bone (primary bone cancer) or spread there from another part of the body (secondary bone cancer). The pain may be a dull, persistent ache that doesn’t go away. It can happen during the day as well as at night.
Soft tissue pain happens when organs, muscles or tissues are damaged or inflamed. An example is when the liver becomes enlarged, causing pain and discomfort in the tummy (abdomen). Soft tissue pain is also called visceral pain. Visceral pain is often described as:
You may also notice other symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, as well as changes in body temperature, heart rate, or blood pressure.
Examples of things that cause visceral pain include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Nerve pain happens when a nerve is damaged. It may be due to the cancer or cancer treatments. The pain can often continue even when the cause has been treated. Nerve pain is also called neuropathic pain.
Like many types of pain, nerve pain can come and go. Often the area feels numb or more sensitive. You may describe it as:
There are specific medicines and treatments used to treat nerve pain.
Referred pain is when pain from one part of your body is felt in another. This is when pain from an internal organ can be felt in a different part of the body. For example, if the liver is enlarged, it can cause pain in the right shoulder. This may happen because pain messages from the liver travel along the same nerve pathways as messages from the skin. The brain confuses them and thinks the pain is coming from a different place
Phantom pain is when there is pain in a part of the body that has been removed. This is when the brain ‘feels’ pain in a part of the body that has been removed. It can sometimes happen after surgery to amputate an arm or a leg, and occasionally after a breast is removed (mastectomy).
Phantom pain may feel like cramping, stabbing or burning, but can cause many different pain sensations. Many people find that phantom pain gets better with time and may eventually go away. But some people find that the pain can affect them for a long time. It is important to let your doctor or specialist nurse know about phantom pain because there are specific medicines that may help.
Total pain includes the emotional, social and spiritual factors that affect a person’s pain experience. Total pain is a term doctors and nurses use to describe all the different parts of a person’s pain. This includes how the pain affects, and can be affected by our:
- Spiritual beliefs
- Social activities.
Your healthcare team will consider these things when assessing your pain. Tell them about any worries you have, even if they are not about your illness.
Pain is a very personal experience that varies from person to person. What feels very painful to one person may only feel like mild pain to another. And other factors, such as your emotional state and overall physical health, can play a big role in how you feel pain.
Describing your pain accurately can make it easier for your doctor to find the cause of your pain and recommend the right treatment. If possible, write down details of your pain before your appointment to help you be as clear as possible.
Here are some things your doctor will want to know:
How long you’ve had the pain
How often your pain occurs
What brought on your pain
What activities or movements make your pain better or worse
Where you feel the pain
Whether your pain is localized to one spot or spread out
If your pain comes and goes or is constant
Be sure to use words that best describes the type of pain you feel.
Here are a few words to consider using:
Keeping a pain diary to track your symptoms can also be helpful. Take note of things like:
When it starts
how long it lasts
how it feels
where you feel it
how severe it is on a scale of 1 to 10
what brought on or triggered the pain
what, if anything, made it better
any medications or treatments used
If you do keep a pain diary, make sure to bring it along to your next doctor’s appointment.
How to improve circulation
Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle may help to improve circulation. Jogging and avoiding sitting still for too long are both steps to take.
If a person wants to improve their circulation, there are some obvious places to start. These include:
- stopping smoking tobacco products
- reducing intake of saturated fats
- trying not to sit still for long periods
In addition, trying one or more of the following may help improve circulation:
Maintaining a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight helps promote good circulation. If a person is overweight, it may negatively affect their circulation.
Regular cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging, supports the health of the circulatory system and improves circulation.
These benefits of exercise improve circulation and mean that daily activities may be less tiring.
Yoga is a low-impact exercise that is easy to modify for beginners. It involves bending, stretching, and twisting. These movements can help to compress and decompress a person’s veins, which may improve circulation.
A simple yoga position for beginners to try is the downward-facing dog. This helps improve circulation as it puts the hips and heart above the head, allowing gravity to increase blood flow towards the head.
To do the downward-facing dog, a person should:
- start on all fours, with shoulders above wrists, and hips above knees
- breathe in
- push hips backward and up into the air while exhaling
- straighten the arms and legs
- press firmly into the hands
- breathe deeply, lifting and pressing down each heel in turn to deepen the stretch
- let the neck relax
- stay in position for three deep breaths
- slowly lower hips back into starting position
Eating oily fish
The omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish promote cardiovascular health and improve circulation,
Oily fish include:
For those who are vegetarian or vegan, kale contains a small amount of omega-3 fatty acid.
Supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids are another option for people who do not eat fish. A range of omega-3 supplements is available for purchase in health food stores, pharmacies, and online.
The antioxidants in tea promote cardiovascular health and may improve circulation. This is true for both black tea and green tea.
found that black tea improves blood vessel health. Healthy blood vessels help improve circulation.
found that green tea consumption is associated with a lower rate of coronary artery disease.
A range of teas is available for purchase online, including black tea and green tea.
Keeping iron levels balanced
Iron is an essential mineral for the circulatory system. It is required to make hemoglobin, one of the major components of red blood cells, which is needed to carry oxygen.
Eating foods rich in iron, such as red meat or spinach, helps the body maintain this essential mineral. However, maintaining a healthful balance is necessary as well.
Too much iron may negatively affect cardiovascular health. There has been a limk between having too much iron in the body and cardiovascular disease in people with high cholesterol and higher waist circumference measurements.
Causes and risk factors
Low blood pressure may affect circulation.
The health of a person’s circulatory system determines how well the blood circulates through their body. The factors that affect this include:
Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood on the walls of the blood vessels as it circulates. Blood pressure is measured by “systolic” pressure over “diastolic” pressure.
Systolic pressure is the pressure on the blood vessel wall during the heartbeat when the lower chambers of the heart are pumping blood forward.
Diastolic pressure is the pressure on the blood vessel wall when the lower chambers of the heart are at rest and filling with blood.
a normal resting blood pressure in an adult is no more than 120 millimeters (mm) of mercury (Hg) systolic and no more than 80 mm for diastolic. This is abbreviated to 120/80 mmHg.
People with very low blood pressure may experience poor circulation and other related symptoms. However, having a lower blood pressure measurement is not usually a cause for concern in people with a healthy cardiovascular system.
The blood carries oxygen and nutrients and removes waste and does these jobs best when it is healthy.
Healthy blood has the right levels of normal red blood cells, which carry oxygen, white blood cells, and platelets. These components are all made in the bone marrow.
The heart is the muscle responsible for pumping a person’s blood around their body. The stronger and healthier a person’s heart is, the better their circulation.
Blood vessel health
Having healthy veins and arteries makes it easier for the blood to pass through them. If a person’s lipid or fat or their cholesterol levels are too high or low, the blood vessels can become injured and blocked.
Poor circulation may be a symptom of other underlying health conditions. These include:
- diabetes mellitus
- heart conditions
- conditions affecting the arteries or veins
Exercise and other measures to promote cardiovascular health may reduce poor circulation caused by these conditions.
Signs and symptoms poor circulation
Numbness, tingling, and pain in the arms or legs may be symptoms of poor circulation.
If blood flow is reduced to a certain part of a person’s body, they may experience the signs and symptoms of poor circulation.
The following symptoms mainly occur in the arms or legs. They include:
- warmth or coolness
Improving circulation naturally
In addition to taking vitamins and supplements to boost your blood flow, you can improve your body’s circulation by leading a healthy lifestyle that incorporates the following:
- Exercise. This is among the top methods for getting your blood flowing. Because the heart is at the center of the body’s blood flow, it’s important to have a healthy heart if you aim for optimal circulation everywhere in your body.
- Stress management. When a patient has poor circulation, doctors often ask them about their stress levels. This is because when the body experiences stress, blood vessels constrict. Learning to manage your stress is a great way to complement other things you are doing to improve your circulation.
- Massage. Not only can a massage help with stress management, but it also helps improve circulation through the lymphatic and cardiovascular systems. When the muscles are manipulated effectively by a professional, your body releases chemicals called endorphins that make you feel good. Some massage therapists even offer treatment using essential oils that may help improve blood flow, such as rosemary, sage, and juniper.
- Fluid intake. Blood has a very high water content. Keeping your body well-hydrated is an easy way to maintain or improve your circulation.
- Stopping smoking. Smoke causes blood vessels to constrict, decreasing the amount of blood that is able to flow through those vessels.
When to see a doctor
If a person experiences the symptoms of poor circulation, it is important that they speak to a doctor. A doctor can help diagnose what might be the problem and suggest treatment for any underlying conditions.
In addition, they may suggest eating a healthful diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking to improve circulation.