Imagine you’re a patient with chronic pain (probably not hard to do if you frequent our site). You’ve been seeing a pain management specialist and have been enjoying pain relief. Suddenly, you experience an abrupt and intense bout of pain. It’s short lived, but it’s enough to remind you of the days in which you were debilitated by chronic pain. What you just experienced may seem like a random event, but it’s likely that it may have been a term know to pain management specialists as “breakthrough pain”.
Breakthrough pain, while rarely discussed, can become a serious issue for patients in chronic pain. Breakthrough pain, also known as episodic pain, can occur when a patient is experiencing relatively stable pain relief. Not to be confused with incidental pain (pain that occurs due to an incident, like when you have an injury), the cause of breakthrough pain is often unknown and appears unrelated to your usual chronic pain experience.
Dr. Alexander Hersel, pain management specialist, on breakthrough pain: “The treatment of chronic pain can become complex when you consider the possibility of breakthrough pain. Even when a patient feels significant pain relief from their normal treatment plan, short-term, intense episodes of pain may occur. A pain management specialist can help you evaluate these episodes, and offer options to reduce the frequency and/or intensity of breakthrough pain.”
If you are receiving treatment for chronic pain, chances are you may experience breakthrough pain at one point or another. Speak with your pain specialist to learn the difference between breakthrough pain and pain that may need to be further assessed by your physician. Remember: while breakthrough pain can be alarming, it is also a normal part of the chronic pain experience. Says Dr. Bradley Spiegel, pain management specialist: “Breakthrough pain is common for patients in chronic pain. When developing a treatment plan, always ask your doctor what you can do to address breakthrough pain, should an episode occur.”
You may have chronic pain, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it debilitate your life. Schedule an appointment with one of our pain management specialists at Pain Management & Injury Relief, and learn about what you can do to manage your chronic pain and mitigate against breakthrough pain.