Chronic Pain and COPD – The Causes and the Solutions

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can affect every part of your life, not just how you breathe. Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema fall under the umbrella term of COPD, but they're characterized by the damage dealt to your lungs. If your lungs have been damaged, it means you're unable to bring in enough oxygen into your body.

Our bodies are so dependent on oxygen, that when a little is missing over a period of time, everything starts to suffer. Your doctor might prescribe the use of oxygen therapy to make up for lungs' inability to bring in enough oxygen to fuel your body. Aside from getting enough oxygen, you can have another problem that is much different, but still connected to your COPD – chronic pain.

The Causes

Severe COPD often causes the lungs to expand to a size larger than they were before, larger than your body can properly accommodate them. The pressure causes by your lungs being a little too large for your body will naturally cause some discomfort.

Your lungs have expanded, because the air isn't able to move in and out of them properly. Carbon dioxide becomes trapped, because your lungs are unable to breathe it out. This trapped carbon dioxide, as well as the damage done to your lungs, usually caused by years of smoking, causes your lungs to become larger.

This discomfort can lead to other issues as well. When one thing happens to our bodies, it effects all the other parts. This chronic pain and discomfort has been known to cause people to develop things like anxiety and depression, increased difficulty breathing, and difficulty sleeping. All of these factors can cause your quality of life to go down.

Osteoporosis is another disease that can cause chronic pain, which is often linked to COPD. Osteoporosis is a diseases characterized by thinning and weakening of the bones. It's been found that as many as 20% of those with COPD also have osteoporosis.

Smoking can cause COPD, as well as inflammation caused by COPD itself. It can also result from the steroids taken to help treat COPD. Because of these two factors together, you likely suffer from chronic back pain, due to the expansion of your lungs, and weaker bones.

The Solutions

Pulmonary rehab can be used to help strengthen your chest wall muscles, which will help to reduce the pain caused by enlarged lungs. Suggest this to your physician, and you might be able to starting seeing a Pulmonary Rehabilitation Therapist. Many COPD patients with chronic pain also benefit from taking anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medicines, if they are experiencing depression or anxiety which can make the pain worse.

You can also try a holistic approach in addition to pulmonary rehabilitation or medicines. Massages can do wonders for chronic pain. The right amount of heat applied to the pained area often helps.

Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information about COPD, talk to your doctor or primary care provider.

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

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