The NHS has listed 20 most painful conditions that are such excruciatingly painful that they can lead to severe debilitation that prevents a person from performing their daily activity.
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Some of these conditions are quite well known and common while some are rarer. Quite of few of these are curable and there are medications to control the pain.
Some of these conditions however are not curable.
The NHS website provides handy advice on how best to manage these conditions.
The 20 on the list in no particular order include:
- Cluster headaches – The website says that these headaches can have a “devastating impact” on the patients. The pain itself may start from one side of the head around one eye. Cluster headache charity OUCH (UK) says that few have heard of this condition and there are as many sufferers of this form of headache as those with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
- Shingles or herpes zoster – This is an infection of a nerve and also affects the skin. It can be very painful and is usually seen in persons who have had chicken pox earlier. There are painful and itchy blisters containing the virus. The burning pain often affects a single part of the body or face along a nerve. It is more common among the elderly and those with a compromised immunity. The pain may persist after the blisters subside. This is called post-herpetic neuralgia.
- Frozen shoulder – According to the website, “In frozen shoulder, the joint becomes so tight and stiff that it's virtually impossible to carry out simple movements, such as raising your arm.” The condition may be so debilitating that the sufferer faces acute pain and restriction of movement dressing themselves, or combing their head or doing anything that involves raising their arm. Diabetics are more at risk of this condition.
- Fracture of bones – Bone fractures is a very painful condition. According to the website, “If the break is small, it's possible you might not feel any pain at all but, usually, a broken bone really hurts, especially when you try to move it. The pain is often described as feeling like a deep ache.” Healing is faster when a person is younger and when the break is small, the website adds.
- Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) – This is a poorly understood condition that causes severe and often very debilitating pain. It usually begins after an injury but the pain is often disproportionately more than the injury itself. The pain may remain in one region or may affect other areas of the body. The pain then can be triggered by the slightest touch or even a slight change in temperature or pressure. This pain can last for several years in many individuals says the website.
- Acute Myocardial infarction or heart attack – Heart attacks cause severe crushing pain over the chest that is transmitted to the left arm, neck or back. The arteries that supply oxygenated blood to the heart muscles may be clogged leading to severe oxygen starvation of part of the heart. This may lead to severe crushing pain over the chest along with an impending sensation of “doom”.
- Pelvic intervertebral disc prolapsed or slipped disc – There is a soft cushion like disc between two vertebrae. When this protrudes out of its usual position or is ruptured, it presses upon the adjoining nerves. This can lead to excruciating back pain or leg pain. According to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) back pain due to slipped disc is more prevalent than estimated. NHS agrees that this is one of the commonest causes of back pain.
- Sickle cell disease – This is form of red blood cell disease that affects the RBC shape. There are sudden acute episodes of pain in this condition. The pain usually starts in the bones and joints and may last for up to a week. The frequency of the episodes varies among patients.
- Arthritis – Arthritis leads to joint pain and stiffness that can lead to immobility and pain. Usually rheumatoid, lupus and osteoarthritis can affect wrists, fingers, knees, hips and other joints. There is stiffness, sometimes deformity and immobility of the joints along with the pain.
- Migraine headache – According to the Migraine Trust, migraine is more than just a headache. It says, “For many people the main feature is a painful headache. Other symptoms include disturbed vision, sensitivity to light, sound and smells, feeling sick and vomiting. Migraine attacks can be very frightening and may result in you having to lie still for several hours.” IT can severely affect family, work and social lives of the sufferer.
- Sciatica – The sciatic nerve runs from the hips to the feet via the back of the legs. IT is one of the most important and longest nerves of the legs. When this nerve is pressed upon or is irritated, it may lead to pain. There may be tingling to shooting type of pain that starts at the hip and travels down to the feet. It can be a seriously painful and debilitating condition says the website.
- Kidney stones – Passage of kidney stones can lead to sudden onset acute excruciating pain that can start at the sides of the lower back and travel around to the front and sometimes to the groin. The pain may be short and may subside on its own and may come back after an interval. Once the stone has passed out via urine, the pain subsides.
- Appendicitis – Inflammation of the appendix leads to sharp pain over the abdomen and is a surgical emergency. This condition is more common among children and young adults. The pain usually starts at the navel and travels to the lower-right side of the abdomen as it worsens. An immediate surgery to remove it may be life saving.
- Trigeminal neuralgia – This is a form of severe nerve related facial pain. The pain is a sharp shooting pain that feels like an electric shock to the jaw, gums and teeth. The pain comes in short bursts and goes away on its own. Trigeminal Neuralgia Association UK says that the condition usually worsens with time and may last for years or even a life time. There is no cure for this condition.
- Endometriosis – The condition is defines as endometrial tissues (tissues lining the uterus) found in different parts of the abdomen. These tissues react to the female hormones like the endometrial lining does and it leads to severe abdominal pain each month. The periods are long and heavy and often painful. Inflammation and scarring can occur within the abdomen making bowel movements, passing urine and sexual intercourse painful. Infertility is also commonly seen. There is no cure for this painful condition.
- Gout – Gout leads to painful and swollen joints especially toe joints. Foot, knee, hand, wrist and ankle joints may also be involved. It can cause excruciating pain. The condition is usually caused by raised levels of uric acid crystalline deposits in the joints. Middle aged men are common sufferers and medicines can be used to correct the uric acid levels and reduce symptoms.
- Acute pancreatitis – The pancreas may develop inflammation that leads to severe abdominal pain. This is a medical emergency. The pain may worsen and can travel along the back below the shoulder blade.
- Stomach ulcer or peptic ulcer – A sore or ulcer in the inner lining of the stomach can cause severe pain and may become life threatening if perforated. A bacteria – Helicobacter pylori, is the cause in 90 percent of the cases. Pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen are also commonly implicated.
- Fibromyalgia – This is a condition that leads to unexplained widespread pain. According to Fibromyalgia Action UK there is “widespread pain and profound fatigue” among sufferers. The charity says, “The pain tends to be felt as diffuse aching or burning, often described as head to toe. It may be worse at some times than at others. It may also change location, usually becoming more severe in parts of the body that are used the most. The fatigue ranges from feeling tired, to the exhaustion of a flu-like illness. It may come and go and people can suddenly feel drained of all energy – as if someone just ‘pulled the plug’.”
- Post surgical pain – Pain after a surgery is dependent on the type of surgery. The NHS says that such pain should not be unbearable and is correctable with pain relievers.