Being in pain is not easy, especially when the pain does not go away. Chronic pain is a debilitating condition for the millions of people who live with it every day.
Living With Chronic Pain - Physical and Psychological Effects
Living with chronic pain limits what you can do. Chronic pain can interfere with your ability to work, to play with your children, to walk or even to take care of yourself. Pain can even cause what is known as disuse syndrome, which is the medical way of saying “use it or lose it.” To avoid pain, many people limit the amount of things they do in a day. Eventually, this causes weakness, which leads to even less activity, and a cycle is formed.
While chronic pain is not all in your head, your psychological state plays a huge role in the effect it has on your life. If you or someone you know has chronic pain, you may notice irritability, anger, depression and difficulty concentrating. The psychological side effects of living with chronic pain can be as debilitating as the pain itself. This is what makes chronic pain such a complex condition.
Living With Chronic Pain - Coping Skills
While you may see a grim picture when you think of living with chronic pain, keep in mind that these are worst-case scenarios. In reality, many people continue to live healthy, productive lives in spite of their pain. This is because they have found ways to cope with the pain, either through medications, alternative treatments or a combination of the two.
If you suffer from chronic pain, here are some additional tips for getting your life back.
Living With Chronic Pain - Exercise
Don’t lose it; use it. Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about a safe exercise program that is right for you. When you live with chronic pain, exercise helps you maintain your mobility. It also keeps your muscles active and your joints flexible, which alleviates the symptoms of chronic pain.
Regular exercise also prevents disuse syndrome, a condition in which muscles become weak from inactivity. Weak muscles are more vulnerable to pain and can even cause other injuries.
Living With Chronic Pain - Finding the Right Medication
While it can be frustrating to trial different prescriptions, it is worth it to find a medication that controls your pain. Because there are so many types of medications that control chronic pain, it can take many months to find the one that works best for you.
You may be worried about taking medication for the rest of your life, as well as living with its side effects. You may also be concerned about painkiller addiction. While most pain medications are safe and effective when taken correctly, you should mention any concerns to your doctor. He can help you weigh the pros and cons of popular pain relieving medications, as well as fully explain the risks associated with taking them.
If you are having problems with your medications, ask your doctor about making a change. Suddenly stopping or changing your pain medication can have unexpected side effects that may be worse, or even dangerous.
Living With Chronic Pain - Exploring Alternative and Complimentary Treatments
Used alone or combined with medications, alternative and complimentary treatments (CAM's) can be a powerful tool in learning to live with chronic pain. Some examples of commonly used CAM's for chronic pain are:
- Magnetic therapy
- Energy medicine
- Herbal medicine
Living With Chronic Pain - Learning to Relax
Stress causes muscle tension, which can increase the amount of pain you feel. Allowing muscles to relax reduced strain and decreases pain sensations. Learning to relax your body can help you control your pain without the use of additional medications. Relaxation is a pain management tool that can be used on its own, or in combination with other treatments.
Yoga and guided imagery are useful in decreasing stress and muscle tension, major contributors to the intensity of chronic pain. Yoga uses a series of poses combined with deep breathing to relax your mind and your body. Guided imagery uses meditation to calm your mental state.
If neither of these sounds appealing, try to steal a little “you time” now and then. Sit in a quiet room and listen to some peaceful music, or find a nice spot outside to read.
Living With Chronic Pain - When to Get Help
Don’t try to do everything by yourself. It doesn’t hurt to get a little help every now and then, especially on your hardest days. Let your neighbor pick something up at the store for you, or let your mom watch the kids for a few hours so you can take a nap. Use this time to rest, or to complete other minor chores that won’t aggravate your pain.
Living With Chronic Pain - Seeking Support
One in 10 Americans has suffered from chronic pain at some point in their lives. Chances are that someone close to you understands exactly what living with chronic pain is like.
Finding a support group or even a supportive friend can help you learn to live with chronic pain. Not only do your peers have advice and tips on what techniques and products worked for them, but they can be a sympathetic ear when you need to talk.