chronic pain

Guide to Chronic Pain

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Fact is there is no guide for chronic pain. There is what works for you and you alone. But we know a few things that help us in general.

Distraction is our friend: Distraction is a technique we learn quickly to help us not dwell on the pain. “Engaging in thoughts or activities that distract attention from pain is one of the most commonly used and highly endorsed strategies for controlling pain. The process of distraction appears to involve competition for attention between a highly salient sensation (pain) and consciously directed focus on some other information processing activity.” PubMed

Pacing: Pacing is highly recommended by pain clinics because it prevents Boom and Bust pain. Where we feel in lower pain, do too much, and then flare the pain and have to recover for days in higher pain as a result. And then repeat. Pacing all the times prevents these cycles from occurring.

Understanding our limits: Limits are there so that we know if we exceed them there will be consequences. But we can nudge them, because we have lives to live and we want to be able to test our limits at all times. It is the same with exercise. You nudge your limit, never exceed it, and that is how you make progress. As slow and steady as that may be, it is progress. I know I have walking limits. That doesn’t mean do not walk, it means do not exceed my walking distance. And I can generally tell that day by day in how I feel within the first ten minutes of walking what that limit is. In other words, we have limits but we cannot exhibit too much avoidance behavior either. You can’t can’t yourself out of things and make too many hard limits. But at the same time we cannot exceed known limits. It is a careful balance between pain management and living our lives. And only you know where the line there is. And how to test yourself.

Meditation: Meditation is another pain clinic recommended activity. Not because it will eliminate the pain, but because it will help with our Perception of the pain. “People with chronic pain or anxiety who learn to meditate report that their pain or trauma has less of an impact on them; it may still be there, but it matters less and therefore is less distressing. Research we conducted at Stanford University on compassion meditation showed that it significantly reduced chronic pain.” Time

Working on our thoughts and beliefs about pain: We are mentally, emotionally and physically tied to our pain and it is of no surprise that our beliefs and thoughts about pain sometimes are detrimental to coping. “Patterns of negative thoughts can increase pain and suffering, so it’s important to learn how to stop obsessing and catastrophizing. One way to do this is through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps people identify and change unhelpful beliefs and thoughts that make physical or emotional pain worse. Scripts like “there is nothing I can do to reduce my negative feelings” and “I can’t do any of things I love because of my pain” can be reframed and replaced.”  Time

Emotional well-being: This is just as vital as our physical well-being. We have constant stress and pain causes an emotional response. We suffer. We get paingry. Frustrated. Angry. Sad. Guilty. It is important we work through all this. We can do that ourselves, in a pain group or with a therapist or psychologist. We are at a higher risk of mental illness and conditions such as anxiety and depression. And they can complicate any pain condition and make it far more difficult to cope with the pain, so those mental health issues have to be addressed fully in their own right.

Sense of self: Our sense of self can suffer. If we no longer work it is a blow to the self-esteem and self-worth but also to who we Are without Work. We have to re-define ourselves. This is something we have to do in the beginning when we are diagnosed as well. We encounter limits we never had. We realize the future we envisioned isn’t likely to be. We have to make compromises. And that sense of self changes. Sometimes it crumbles and we have to rebuild it. Often we recommend things like doing charity work or finding hobbies. The reason for that is to find things you enjoy, that make you feel productive and useful to fill your day. You need to recreate an image of yourself again that you like. One that isn’t just a person with an illness.

Every single thing you do from there for your pain management and coping should be geared towards whether it helps with your pain control or your suffering or not. We all have different methods there. Mine may be different than yours. Yours different than mine. But the end goal is the same.

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