How to live with chronic pain
Living with chronic pain can be hard to imagine for those who are pain-free. Chronic pain can be caused by several different things: fibromyalgia, arthritis, bulging discs, stenosis, shingles, nerve damage, multiple sclerosis, etc. Chronic pain can be debilitating, or it can be managed to a point that a patient can still participate in activities. No matter what the diagnosis, living with constant, chronic pain can be, well, a pain. It can quite easily overwhelm your life and very quickly destroy your relationship with others if you let it. Here are some tips to living with chronic pain.
1. You’re not alone
When you have chronic pain, it can become easy to imagine that you’re the only one suffering. Because your world revolves around the pain you suffer, you might forget that others out there are going through exactly the same thing. You might also feel like all you ever talk to others about is your pain and they are growing weary of you.
Support groups are an excellent way to help you get through your pain. The Internet is a great tool to utilize when looking for a support group that is for you. The best part about finding a support group online is that if you’re having a bad pain day, you don’t have to leave your house to talk to someone. Finding support groups to share stories with or that you can reach out to for support is very important while you are suffering. Support from others can help you get through some of the rough times.
2. Get a hobby
Sometimes it’s all one can do to not think about the pain. Finding a hobby to help take your mind off your pain really can help you get through the worst of days. Reading, scrapbooking, knitting, quilting, writing, and beading are just some suggestions of hobbies you can look into. On those days when you feel particularly bad and you’re bedbound, your hobby can help you focus on something that’s fun and enjoyable, rather than focusing on your suffering.
3. Communicate with your doctor
The importance of good communication about your condition with your doctor cannot be overstated. Sometimes, we want to be tough and pretend like we can handle the pain, but that strategy can only hurt you more in the end. If you do not keep an open and honest dialogue about your pain, your doctor cannot help you. Your doctor will know by your amount of pain if your pain medication needs to be increased, decreased, or changed altogether. Your pain might also signify a change in your diagnosis or treatment.
Keeping a pain journal is one of the best ways to accurately communicate with your doctor the following:
Type of pain (sharp, dull, throbbing, etc)
The continuity of pain (all the time, several times a day, etc)
Location of pain (lower back, abdomen, hips, etc)
What activities make your pain better or worse
At the end of each day, make notes about how your day was pain-wise. Unless something major happens during the day, I wouldn’t recommend taking notes throughout the day, otherwise you will focus too much on your pain.
If you feel that your doctor is not appropriately treating your condition and your pain, or is downplaying the amount of pain you are in, find another doctor. It is your life, and you deserve the best treatment available. Not everyone suffers from pain in the same ways. Some have a very high pain tolerance, while others have a very low pain tolerance. Don’t ever let your doctor (or anyone else, for that matter) tell you how you should feel. Definitely don’t let your doctor say that you shouldn’t be experiencing as much pain as you are and, as a result, they don’t treat you according to your pain level. Make sure your pain level is appropriately treated at all times.
4. Seek the help you need
Sometimes chronic pain leads to depression. Medications that are taken to help cope with pain also can have negative effects on the mental state of the patient. It’s very understandable when this happens, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you feel that you’re starting to suffer from depression or chronic mood swings, seek out the help of a counselor or psychologist for treatment. No one will blame you if you feel down about yourself or life, but you need to take steps to help you move past that and to help you understand how to better deal with your pain.
5. Don’t exclude loved ones
Loved ones –especially spouses and children– are greatly affected by those that suffer from chronic pain. It can be difficult to watch their loved one suffer and have to go through treatments. When mental health or mood is affected by the pain or medication, it can cause relationships to go through rough patches.
While experiencing chronic pain, keep your communication up with your loved ones. Don’t assume that they don’t want to hear about it anymore. Let them know what you’re going through, apologize when you go through a mood change or snap at them without meaning to, and take control of your situation the best you can. If you keep the lines of communication open with loved ones, and let them know how much you still love them and appreciate their support, then your relationships will be one less thing you have to worry about.
Living with chronic pain can be quite hard at times, but if you follow these tips and learn to better cope with your pain, life can still be enjoyable.