coping with chronic pain

Chronic brings to mind the word “never-ending” especially when it is associated with pain. Our ability to feel sudden, acute pain is what keeps us alive and safe from harm – but chronic pain from injuries can be debilitating.

Chronic pain is typically caused by the wear and tear of living; however, its origin can arise from a tragic injury that leaves the damaged part of the body forever changed. The complex network of nerve pathways that allows our brain to pick up signals that something is wrong is our internal alarm system. When you experience chronic pain, this often over stimulated maze of nerve pathways can leave you exhausted, depressed, and hopeless.

Finding Hope for Pain

There is hope and there are steps you can take to improve your quality of life, but there is one thing you must do first: Accept and don’t fight against your diagnosis.

Simply put, Humpty Dumpty may not go back together exactly as he was before he fell off the wall. You need to reconcile yourself to the fact that you do have a condition that could become chronic regardless of the cause.

As a nurse practitioner with Hare Wynn, I have worked with many patients who have dealt with chronic pain from injuries. Here are some proven tips that will help with coping with a chronic pain condition and get you back on the path that leads to the enjoyment of your life:
1. Recognize and commit to the partnership created with your physician or physicians;

2. Use prayer and meditation to help you accept that your life has changed but it is not over;

3. Find an excellent physical therapist, because he or she truly is your best friend and are the key to getting and staying as good as you can be;

4. Don’t slack on any home exercise program developed by your physician or physical therapist, because ground gained is ground lost when you ease back into old habits and routines;

5. If you’ve gained some extra pounds, commit to losing that weight because it will make your condition worse;

6. Read about and educate yourself concerning sleep hygiene because this is the path to body and mind restoration;

7. Talk to your physician about taking an anti-depressant. Depression commonly occurs with chronic pain and the changes you are coping with each day. Anti-depressants restock your brain with the transmitters it needs to not only fight against depression but to also reduce the intensity of the pain signals your brain is receiving;

8. If you smoke, take the necessary steps to quit. Nicotine reduces the blood flow in your body and reduced blood flow doesn’t allow you to heal properly. Nicotine will block and undo therapeutic steps you are taking to get better;

9. Talk to your physician about how to safely use anti-inflammatory medications or supplements such as omega-3 fish oil. Inflammation often contributes to chronic pain so you want to work to reduce this as safely as possible;

10. Talk to your physician about a referral to a chronic pain specialist. These specialists receive education and training regarding medications, procedures, and other treatment options that can safely and effectively reduce your pain;

11. Use pain medications wisely. Pain medications taken daily will deplete your body of its natural pain-fighting chemicals. When this happens, your pain will actually intensify creating a vicious and dangerous cycle of needing more and more pain medication;

12. Keep busy working and doing the things that bring you joy because these are productive distractions from your pain.

Learning to Live with Yourself

One final thought: Expecting freedom from chronic pain may set you up for failure and frustration. Learning to live and live well with a reduction in your chronic pain is a choice that only you can make. Make that choice by implementing some of these proven tips and get back much of what you have lost.

– Jan Hickey, MSN, CRNP, CPHRM