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Chronic Pain Management

Chronic Pain Management

Chronic pain is one of the most difficult things we can deal with as humans. It can be much easier to keep your head up when you know the pain will eventually go away. But with chronic pain, you are learning ways to live your life with your pain.

How does chronic pain relate to our mental health?

Unfortunately, chronic pain affects every part of our being - mentally and physically. The physical turmoil is usually what you think about when you first think of chronic pain. Pain makes it difficult to complete even daily tasks. Psychologist Abraham Maslow created a hierarchy of needs that is the basis for human motivation. The hierarchy starts with physiological needs, then safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. If you have chronic pain, it may prevent you from being able to meet all of your needs. If you are unable to maintain a social life, self-esteem, relationships, hobbies, and work-life you will have an increased risk for extra stress and depression. But the good news is, there are ways that you can manage your chronic pain on both a physical and psychological level.

Strategies to help with managing your chronic pain

  1. Talk therapy:

    Talk therapy can be extremely helpful for people struggling with chronic pain. This is because psychologists and counselors can help you sort through the emotions you have toward your pain. You may feel angry, confused, and discouraged. All of these feelings are completely valid. A psychologist or counselor can help you come up with healthy coping skills to be able to work through these feelings in a way that doesn’t lead to serious psychological disorders such as anxiety or depression. If you are able to find a therapist that specializes in working with people struggling with chronic pain, you will likely have a better experience in therapy altogether. Working with a psychologist or counselor can also help you find peace in your relationship with chronic pain. This can be crucial for your quality of life as a whole.
  1. Breathing exercises and meditation:

    Meditation and breathing exercises are extremely helpful in handling any type of stress. Practicing mindfulness can be a great way to sort through all of the thoughts and feelings you have on a day to day basis. Mindfulness is the practice is being in the moment, or being present. It means being aware of your body, what you are doing, thinking and feeling. In terms of breathing exercises and meditation, it would mean being aware of your breath. It can be extremely hard to slow down in our crazy world. Meditation and breathing exercises helps you to connect with your mind and body.
  1. Incorporating movement:

    It can be helpful to add some form of movement into your routine. It’s important not to push your limits and make your pain worse. But there are plenty of exercises that you can do that are more gentle on the body. For example, you can do yoga or walking. Both of these exercises can be done from anywhere and incorporate breathing into your routine, along with the meditation. Exercise is also known to be a mood booster in general and studies have shown that exercise can help alleviate depression.
  1. Keep your spirits high:

    It may seem obvious that keeping your spirits high will help with managing your chronic pain. But it’s definitely easier said than done. Keeping an optimistic attitude (to your best of your ability) will help your mental health greatly. You can try using affirmations to help if you have trouble being kind to yourself. You can also use affirmations to tell yourself that better days are coming; that you will find ways to improve how you manage your pain and it will not feel this way forever. You can also try making a list of things you are grateful for. Gratitude lists have also demonstrated positive effects on depression and anxiety. It may sound simplistic, but writing down a few things that you are grateful for every day can help you shift your perspective on your life and your chronic pain.

    It also may be helpful to find a support group of other individuals that are living with chronic pain. Relating to other people going through the same thing that you are can help you feel less alone. Being able to vent and cry with people that understand how you feel can help you have allies to get you through the journey of managing your pain. 
  1. Medication management:

    Medication is an option as part of a treatment plan for chronic pain. Treating the underlying source of the pain, with medication, may be an option to consider with your doctor. Consultation with your primary care physician or a chronic pain management specialist will be necessary to explore which medication is right for you. You may also wish to see a psychiatrist to consider medication to help you deal with your anxiety or depression as a result of your chronic pain. Keeping a schedule and remembering to take your medication according to the prescription is incredibly important. Remember that pain medication can be addicting, so you’ll want to make sure you’re only taking your medication as prescribed; checking in regularly with your prescribing physician on how you’re doing will also be important.

Chronic pain management is truly such a challenging problem to deal with. But just because you have chronic pain, does not mean your life is over. There are things you can do to take care of yourself and improve your symptoms or improve how you perceive your pain. It can be incredibly lonely to live in a body that is always in pain. It’s important to see if you can talk with someone going through the same things as you are. Finding a psychologist, counselor, or support group can make a drastic difference in how you manage your pain. If you are reading this right now and you struggle with chronic pain, please don’t give up. There is light at the end of the tunnel. You are worth fighting for a better quality of life with your chronic pain.

Dr. Michael Messina

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