Chronic pain is frustrating to say the least, and for the 50 million Americans currently struggling with some form of chronic pain, coping properly becomes extremely important. To cope is to ‘deal with something’, but how does one deal with inescapable pain? The answer is complex, but the first step is turning ‘inescapable pain’ into ‘pain’.
Chronic pain requires that a pain patient learns to make use of a multimodal approach. That includes addressing physical interventions, making appropriate use of medication, and taking full advantage of the use of psychological treatments for pain. The mind is very powerful, and while pain is a physiological symptom, it does ultimately reside in the head. You can’t make chronic pain disappear forever – but the right approach can help countless Americans regain a substantial amount of quality of life.
A Holistic Approach to Help a Chronic Pain Patient Is Critical
We’ve come a long way from considering pain pills the only viable solution to dealing with pain. Chronic pain is complex, and pharmacology is just one of several necessary branches of medicine that must be employed during pain management to effectively reduce pain. It’s foolish to rely entirely on any single treatment, and there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all in pain management.
This goes for coping mechanisms as well. Effective coping skills must complement each other and be recommended in such a way that, if used in conjunction with one another, they best prepare a pain patient for the long-term and help them reduce their pain most effectively. Here are a few effective coping tools for dealing with chronic pain, during and after treatment.
Seek Alternative Pain Relief
According to Dr. Benson, a cardiologist at Harvard and a specialist in mind-body interventions, healthcare for any chronic condition requires three main pillars, or prongs. These are surgical intervention, pharmacological help, and lifestyle changes. While a multimodal approach should take all three into consideration, the spirit of multimodal treatment means you should give other treatments a try, if possible.
Explore how psychological treatment can greatly affect chronic pain by helping patients better cope with their condition through a change in perspective, and other therapies. Explore how diet affects chronic pain, not just through weight loss and less inflammation, but through the effects of food on the bacteria in your gut, and the effects of these bacteria on your overall nervous system.
Consider applying physical therapy tools at home with the help of a professional PT, including hot-and-cold treatment, compresses, sleeping aids, joint braces, corrective posture exercises, regular movement, cushions and pillows to replace chairs (and reduce the effects of prolonged sitting by promoting small movements throughout the day), and more.
The power of distraction is underutilized in many cases of chronic pain. While any distraction will do, those that require more mental power are more effective. Smartphones are nearly ubiquitous in today’s culture and offer a wide variety of brain-teasing video games that challenge reflexes, critical thinking, and other mental skills.
When the pain begins to swell, consider using a game to help distract yourself by thinking of other things instead of what you’re feeling physically. Again, perception is powerful. While a distraction won’t eliminate the pain, it’s possible to greatly reduce it by paying attention to something else entirely.
Better Understand Your Condition
Education can help patients come a long way from feeling bewildered and overwhelmed by their condition. Knowing what to expect and how different treatments truly work can be a godsend. Many patients already do their homework, often before they consult a professional about their condition, or at the very latest, by the time a medical professional has made a diagnosis for their pain. However, the information they glean from the internet might not always be entirely accurate or may lead to false conclusions. Patients may begin to reject the idea of certain treatments due to information they found online.
Sadly, this isn’t always in the best interest of the patient. Yes, some chronic pain treatment can be risky. There are times when surgical intervention can lead to a path of improvement, although that does not mean it should be common. There are cases where a temporary dosage of opioid medication can help a patient, although not in the long-term, and not if the patient has had a history of prescription medication abuse or opioid resistance. Proper information is important, and it’s critical to speak to your healthcare provider directly so that all your questions can be answered in the context of your own case.
Tackle Your Lifestyle
Smoking, drinking, and being restless can greatly affect your pain levels. Simply cutting out a number of dangerous vices and prioritizing a nightly session of healthy sleep can make a significant difference in your perceived pain levels, and help you wake up fresher and in less pain. Another important tip is to prevent your sleeping posture from making you feel worse in the morning. Use special pillows and examine the density of your mattress for the most comfortable and pain-free sleeping experience. Tracking your pain every morning can help you determine which habits are helping you reduce your pain, which habits are making it worse, and which habits aren’t contributing at all.
Progressively overloading your exercise regimen is important as well. It’s good to start with a short stroll and work up to a longer walk but consider bodyweight training and weight training with a medical professional with experience in training individuals with chronic pain issues. Research shows to lifting weights can greatly reduce pain, if done properly. Improper form or accelerated progression can very quickly exacerbate chronic pain issues and turn a boon into a bane. Take it easy, take it slow, and increase resistance at a rate determined by your trainer.
Modern-day chronic pain treatment has come a long way, and while the science has helped us develop much more nuanced forms of treatment that try to address the individual needs of each and every patient, the reality remains that many patients are limited in their treatment options due to financial constraints.
Coping mechanisms are no replacement for effective treatment, but they can still help individuals whose opportunities for treatment are limited. To that extent, however, support from loved ones and relatives becomes critical. Being a chronic pain patient is not only physically debilitating, but is often emotionally draining, and is linked to depression and other mental health issues. It can be difficult to put tips and teachings into action, without the encouragement and help of those we love.