By Kimberly Hayes.
If you are living with chronic pain, sometimes it may seem like managing that pain is all you do. Managing chronic pain can feel all-consuming — draining you physically, emotionally and spiritually. But it doesn’t have to. You aren’t in this alone. There are dozens of resources and options out there to help you live a satisfying and fulfilling life.
Here are some tips on how you can do just that.
Explore alternate treatments (especially social ones)
A study by the National Institutes of Health found that 25.3 million Americans (or 11.2 percent of the adult population) suffer from daily pain, and 23.4 million people report experiencing a lot of pain. According to Medical Daily, many of these people look toward alternate treatments like acupuncture, yoga, deep breathing tai chi or qi gong to help manage their discomfort. Such holistic practices are seen as a safer option than using highly addictive prescription painkillers. Many of them are also done in a group setting, which provides a healthy social outlet, which is important for living a fulfilling life. You may find that many others in your yoga class are also there because they want help managing and coping with their chronic pain.
Seek expertise from established organizations
While your friends and family are a valuable part of your support network, sometimes it can be helpful to be around people who have firsthand experience dealing with the same issues you face on a day-to-day basis. Seeking out established support groups can be a valuable resource for both camaraderie and practical advice. Check your local newspaper, library or community center to see if there is one in your neighborhood. You may be able to find one through existing organizations focused on chronic pain. Some of those include:
- U.S. Pain Foundation
- American Chronic Pain Association
- American Pain Society
- Chronic Pain Research Alliance
- International Pain Foundation
If your chronic pain is related to a specific disease such as Lyme disease, cancer or fibromyalgia, you may also find additional resources in organizations or support groups focused on your specific condition or disease.
Consider getting a service dog
When people think of service dogs, they often think of canines that assist the blind or visually impaired. However, service dogs can be trained for a variety of purposes, and for a variety of people. Many people living with chronic pain can have their lives vastly improved with the assistance of a service dog. A service dog can assist with certain motions or actions that routinely cause a person flare ups. For example, if bending over to pick up an item like a newspaper or fallen remote control routinely triggers pain, a service dog can assist by picking up that item for you. The same goes for pushing the crosswalk button at an intersection. Service dogs can also be trained to watch for changes in your behavior and act accordingly.
If the dog senses you are about to fall over, your furry companion can run over and provide offer you some stability. Or your dog can help you get up when there is nothing else around to brace yourself on. One woman living with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) described her service dog Robbie to The Mighty as her “silent guardian angel.”
Without a doubt, the ups and downs of life with chronic pain can be extreme. But that reality does not mean that you have to skip out on happiness or joy. By surrounding yourself with the compassion, supportive people and knowledgeable resources, you be happy and live a fulfilled life — even with chronic pain.
Kimberly Hayes is the author of Holistic Recovery: Everything You Need to Know About Alternative Addiction Treatments .