Life With Chronic Pain: How to Thrive, Not Just Survive

Life With Chronic Pain: How to Thrive, Not Just Survive

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 .

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Authored by: Kimberly Hayes

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David Campbell

I agree with ms Linda! There was a time when i could live a somewhat normal life. Now i live in purgatory ( Hellz waiting room) itz been aweful, and doctors r not as much to blame as is the DEA- Medical Board ext. ie: idiots! God help them as i would not treat a Dog the way they treat Humans, as matter of fact itz true!!


I can’t do any of those things anymore because my pain is nail biting. I come from an era when physicians were kind, always compassionate, and the thought of their profession ever becoming “inhumane”, would be visibly sickening to them. Physicians of today would most likely be stunned if they could see how much doctors have changed for the worse. Could they even imagine carrying a black bag and sitting on the edge of the bed of a patient and holding their hand? Of course not. But that’s how much they’ve lost out of what compassion towards humanity really is, was, is lost, that they’re not, etc.

But thank you for sharing your thoughts. Hopefully your words will help someone!

Alice Carroll

Maureen M. You are so right. Not sure how I’d pay for opioid treatment if Medicare decides to cut funding for it. Coincidentally Tuesday the 27th of March the FDA approved Lofexidine to help relieve opiate withdrawal systems. This is great news and is quite timely especially if 1.6 MILLION chronic pain patients are going to lose Medicare funding for opioid treatment. The strange thing is Lofexidine has been used in Europe since the 1990’s and the US is only approving it now. How many people were suffering needlessly through withdrawal when this drug was already out there? Why was it not approved in US? Why is it approved now? Food for thought my friends.

I’m pushing 3/4 century, and have ADD, particularly when avoiding things I have to do.
I had an operation for “ligantum flavum ossification at the T 10 level” and the “sequelae” includes appropriate use of Percocet.
I did not intend to spend my “latter years” fighting this pain,
but fighting the GD “physicians” that are hell-bent
on taking away useful medicaments is beyond upsetting.
I despise politics.
And that’s what this is about.

Neither do I find the temptation to take more than indicated.

They are painting the entire set of “medical opiate prescribed drug users”
with a broad brush of accusation that is definitely the opposite of “Do no harm..”

I’ve read that “pill abuse” has not increased in the past few years, though opiate morbidity has gone up dramatically.
How many heroin users were “cut off” by their prior pusher-men, the AMA??


Well I have to say I agree with Rachel. Anyone suffering from true chronic pain can no longer consider doing tai chi, yoga,etc..And why because we’re trying to live through this torture of reduced pain meds and some having no pain meds at all! Sounds like the kind of pain you’re talking about is a pulled muscle or strained back!! Most of us talking about chronic pain either have diseases or have had serious accidents. A little stretching here and a massage there just doesn’t help us. And I’ve never been high from opioids, EVER! They do
enable me to live though! But I guess this
article is nice for someone out there..maybe.

Ellen Lenox Smith

Jum, Your concerns about how to care for a service dog was one reason I almost didn’t take the one I was approved for. I was wheelchair bound and about to have another of now 24 surgeries. However, if you get approved for one from a reputable place, they train you on how to care for your dog despite your limitations. I could not be more thrilled to have her in my life and she saved my life just 6 days coming home with her after an 8 1/2 month wait to get matched. Let them help you and try not to see all the negatives. I have such help from mine including reminding me when I forget medicine, picking up tiny objects on the floor, opening the doors, you name it - they are amazing aminals that can add love and help into your difficult struggles.


Thanks for your efforts. Medicare and Medicaid do not pay for alternative treatments. Neither do hardly any insurance companies these days.
If one has truly screaming pain and is disabled from it, again due to the truly seriously critically ill people, these things are not going to make a difference.
People that need opiods to keep from committing suicide due to their pain truly would not benefit.
Good tips for those who have a very good job and plenty of pto. Thanks!

Janie Anderson


Sharon B

I just went to a new Neurologist & she took me off OxycodenOXYCODONE 10/325 & went ahead a filled a script for Hydrocodone 10/325 I suffer from Chronic Pain due to MS. She really is pushing me to get off of opiates & recommended taking 1 Hydrocodone once a week and start taking GABAPENTIN. It’s a sad day when the government & DEA decides what is best for me just because of these foolish people that are misusing opiates & over dosing. I take them as percribed.Im 65 years old & a thought comes to my mind about the liquor industry..look how many families & people have been destroyed & the DEA & PRESIDENT DON’T GET INVOLVED.I heard that the Pres is working with BIG PHARM to come up with a non opiate pain meds? I thought that to be interesting?? Can’t wait..of course I would think it would be way done the pike with testing etc? God bless all those that have Chronic Pain & can’t get the meds to help them due to new rules?? Feels kinda Communistic to me..or dictorship?


Rachel, Thank You! Well said and perfectly articulated.

My I say that it is common knowledge in the pain community that exercise promotes the production of the body’s natural opiate, Endorphins. No one wants to be house bound or “Just Survive”.

This is not a question of which comes first, reducing pain meds to utilize alternative methods such as exercise. Proper pain management allows for the luxury (now a luxury) of these alternative methods.

When I was receiving proper pain control, I was able to sustain the same dosage for over 7 years without the need for an increase, because “Breaking thru the Pain Barrier” afforded me the opportunity NOT to just survive, but to Thrive.

Now I’m chasing after surviving my next Doctor’s appointment.

Neldine Ludwigson

Eye roll here. I am lucky to get a shower, I use a walker. Tai Chi, ha! Yoga I used to do, can’t anymore. Dog, no way I could care for it. !lucky you to be well enough to use these things.

Maureen M.

I agree with the comments posted before mine. The author gives good advice for those who perhaps are ‘new’ to chronic pain, are early in their injury or disease treatment etc but we moderate to severe chronic pain warriors have been through all of that already and would be thrilled if that’s all it took to help relieve our pain. We are LIFERS with our meds.
Researchers ought to truly look at and take a listen to living our lives in pain. We are the experts and can explain it all! We can finish each others’ sentences…. we are the ones who live it.

I have been on meds for 14 yrs. and I also do everything under the sun to try to help my exhausting pain issues ie: I see a hands on ‘spine therapist’ 2x mth for over a year now to help loosen up perpetually tight muscles caused my stitching my back up over and over during my 4 failed spine surgeries, to help stir up the ‘damaged nerves’ from the surgeries and ‘try’ to get them to function in a new and better way (it’s a painful process!), use essential oils, practice breathing, see an energy path therapist to see if that helps with the ‘brain’s’ effects on my pain paths, do very mild yoga (standing only, can’t get on the ground) to help ground my mind, use creams and CBD etc etc etc.
We try hard! We hate our pain! We are not addicted and I agree with Rachel… pain meds are not highly addictive for us. We never get high.
The addicts abuse of them is the root of that whole other issue. We need our medications to live somewhat less painful lives and we would be much more ill if we did not have them.

Who bends over to feed the dog, or water it, or pick up the crap, or exercise it, if you have trouble picking up a paper or a remote? My mother had a dog that she loved dearly, but the dog suffered from her inability to care for it.

Drew Pavilonis

Great tips, but the majority of tips seem to be geared towards “minor” chronic pain. Some people are bed ridden or hospitalized because their pain is so bad. Yes, we dont make up the majority of chronic pain patients, but we do exist. I would like to see tips such as these qualified. For example, for people who can walk and function with their pain, they may want to get a service animal because … There are different categories of function for chronic pain patients and they can not be put into a single group. I would love to be off narcotic pain meds. However, I realize that is impractical to consider.


I’m sorry please check your facts. Prescription pain killers are not “highly addictive” when taken for actual pain. You mean opioids, there are many other prescription painkillers including the epilepsy meds and anti depressants the side effects of which cause early death and dementia. I’ve been on opioids for 12 yrs and have never been high. The addiction rate for pain patients, remembering the definition of addiction is to commit crime to obtain the substance of abuse, is 1:3000 whereas NSAID painkillers kill in 1:1400 doses taken. Drug reactions are the third cause of death after cancer and heart disease. Opioids can make you sweat, itch, feel nauseous, amd make you constipated, not exactly serious side effects when you consider that undertreated pain causes high blood pressure therefore risks stroke and possibly brain damage and DEATH, and the adrenaline released by undertreated pain eats grey brain matter and damages organs for good. I support your social advice. It is not a question of either/ or, you have clearly never experienced long term pain. It is a question of both. Yes, a good psycho social environment produces better outcomes but no one living in fear of their pain meds being removed is going to enjoy that benefit. Chronic pain is a deisease which puts the body intelligence into constant fear for starters.