Millions of Americans suffer from acute or chronic pain, a pain that can last for weeks, months or even years. The pain affects more than your body. It can have serious impacts on your emotional health, ability to work, family life and relationships.
Your physician and pain specialist play an important role in helping you deal with chronic pain. But you do too! It’s essential that you become an active participant in your own pain management. You can empower yourself by becoming better educated about treatment options and techniques to help you feel better – both physically and emotionally.
Evaluate Treatment Options
Dealing with chronic pain often involves experimenting with various treatment options to find which works best for you. While the Medtronic pain pump works wonders for some chronic pain sufferers, physical therapy is the go-to treatment for others.
There are a myriad of other treatment options available for chronic pain:
• Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as Tylenol or Advil.
• Prescription medications, such as muscle relaxants, opiods and antidepressants
• Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, massage and yoga
• Injections at the pain site, such as epidural or corticosteroid injections
• Meditation, distraction, imagery and relaxation techniques
Both the Mayo Clinic and WebMD support the use of exercise to bring relief from chronic pain. Exercise causes your body to release endorphins, which are chemicals that block pain signals from getting to your brain. Exercise-induced endorphins also improve mood, increase energy, reduce stress, and alleviate depression and anxiety — all of which play a role in controlling chronic pain.
Identify Stress Triggers
Dr. William Deardorff, who is board certified in clinical health psychology, advises patients suffering from chronic pain to identify stress or anxiety triggers that affect their pain. As a pain and spinal disorder specialist, Deardorff recommends patients keep a journal, diary or pain log to record their pain levels, along with corresponding activities. By identifying emotional or stress triggers that impact pain, patients are better equipped to avoid these triggers or lessen their impact.
Become an Active Participant
Besides medications, treatments and physical therapy, it’s important for you to do what you can to take care of your body. This includes eating a healthy diet and getting adequate sleep. Eating a well-balanced and healthy diet reduces your risk of heart disease and helps manage your weight. Because alcohol can disrupt sleep, cut back. Additionally, avoid smoking, which can worsen circulation problems, not to mention increase your risk of cancer and heart disease.
Care for Your Emotional Health
There is no doubt chronic pain can take its toll on your mood, emotional health, and relationships with family and friends. It’s only natural to feel a wide range of emotions; from denial and frustration to anger and despair. If you’re constantly focusing on your pain, it can make the pain feel even worse. Find ways to distract yourself: spend time with family or friends, read a novel, or simply walk around the block to get your mind off your pain.
Another good way to care for your emotional health is to join a support group to connect with others who are experiencing what you are feeling. Find a support group near you by contacting The American Chronic Pain Association at 1-800-533-3231 or at their website: www.theacpa.org.