Chronic pain is a frustrating and debilitating condition. Pain that lasts for 6 months or more is defined as chronic.
It’s estimated that 20% of Americans – that’s 50 million people – suffer from chronic pain. It makes a profound impact on people’s lives, limiting their ability to work and take part in recreational activities.
People are affected by different types of pain – cancer pain, headaches, neuropathic pain, rheumatic pain, and back pain to name just a few.
If you have chronic pain you may not be able to eradicate it, but there are ways to manage it.
Here are 5 things you should know about pain, which may help you to manage your condition.
5 Things People with Chronic Pain Should Know
- Your Emotions Are Connected To Your Pain
- Weather Can Affect Pain
- Rest Is Bad For Back Pain
- You Can Become Addicted To Opioid Pain Medication
- You Can Learn To Manage Pain
1) Your Emotions Are Connected To Your Pain
The more stressed and anxious you are, the more pain you are likely to feel. A study of 95 men and women found that those who were more psychologically resilient tended to pain catastrophize less.
Of course, this is tricky. Chronic pain can cause depression and anxiety. And, if you are one of the 100 million Americans suffering from chronic pain you may also contend with other mental health disorders like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or addiction.
What is pain catastrophizing, then?
Pain catastrophizing is simply a negative response to pain which causes a heightened perception of pain.
Anxiety and depression trigger pain. That said, a person who is anxious and depressed can pain catastrophize. Mild pain catastrophizing can be having thoughts such as, “I’m worried the pain will get worse.” If someone is pain catastrophizing severely they could be thinking, “This is awful, it’ll never get better.”
Research suggests that the state of mind about the pain heavily influences the perception of the pain. So, if you’re in a better frame of mind, you’re better placed to cope.
2) Weather Can Affect Pain
Many people who suffer from fibromyalgia or arthritic pain find their pain gets worse when the weather changes. Studies show that when the weather is wet, humid, and windy many people find their chronic pain worsens, although it’s not conclusive.
One theory is that when the weather is bad, people are more likely to experience negative emotions, which can magnify pain. It’s believed that low-pressure weather can affect pain, but this is worsened if a person is experiencing negative emotions.
3) Rest Is Bad For Back Pain
If you’ve got a bad back, you might be tempted to lie in bed and not move. Sudden jarring moves can cause agony for people with back pain, staying still might seem the only way to avoid it.
Conditions such as sciatica, disk bulges, and lumbar lordosis
But, no matter how severe the pain, getting moving warms the muscles and frees movement. Even a gentle walk around the block can help.
During exercise, the body produces dopamine which is a natural painkiller. Just 20 minutes of walking is enough to lift your mood. If you can manage more intense exercise you will produce more pain-relieving feel-good chemicals.
Exercise is found to be effective in reducing pain for people with fibromyalgia and lower back pain. But, those who suffer from chronic shoulder pain and soft tissue disorders find exercise does not help.
Swimming is the best exercise if you have pain as the water supports your body and relieves the weight on your joints. Even if you have limited mobility you can still float and make gentle movements with your arms or legs to get moving.
Exercises like Pilates are proven to reduce back pain considerably. People have been known to completely eradicate their back pain by strengthening their core muscles. If you have pain it is probably best to consult a physical therapist or a pain management doctor for advice on which exercise you should do.
4) You Can Become Addicted To Opioid Pain Medication
Opioid painkillers like Oxycontin, Vicodin, Codeine, and Fentanyl can be effective at relieving pain. However, if you have chronic pain and take opioid medicine for the long-term you can become addicted.
Many people became addicted to opioids after the marketing rules of opioid painkillers were relaxed in the 90s. Physicians and pharmacists were misled to believe that opioids are not addictive so they overprescribed them.
Even healthy active pain sufferers who have never touched drugs before becoming dependent on opioids after taking. As the prescriptions are too expensive many turn to street drugs such as heroin. As a result, the current crisis means that everyone knows someone who has died from an opioid overdose.
If you are prescribed opioid pain medication never take more than the stated dose and if you no longer need them to throw them away.
5) You Can Learn To Manage Pain
While it may not be possible to get rid of chronic pain completely, it is possible to manage your experience of it by using psychological therapies and taking a holistic self-care approach.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, hypnosis, and mindfulness meditation are therapies that can help to reduce the severity of chronic pain.
Psychological therapies help people to reframe their negative thought patterns to positive ones, which helps to lift their mood.
Chronic pain correlates to state of mind. Anxiety, depression, and stress can make pain seem so much worse. But when a person is in a happier state, pain can seem lessened.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)helps people to identify negative thought patterns and devise strategies to approach them differently. For example, a person experiencing pain may be thinking, ‘this is never going to end,’ they can learn to replace that thought with, ‘this is temporary, I will feel better after a hot bath/listening to music/talking with friends.’
CBT can help people to deal with pain by addressing deeper issues that cause anxiety and depression.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is also a useful tool. This therapy helps people to accept their situation rather than resist it. Acceptance of chronic pain reduces its severity. ACT doesn’t view pain as the problem, but rather the struggle with it.
ACT can help people manage their pain constructively by accepting they have pain and choosing to take action to relieve it. Actions might be to continue pursuing hobbies, listening to music that lifts them and staying connected with friends.
By pushing on with life and making the effort to enjoy life, chronic pain sufferers can choose to let pain dominate their life, or learn to incorporate it.
Make sure you speak with a pain doctor in Arizona rather than suffering from chronic pain in silence.