What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is a wide-sweeping term, often describing pain that lasts more than three to six months or pain beyond the point of tissue healing. Some forms of chronic pain can be linked to an identifiable cause, like degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis. Other forms of pain have no known or understood cause, such as fibromyalgia or neuropathic pain (nerve pain). Fighting chronic pain is a lifelong struggle for many.
Chronic pain affects your physical health, your emotions, and even your social life over time which can lead to other symptoms which could be detrimental in the long-term such as:
- Poor sleep
- Feeling very tired or wiped out
- Loss of interest in sex
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Marriage or family problems
- Job loss
- Suicidal thoughts
What can I do for myself?
There’s a lot you can do to help yourself and have a better life even with chronic pain. Simple changes can often make a big difference to the amount of disability and suffering you can experience. This is called pain management.
To help manage your pain, you might consider:
- Planning your day – Make a plan of things to do and places to be to help you keep on top of your pain.
- Pacing yourself – Don’t push through the pain, stop before it gets worse then go back to whatever you were doing later.
- Learning to relax – Relaxing can be hard when you have pain but finding something which relaxes you will reduce the stress of pain.
- Taking regular enjoyable exercise – Even a small amount will make you feel better and ease your pain. It will also keep your muscles and joints strong.
- Taking painkillers – Painkillers work better alongside a plan. Patients often say their painkillers don’t seem to work very well.
- Talking to others – Tell your friends and family about chronic pain and why you need to do things differently at the moment.
- Enjoyment – Doing things you enjoy boosts your own natural painkillers. Think about what you enjoyed before the pain and introduce it back into your routine.
Dealing with stress and depression
When the body feels under threat it produces stress hormones that make us feel anxious and tense. The body sees pain as a threat and when it’s persistent or chronic, it can make us feel unwell.
Finding a way to relax can help to reduce pain. Anything which makes you feel good, you enjoy or gives you pleasure is a form of relaxation.
Hobbies and activities may have taken a backseat due to your pain, but it’s worth thinking about how to get back to doing things you enjoy. Anything that helps you to focus on things other than your pain is a good form of self-management.