Learning to deal with pain, especially chronic pain, is never easy. What works for someone may not work for you, and not every strategy you pick up from a late-night infomercial is worth the effort. But if you’re suffering from chronic pain, learning to cope begins with the basics.
What Is Chronic Pain?
According to the experts at Stanford Health Care, the kind of pain “that lasts for 3 months or longer is called chronic pain. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. It’s normal for you to have pain when you are injured or ill. But pain that lasts for weeks, months, or years is not normal.”
Chronic pain isn’t selective and can happen anywhere in the human body. It can vary from mild and annoying to feeling so intense that it interferes with your daily activities and affects your quality of life.
Coping With Chronic Pain
Because pain is different for everyone, your healthcare provider may recommend an integrated approach to cope with chronic pain. This may include various kinds of therapy, medicine like ketamine, and some of the lifestyle and wellness changes mentioned below. The best approach may be to pick and choose a few at a time, and see which ones work the best.
- Constructively handle your stress. Discovering ways to deal with stress in healthy ways allows you to cope more efficiently with chronic pain symptoms.
- “Talk to yourself constructively. Positive thinking is a powerful tool. By focusing on the improvements you are making (i.e., the pain is less today than yesterday or you feel better than you did a week ago) you can make a difference in your perceived comfort level. For example, instead of considering yourself powerless and thinking that you absolutely cannot deal with the pain, remind yourself that you are uncomfortable, but that you are working toward finding a healthy way to deal with it and living a productive and fulfilling life.”
- Activity and engagement are essential. Taking your mind off the pain by trying things you enjoy may help you focus on the positive facets of your life. Isolation will only lead to negative attitudes and may boost your awareness of the pain. People with chronic pain are often encouraged to find a hobby that makes them feel good and helps them stay connected with family, friends, or others in the community or through the web. Here’s another idea: think about using relaxation techniques, like relaxed breathing, mindfulness, or passive or progressive muscle relaxation. Smartphone applications focusing on relaxation and mindfulness are another possibility.
- Find a support network, so you don’t have to endure daily struggles alone. Finding peers in the same predicament who can relate to what’s going on is a great way to cope with chronic pain.
- Find a medical or mental health specialist who can help you manage the physical and psychological ramifications of your condition. Besides your primary care physician, you may also talk with a psychiatrist or psychologist for help. In either case, you may be referred to ketamine therapy for chronic pain management.
- Stretch, maintain good posture, and learn to move gently. Full body stretches, gentle yoga, or tai chi sessions for 10 to 15 minutes daily may help.
- Pace yourself. There’s no reason to do too much at once, as you have nothing to prove. Plan a daily schedule of tasks, recreational activities, and other duties to build structure and routine. But it’s also important to take breaks before pain levels become too high to manage.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about other conditions that worsen the pain, including ongoing anxiety and depression. By lowering the symptoms of either, you’re putting yourself in a position to reduce pain and have a better quality of life.
- Maintain a positive attitude, which is closely tied to doing things you enjoy and not being deterred by minor setbacks.
- Don’t forget about sleep. Infrequent, interrupted, or otherwise poor sleep can lead to worse pain. Even with chronic pain, there are good ways to sleep to help you minimize symptoms and wake up feeling refreshed.
If you’re suffering from chronic pain, see a healthcare provider for diagnosis and learn about possible ways to treat the pain. There aren’t any specific tests used for diagnosis, but some are used more often than others. Once a cause has been discovered, treatment options may include medicine, therapy, or ketamine therapy to treat pain symptoms.