What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is pain that goes on longer than six months. It does not respond to conventional medical treatment. In other words, chronic pain is pain that may not go away. What's more, chronic pain often has no concrete explanation and no tangible diagnosis. That does not mean that chronic pain is not real. It simply means that, using the information available today, modern medical specialists cannot define a "cause" for the pain. Chronic pain is pain that many people have to "learn to live with." The question then is... HOW DO YOU DO THIS?



Who is affected by pain? It affects you. You are the one who feels the pain and suffers with it. However, it also affects everyone around you. When your pain begins, others are supportive and caring. As time goes by, you begin to lose your support system, your co-workers, and friends. You withdraw from all activity, and the only people you see are your health care providers and those you live with. What is interesting about chronic pain is the effect that it has not only on you but also on your family/significant others. Soon they find that large parts of their lives are controlled by your pain. Unfortunately, chronic pain creates many different types of suffering.






Issues Chronic Pain Patients Must Deal With

The pain that you feel in your body is only one factor that contributes to your suffering. Other issues that can increase your suffering are:

Isolation:
Believing you are the only one in the world who has chronic pain can create a sense of hopelessness. Your pain can cause you to withdraw from all social and family support systems.

Confusion:
Chronic pain, in many cases, has no visible signs. Your level of functioning changes daily. It is not surprising that those around you may question the reality of your pain. It is not unusual for you to question whether or not your pain is real-- you may sometimes believe it is all in your head.

Uncertainty:
Is it all in my head? The answer is partly. You cannot separate the mind and body. What you experience physically affects your emotional well- being and vice a versa. The lack of a diagnosis--a reason for your pain--can cause you to question the reality of your suffering. Even with a diagnosis, you may find it hard to believe that modern medicine cannot "fix" you.

Suffering:
If you have chronic pain, you will suffer. If you give your undivided attention to your pain, your suffering will be overwhelming. If, however, you can redirect your attention to other issues, your sense of suffering can be reduced.

Guilt:
Your inability to contribute at work or at home creates a sense of guilt. You may believe that your value is measured by the amount of work you accomplish.

Anger:
You may be angry with the medical community for not making you better. You may be angry with your co-workers for not understanding. You may be angry with your friends and family for not being more supportive and understanding. And, you may be angry at yourself for not having the ability to "get better."

Attitude:
Attitude can affect your level of suffering. A negative attitude focuses on your inabilities, your suffering, and your negative emotions. Movement can be difficult when you are in pain. Yet, it is important to maintain a certain level of activity to maintain good muscle tone and reduce pain levels. Ask your doctor to help you select several realistic exercises that will help you to restore movement and tone muscles. Remember, your activity level has decreased over a long period. Your exercise program should be slow, realistic, and continuous.

Limitations:
Assertiveness is a necessary component of regaining your health. Saying "no" is something that many of us have trouble doing. And, when you are in pain, your inability to say no only increases the likelihood that you will exceed your limitations. Realizing that you have the right to make mistakes, the right to do less than humanly possible, and the right to be taken seriously will enhance your understanding of yourself and your needs. If you do not assert yourself, you will increase your level of pain and suffering over the long term. Many people with chronic pain are typically nonassertive. That means that they do not believe they have the same rights as others. They are afraid to speak out on their own behalf. They do not get the respect they deserve and are rarely satisfied with their accomplishments. Learning to become assertive will allow you to regain control of your life.









FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES
SET REALISTIC GOALS
STRIVE TO REGAIN CONTROL
SELF CONFIDENCE
FOCUS YOUR ENERGY
ESTABLISH PRIORITIES
TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE
POSITIVE SELF IMAGE





SETTING REALISTIC GOALS
Setting realistic for yourself will prepare you to act out your commitment to regain your health while expressing confidence in your ability to meet your needs, no matter what those needs are. Setting realistic goals also provides a focus for your energy. When you are devoting your time and energy to things you really want to do and accomplish, there is less time to think about your pain. The less you think about your pain, the less you will suffer.

RECOGNIZING FEELINGS
What you are feeling and experiencing each day has an effect on the amount of pain you have. While your pain is of physical origin, what you experience emotionally will affect the level of your pain. It is impossible to separate your mind from your body. What you feel physically will have a direct effect on your emotional self. This is also true of your emotions. If you are upset or under a great deal of stress, your physical being is directly affected, usually in the form of pain. Attempts at controlling emotions create stress. Stress increases pain. You have no control over what you experience emotionally. You can only choose how to express those emotions. There are no wrong feelings. Your feelings are as much a part of you as your arms and legs. Accept them, recognize them, and learn to deal with them to reduce stress and tension. Why make yourself a prisoner to your emotions when you can be freed by understanding that feelings are what make you unique?

LEARN TO RELAX
Tension causes increased pain. Relaxation techniques are effective in reducing tension. Recognizing tension is the first step. Knowing how to reduce tension is a learned skill. Taking some of the responsibility for your own recovery involves learning how to recognize tension and using your relaxation skills to reduce tension and decrease pain. Not only is relaxation an effective means to reduce pain but it is within your control.

ONE DAY AT A TIME
Pain is a frightening thing. It is not unusual to be afraid of pain, to avoid activity, to sit hour after hour, or to stay in bed all day. Each day your level of ability changes. You need to start each day with a sense of ability. Anything is possible if you take one step at a time, one day at a time.



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