Coping With Chronic Pain

One of the leading causes of disability, chronic pain is a widespread and serious problem. In addition to physical discomfort, pain can affect many areas of one’s life, including work, finances, relationships, independence, self-image, and leisure activities.

As a result, it is not unusual for people in chronic pain to become discouraged or depressed. And a negative mood can actually make the pain seem worse, so sometimes it becomes a vicious cycle.

While chronic pain cannot always be “cured,” there are a number of things one can do to manage the pain and its impact:

  • Use medication as directed. Do not use more than your doctor prescribes. If you are not satisfied with the pain relief you’re getting, consider going to a specialist or pain clinic where you might have access to a broader range of treatments.
  • Educate yourself. Learn whatever you can about your condition and its treatment. You are a key member of your health care team, and your input matters.
  • Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. We all have different limitations and capabilities.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself, and reward yourself when you meet them. You, and only you, can improve the quality of your life.
  • Learn relaxation techniques–they can improve your outlook and may decrease the pain as well.
  • Be honest with yourself about how the pain affects you. It’s okay to get upset; anger, guilt, and sadness are all normal reactions. However, it’s advisable to seek professional assistance if you develop serious depression or suicidal feelings.
  • Reach out to others. It may be tempting to isolate yourself, but it doesn’t help. Connecting with others–whether a counselor, friend, or support group–can make the pain easier to bear.