If you’ve experienced chronic pain in any form, you know how difficult it is to manage. Whether as a result of an injury, due to fibromyalgia, or another reason, chronic pain can be debilitating - both mentally and physically.
But there are some coping strategies that help to understand and manage chronic pain. Here are 5 helpful tips for dealing with chronic pain.
1. Be aware of the mental impact
Pain isn’t just a physical phenomenon, it’s mental too. Dealing with chronic pain can easily lead to depression and anxiety, both of which make the issue worse. Pain can be distracting and stressful too. At the most basic level, the physical side of pain is just one thing, but it leads to a host of mental impacts.
2. Sometimes it isn’t curable
Living with pain for an extended period can literally rewire the brain, causing it to experience pain long after the physical symptoms have disappeared. You might plan on spending time and money looking for ways to cure your pain, but this unfortunately isn’t always possible. In some cases, adaption is the best way forward.
3. Pain doesn’t always mean danger
Our body’s innate reaction to pain is danger, often regarded as the fight or flight mechanism. While this is true for acute pain, it doesn’t hold up for chronic pain. But if our bodies perceive chronic pain as acute pain (the type experienced if we cut our finger or bang our head, for example) then we’ll constantly be on edge in a state of stress. It’s important to train your brain to think otherwise.
4. Actively change your thinking towards pain
This is perhaps one of the hardest things to do because pain can feel debilitating. But if you change your thought process from catastrophizing to a forced positive approach, you’ll eventually begin to think this way naturally. Catastrophizing is the official term for an exaggerated negative response to pain - both anticipated and actual.
5. Learn to move on
Learning to deal with chronic pain is a struggle, but it is possible. The key is to work out what makes you feel better and use that to distract yourself; learn how to adapt to your new living situation and force yourself to feel positive. Some helpful distractions include:
• Spending time with friends or family
• Watching a good film
• Exercising - in whatever capacity you can, just try to move around
• Reduce pain behaviours (rubbing, wincing, verbal reactions)
• Pace yourself to avoid worsening symptoms on bad days
• Do deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises to reduce physical (and mental) tension
Just as your brain can rewire itself to experience pain, so can you rewire it to think differently. Granted, this isn’t an easy process, but setting yourself standards and goals makes it possible to change your thought processes. Dealing with chronic pain, for now, shouldn’t be about waiting for a cure, but should be about adapting your life so you can still find joy in it. After all, a positive mental attitude counts for so much.