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Understanding And Living With Chronic Pain | Stem Cell, PRP, Acupuncture in Queens & Long Island, New York

Understanding And Living With Chronic Pain
Understanding And Living With Chronic Pain

 

Distraction

Something that I have found immensely helpful when I am flaring is a distraction. Changing your environment can be useful, even if this is just moving into a different room. Listening to music, talking to someone, engaging in crafts, basically, anything that keeps you busy and which gives you something other than your pain to focus on can make it easier to deal with.

Don’t Worry About What Others Think

This is easier said than done but learning not to worry about what other people think of you can give you an immense sense of freedom. Illnesses which are invisible like most chronic pain conditions, tend to carry a lot of stigmas. People don’t always understand what they cannot see; unfortunately, that often leads to judgements or stigmatizing comments. The less weight you give other people’s judgements, the more confidence you gain.

We are all beautiful and amazing in our own ways, and everyone goes through struggles in their lives. You know what you are going through and that’s what matters.

Finding Others Who Understand

Being able to talk to other people who really understand what you are going through because they go through it themselves, is so validating. You may be able to join local support groups or you can find support online through social media or chat rooms.

Twitter provided a lifeline for me when I had nobody else in my life who had experienced my condition, and some of the friends I have made there will be lifelong.

Feeling Comfortable Asking for Help

Needing to ask for help can feel embarrassing. It can be all too easy to feel like a ‘burden’ when you need to ask loved ones for assistance with day-to-day tasks. It’s important to remember that everybody needs help sometimes. Releasing the guilt that comes along with asking for assistance is much easier said than done though.

I try to combat this by explaining to my loved ones in advance what I am going through so that when I ask for help, they have a better understanding of why. Remembering to thank them for all they do can make them feel very appreciated.

I try to remember that I am there for them in so many ways, even if those ways are sometimes different from how they are there for me. The concept of needing help sometimes can still be frustrating, even if your loved ones are really understanding; this is something I am still working on.

Learning How to Use Mobility Devices

Mobility devices are there to increase your level of functioning, to enhance your quality of life. Utilizing them when they could help you to do more and cope better is nothing to be ashamed of. The key here is to find a balance. It’s important to still push yourself to manage your chronic pain and be active when you are able. This study concluded that when used correctly, “mobility devices improve users’ activity and participation and increase mobility.”

For example, I have a mobility scooter which I used to need a lot more than I do now. I used my scooter to get out of the house on days when I was flaring and would not otherwise have been able to walk without causing extreme pain, so I was still able to function. The key was when my pain was low but still present, to continue expanding my exercise and activeness without the scooter, even though it was there, and I could have made life easier using it. It’s about finding a balance between using aids when you really need them, and not allowing them to interrupt your progress in building up your activity levels.

Surrounding Yourself with Supportive People

You need people in your life who are going to be understanding and supportive. If there are people in your life who don’t accept or understand your condition even after you have tried to educate them, it may be time to consider putting your well-being first.

Know That You Are Worthy of Romantic Love

Everybody, regardless of physical ability or mental illness, is worthy of love. If you have that love in your life, try to understand that you are worthy of it. It can be all too easy to start pushing a partner away because you feel like a burden.

If you don’t have romantic love in your life and you want it, don’t allow your chronic illness to stop you from seeking it. The right person will love you for exactly who you are.

Learning To Be Assertive

There are times when you may feel that an activity is too much for you. Learning to be assertive and understand that you have a right to say, ‘no thank you is important.

Being assertive with yourself is equally as important. There will be times that it will feel easier to just rest rather than push yourself to be proactive in managing your pain. Equally, there may be times when you want to continue an activity even though you know you need to rest. It’s a skill to learn to be assertive with yourself in doing what is best for your health.

Finding Ways to Maintain Social Connections

Isolation is so common in those with chronic pain. Often, we may feel we cannot keep up with others or that they might not understand. Sometimes the fear of pain worsening can lead to avoiding activity. Most humans need social connections in their lives to be truly happy. To live well with your pain, you need to have those connections in your life.

This age of technology affords plenty of options to keep in touch with those we love, even if we don’t feel up to getting out of the house at times. Using video calls, texts, phone calls and social media can allow you to nurture connections.

Trying to form a social life that works for you. You could explain to your friends that you can only do so much and arrange nights out around these boundaries. You may form friendships with people who already understand your condition and who have similar levels of functioning as you do. You could host social nights at home, inviting loved ones around if you don’t feel up to going out.

Planning Your Activity

You can utilize times that you have low pain to your advantage. However, it’s vital not to overdo things as this can lead to the boom-and-bust cycle (meaning that you try to fit everything you can into a ‘good day’ and end up causing a flare). Instead, learning to pace your activity and utilize good days without going overboard, is the most effective way to optimize your productivity.

Combating Cognitive Issues

Issues with concentration, memory and cognitive processes can be symptoms of chronic illness. I struggle with fibro fog, which makes it hard to function at times.

Keeping notes and reminders can help you remember important things. Setting alarms for appointments, to remember when to take medications or when your pet needs to be fed for example can be useful.

One of the things that have been my greatest weapon in coping with fibro fog, is finding humour in it instead of letting it frustrate me. When my brain comes up with a random word instead of the one, I was aiming for, my husband and I have a giggle at how silly my brain can be. When I forget why I walked into a room, I shrug and smile, thinking to myself ‘fibro fog strikes again’.

Building Self Esteem

Having a chronic illness can drain your confidence, making you feel you aren’t the same person you were before. It can make you feel in conflict with your body because it feels as though it’s betraying you. This study found that chronic pain “changes the individual’s experience of him/her self”

As you learn to deal with your symptoms these feelings can be reduced. It’s important to remember that you are the same person you were before your illness, if anything, you are stronger and more powerful. Your body is not broken; chronic pain does not lessen your worth.

When you have a negative thought about yourself, actively replace it with a positive one. For example, if you struggle to wash the dishes and need to ask for help, your brain may default to a thought like “you should have been able to do that, what a failure”. Instead, actively replace it with a more positive thought like “you are living with chronic pain and doing your absolute best, you tried your hardest to wash those dishes!” Over time this becomes a useful habit and one that can help you to see yourself in a more positive light.

Making lists of things that you are proud of about yourself or about what you have managed to do that day can be a great way to get into the habit of actively thinking about yourself in a positive way. Practising self-care can aid greatly in building confidence.

Advocating For Yourself

Medical professionals don’t always get the training they need to diagnose and treat chronic pain, so although it shouldn’t be needed, advocating for yourself becomes important. Ensure that you ask any questions you have and that you persist in seeking answers and treatment for your condition. Do your own research to learn about your symptoms, diagnosis and available treatments and don’t be afraid to present these ideas to medical professionals.

If you don’t feel able to advocate for your own care alone, you could ask a loved one to go with you. Some chronic illness charities may offer support in this area. Some may even offer patient advocates to attend appointments with you.

Researching Medications

Medical professionals may offer you various painkillers and other medications to treat your chronic pain. For some people, these will be appropriate, while for others they may not be suitable.

Ensure that you do not feel pressured to take medications. Do research online into side effects and ask your doctor plenty of questions before you start a new medication.

Seeking Therapies

There are therapies out there which not only help you to cope with your pain but literally help to reduce and even eliminate your symptoms! Various therapies are available which you can research and seek through your doctor, find privately or access through a pain therapy app.

This study states that “Patients should work in partnership with health-care professionals, actively participating in their care.” Available, scientifically proven therapies include the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Mindfulness
  • Graded Motor Imagery
  • Graded Exposure Therapy
  • Physical Therapy (PT)

Accepting That Recovery Is Possible

Scientifically proven therapies can help you to recover from chronic pain. ‘Chronic’ does not equal lifelong! This is something that can be hard to get your head around because medical professionals and society tend to tell us the opposite. Take your time to do your own research to accept and set your mindset for recovery.

Remember that recovery will look different for everyone. For some, it will be reducing symptoms and function well while living with chronic pain. For others, it may be eliminating their chronic pain completely.

Understand that recovery will be a long road. Recovery isn’t linear. You might have setbacks and it’s inevitable that you will have flares in symptoms, but this doesn’t mean that the work you have already done towards your recovery is discounted, or that you cannot succeed.

Being A Warrior

Recalibrating your mindset to the pure determination to keep fighting and overcoming your struggles is important. There may be hard times but the determination to get up and keep going is vital, even if that means you need help to do so.

I may have times when I feel defeated, but I don’t let those times persist. I am a warrior, determined to keep progressing and forging a path forward. You are a warrior too. We wake up every day and fight on in spite of our chronic illnesses. We can overcome our chronic pain.

Precision Pain Care and Rehabilitation has two convenient locations in Richmond Hill – Queens and New Hyde Park – Long Island. Call the Queens office at (718) 215-1888, or (516) 419-4480 for the Long Island office, to arrange an appointment with our Interventional Pain Management Specialist, Dr. Jeffrey Chacko.

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