According to a report by the CDC, over 20% of adults in the United States experience chronic pain. 7.4% of adults have to deal with chronic pain that limits their life or work activities frequently. Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for over 12 weeks despite medication or treatment. While chronic pain is more common in older people, many people both young and old have to cope with it.
If you or someone you love has to cope with chronic pain, you’ll be aware of just how difficult it can be. Pain is exhausting, and chronic pain is even more so. Whether the pain is relatively recent or you’ve been experiencing it for a long time, it’s always good to learn some coping mechanisms to help you manage.
Figure Out the Cause
Information is power. This is especially true when it comes to your health. Even if you think you know what’s causing your pain, you should visit a doctor and find out more. If you’ve recently been in a car accident or suffered a recent injury, then a scan can find out what’s going on and whether you’ve missed an injury.
Other conditions may also cause chronic pain, such as:
- Recent surgeries
- Back problems
- Nerve damage
In the best-case scenario, you will get a diagnosis and your doctor will give you a prognosis. Some people can recover completely when their injury heals, especially if the doctor or physiotherapist can treat it. However, sometimes the doctor won’t be able to completely treat your condition or even offer a concrete diagnosis.
This doesn’t mean that your visit to the doctor was a waste of time. The doctor should be able to rule out certain sinister or life-threatening conditions. They can also offer pain management options and advice. Finally, your pain will be added to your medical records.
Make a Management Plan
Your doctor should be able to help you with a management plan that suits your circumstances, but there are things that you can do as well. While some chronic pain is constant or comes on randomly, there may be triggers that cause flare-ups. Identifying these is key.
For migraines, it might be bright lights or loud noises. Many people find that fatigue brings pain, which can cause a nasty feedback loop as your pain will both tire you out more and potentially keep you from getting to sleep.
The most important thing is to know your limits. If something is more likely to cause your pain, avoid it. If your pain worsens when you get overtired, then listen to your body and rest whenever possible. Living by these new limitations isn’t easy for anyone, and it can be especially difficult for young people who are used to feeling invincible.
These limitations, combined with the constant pain, can have a severe toll on your mental wellbeing. Unfortunately, this can cause yet another feedback loop, as increased anxiety and depression can make your pain even worse. If you find that your mental health is suffering, then speak to your doctor. They may prescribe antidepressants which both improve your emotional strain and help with your pain.
If you can, seek counseling or therapy as well. Many people who deal with chronic pain feel the need to push themselves, both physically and emotionally. This can cause a crash, which makes their emotional states worse. However, if you’re able to talk through your struggles with a therapist, you can relieve some of this burden.
As mentioned before, your doctor may offer treatments to reduce your pain. If your pain is caused by a past injury or some kind of muscle strain, then physiotherapy may help your body to heal. This healing will reduce pain and improve functionality.
Your doctor may also offer painkillers. However, sometimes the painkillers aren’t enough, or you may want to avoid potentially becoming dependent on painkillers. In some cases, alternative treatments can help. For example, stem cell therapy for pain may help, or something like acupuncture or massage therapy. Always consult a licensed practitioner.
Don’t Go It Alone
Part of your management plan should include relying on the other people in your life. Yes, you don’t want to be a burden, but if you know and trust a friend or family member, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Even something as simple as grabbing some groceries or cooking a meal for you can reduce some of the pressure and make your life a little easier.