Over 1 million Americans live with some form of chronic pain everyday. Arthritis, back injury, IBS, and the long term pain of autoimmune disorders, all have effects and stress that impact their entire quality of life. Pain exerts a major influence on your cardiovascular system and your emotional health. Learning how to live with chronic pain successfully can dramatically improve your life.
Back pain accounts for a huge number of chronic pain sufferers. Back injuries affect over 100,000 workers every year here in California. In many cases the pain becomes so debilitating, the injured worker becomes legally disabled. Yet, in many cases, this can be addressed fairly easily through a variety of therapies. One of the most overlooked causes of chronic back pain is literally at your feet. That’s right! Your feet.
Finding a good podiatrist can assist many patients in finding a solution. This can range from specially fitted shoes, with orthotic insoles, to surgery. When you realize that your feet carry the entire weight of your body, it becomes obvious that having “bad” feet can create havoc with the joints in your knees and back. Restoring the imbalance created by a back injury can work wonders, and often allow a worker to return to a productive life again.
Spinal injury patients who suffer from fusion problems to herniated discs now can utilize a variety of therapies designed to lessen their pain. Finding a pain clinic that specializes in the spinal area is a good first step. After assessing your subjective level of pain, reviewing your history, and studying your medical records, a plan is developed to help you improve your overall quality of life.
Many patients have a misconception about pain clinics. While it’s true that their goal is to help the patient get by with a minimum of pain medication, they are not there to deny you pain relief. What a good pain team does is offer the patient a package of pain oriented therapies, which may include bio-feedback, visualization and relaxation techniques, as well as support for emotional issues that often exacerbate or accompany pain.
Pain medications are often much more effective and focussed than those found in a regular physician’s office. Narcotic pain medications can be administrated by pump, either implanted or external to the spine. This method has proved to be much more effective for spinal pain than the traditional oral/injectable route. Why? Because it delivers carefully titrated doses of medication directly to the site of the pain.
Other tools being tried, are the bone growth stimulators currently used in fracture cases. These devices are either electromagnetic or ultrasound, and are placed directly over the injured area, for up to 10 hours a day. Early studies being conducted, indicate they are able to ease the pain in spinal fusion patients very well. Arthroscopic surgery, which is minimally invasive, can be used to repair or replace herniated disks. Patients have reported such relief from the procedure, that post surgical pain has little impact on them.
Psychotherapy or counselling with a doctor or therapist specializing in the emotional issues accompanying chronic pain can be a valuable way for a patient to learn to express the anger, frustration and sense of isolation that living with daily pain can cause. Just being able to verbalize feelings that may be too much for family and friends, can aid you in learning how to communicate without being angry or hostile.
Support groups, whether on or offline, can be a tremendous resource for the chronic pain sufferer. In a good group, you can discover tips and tricks to help you cope with the pain, as well as the total empathy of others suffering as you do. You might also discover the magic in helping others: it also helps you in so many ways. For one of the worst aspects of chronic pain is the tendency towards self-pity. We’ve all experienced the lows of the why me? And the “I just can’t take it anymore” days. Reaching out to others who are often much worse off than we are, can turn a bad day into one of immense satisfaction and joy.
Finally, the best advice I can offer to chronic pain sufferers is to stop fighting it. Learn to flow with your pain, and not resist it. Recognize your bad times, do what’s needed to make yourself comfortable, and relax. Treat yourself to a long hot bubble bath or shower, and let the housework or other jobs go. They’ll still be there in the morning. Watch a movie or two, especially comedies. Laughter has been proven to reduce pain by at least 50% in cancer patients. Live in today, enjoying the small pleasures in life. Garden, take a short walk with someone you love, or simply sit outdoors watching the beauty of nature.
You are in control of how you are going to live with your pain. It’s totally up to you whether you’ll embrace life and live it to the fullest, or sit there, mired in self pity. I think you’ll find that if you step outside of yourself and make the decision to use your abilities to help others, you’ll find that life, even with pain as a constant companion, can be rich and fulfilling.