Learn to Live Better with Chronic Pain

Learn to Live Better with Chronic Pain

Chronic pain takes a toll on your body and mind. But you don’t have to try to handle it on your own. It’s important to know when to reach out for help.

What Is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is constant or recurring physical pain that you have over a long period of time. Chronic pain can happen anywhere in the body and can come from many sources. But the goal to treat the physical pain is the same: reduce the pain and help you function better.

Everyone’s pain is different and there are many causes. Taking charge of pain treatment and management can help you manage chronic pain better. You can do that by working with your health care providers to make a pain management plan that helps you have the best function and quality of life you can.

Chronic Pain and Your Mental Health

Chronic pain can be hard to deal with. It may interfere with your daily activities. Because the pain lasts so long, many people who have chronic pain may also have mental health issues related to dealing with it. Common issues include low self-esteem, depression and anger. People with chronic pain often struggle with:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance misuse problems

This may cause behavior changes that can make it harder to cope with the pain. It may help to talk about your concerns and feelings with family members, friends or a health care professional.

Get Treatment

It’s essential to seek help if you’re having chronic pain. Many things can help treat or manage the pain. It may take time to find the right mix of therapies that work for you, but it’s worth it to keep trying because it can improve your quality of life.

Medicines including antidepressants or prescription pain relievers may help. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions for how to take any medicine, including those sold over the counter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people learn about pain management choices that do not involve opioidsleaving site icon

Treatment therapies can help ease pain. Therapies include physical therapy like stretching and activities to build muscles, low-impact exercise like walking or swimming, and occupational therapy. Occupational therapy can help you learn how to do tasks a new way to reduce pain and avoid more injuries.

Behavioral therapy can help you find ways to relax and cut your stress level. That can help your pain, too. Some people find pain relief from yoga, tai chi or meditation. You might need to try them consistently for several weeks to see a change.

Routine mental health screening and treatment are a key part of effective chronic pain treatment, leaving site icon says Mental Health America.

Seeing a mental health professional can help you manage pain in a number of ways, including:

  • Learning to challenge unhelpful thoughts about pain.
  • Developing new ways to think about problems and find solutions.
  • Tracking stress triggers that can increase pain.
  • Learning relaxation techniques to keep stress levels under control.
  • Making lifestyle changes so you can continue to work and play.
  • Learning ways to sleep better.
  • Learning goal setting.

Whatever you do, don’t isolate yourself. Try to spend time with family and friends. Keeping good relationships can help your mental and physical health.

Also consider:

  • Joining a support group for people who share your health problem.
  • Making time for activities like meditation or a hobby that relaxes you.
  • Spending time outdoors to recharge.
  • Prioritizing good quality sleep. Lack of sleep can make your stress and fatigue worse.
  • Stepping up your activity level. Some chronic pain can be helped with stretching exercises or yoga. There may also be activities that you should not do, so be sure to check with your doctor before you start a new activity or boost your activity level.

Think of your pain as a puzzle to be solved. Reaching out for help can improve your physical and mental health and your quality of life.

You Are Not Alone

If you are thinking about suicide or other self-harm, reach out for help. Seek medical care or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline leaving site icon at 800-273-8255. The website also has help and guidance for people who are worried about a friend or loved one.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration leaving site icon (SAMHSA) offers a treatment locator and 24-hour referral line.

Seek help if you’re struggling.

Sources: Chronic Pain, leaving site icon American Academy of Family Physicians, 2019; 8 tips for managing chronic pain, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2020; Safely and Effectively Managing Pain Without Opioids, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021; Chronic Pain, leaving site icon Cleveland Clinic, 2021; Chronic Pain and Mental Health, leaving site icon Mental Health America; Find Treatment, leaving site icon Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2021