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Pain Management: Living with Chronic Pain

Living with pain that won’t go away can be discouraging at best and unbearable at worst. But it is important to remember that there are treatment options that can reduce your pain and improve your quality of life. Your doctor may recommend the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications, in addition to other therapies like physical therapy or exercise, to manage your physical pain.

However, if you are living with chronic pain, overcoming the emotional challenges can be the hardest step in the coping process. The American Chronic Pain Association has created a list of ten steps for coping with chronic pain and transitioning from the mentality of a patient to a person.

1. Accept the Pain

Chronic pain should not be ignored or taken lightly. If you have been living with chronic pain, it is important to recognize it as a problem, learn about your condition, and see your doctor to talk through treatment options. 

2. Get Involved

Take ownership of your pain relief. Understand your treatment plan, engage with your doctor, and be an active partner in your own health care. The accountability will help you overcome emotional challenges and keep you motivated to continue improving your overall health and quality of life.

3. Learn to Set Priorities

Living with chronic pain can put the rest of your life on the back burner, as relieving pain becomes your top priority. Make a list of things in your life that you would like to do, whether it is exercising more frequently, visiting with family and friends, or traveling. Setting priorities and goals beyond just pain relief can help you enjoy life a little more, while also keeping you determined to relieve pain in order to achieve those goals.

4. Set Realistic Goals

Coping with chronic pain can be daunting, particularly as you try to resume everyday activities that once were easy and normal. Managing your pain in small steps can give you a sense of accomplishment, and also help you achieve your larger goals more effectively.

5. Know Your Basic Rights

Many people suffer from chronic pain silently, not wanting to bother others with their problem. Understand that you may have different needs because of your chronic pain, and denying those needs can just make the pain worse. The American Chronic Health Association says the most important basic rights to remember are, "the right to be treated with respect, to say no without guilt, to do less than humanly possible, to make mistakes, and to not need to justify your decisions, with words or pain."

6. Recognize Emotions

Living with chronic pain is just as much an emotional issue as a physical one. Recognizing how your emotions affect your pain, and vice versa, can help relieve your pain and make everyday living more enjoyable.

7. Learn to Relax

Persistent pain is a stressful experience, but it is important to find ways to relax the mind and body. Not only can stress make the pain worse, but it also causes other physical and emotional side effects. Find ways to relax in your own way, whether that means deep breathing exercises, yoga, or just going outside to play with your dog.

8. Exercise

There is no need to fear or avoid exercise, even if you live with chronic pain. In fact, moderate exercise can actually help you decrease pain by building and toning muscles, increasing endurance and strength, and improving attitude and self-esteem.

9. See the Total Picture

Following the steps above will hopefully help you realize that your pain does not define who you are. Concentrate on what you’re able to do, not what you aren’t able to do. Chronic pain may be a part of your life, but feeling confident in your knowledge and management of the pain can help put the rest of your life back on track.

10. Reach Out

Millions of people suffer from chronic pain and don’t share their experience with others out of guilt, embarrassment or pride. Sharing what you’ve learned about successfully managing your pain can help others find their path to pain relief and encourage them to seek help and much needed support.

Content licensed from:

Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed on: Oct 15, 2010: Andrea Baird, MD

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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