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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Flaugher

Living with Chronic Pain can be, well, a Pain!

Living with chronic pain can be challenging and it may not just be your body that is hurting. For many it is stressful and depressing to endure constant discomfort. Your pain may cause a loss of your ability to do your favorite activities. Additionally, your suffering can cause you to isolate yourself from loved ones and negatively impact those relationships. Chronic pain can potentially leave you feeling frustrated with your body and it can feel like it is “failing” you. It is crucial to work closely with your doctor to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. It is just as important to support your mental and emotional well-being. While coping can be difficult, there are things you can do to improve your quality of life and regain some control.

Chronic pain can be associated with some diseases, conditions, or injuries; it can also be associated with poor body mechanics, i.e. posture, muscle strain, and even psychological factors that can manifest as pain. Sometimes, even with a comprehensive medical assessment, a source of chronic pain is not able to be determined. Whether you know or do not know why you have chronic pain, living with it is frequently frustrating and mentally taxing.

The mind-body connection is well-researched and documented. We know that the brain is the body's control center, which connects our physiological and emotional responses to pain. Our nervous system is the pathway through which the body alerts the brain to pain; it can contribute to our pain response and yet can assist with reducing pain by activating interventions that help calm and soothe.

Thus the role of therapy in chronic pain management can be essential to coping and finding relief. A clinician can provide therapeutic support and explore these interventions including mindfulness, relaxation, and CBT strategies to improve your psychological distress and potentially reduce your perception of pain levels. 

Practicing mind-body interventions such as the following may provide some relief:

CBT is a treatment that is practiced in talk therapy when the clinician and client explore the thoughts and feelings related to the client’s chronic pain. The clinician can then guide clients through interventions that assist in reframing the reactions to living with chronic pain as well as relaxation methods to use when pain is uncontrolled.

Mindfulness is a way to observe our current state, examine our thoughts and feelings that may be unhelpful, and increase our self-awareness to enable us to lessen our stress and increase regulation of our nervous system.

Meditation at its simplest is a form of relaxing the mind which in turn supports relaxing the body. This intervention can help lessen the perception of pain and manage the mental health challenges that more often than not, occur in those who experience chronic pain.

Yoga is well-known to assist with the release of stress in our muscles. Yoga uses patterned breathing to support poses and assists with relaxing the body. Practicing yoga can provide a refreshing of the mind, reducing negative thought patterns, anxiety, and depression which can all be symptoms of living with chronic pain.

Support is also important. Staying connected with loved ones and seeking support from others who understand what you're going through can be helpful. Joining a support group or seeking help from a mental health professional can be incredibly helpful in managing the psychological distress that comes with chronic pain.

By focusing on what you can control, such as managing stress, getting enough rest, eating a healthy diet, engaging in approved physical activity, and seeking out physical and mental health support you can help reduce the impact of chronic pain on your life. With the right support and tools, you can take steps to manage your chronic pain and improve your overall quality of life.

By: Teresa Flaugher, LMSW


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