The Patient Resource Guide is designed to help you assess your situation, learn methods of managing chronic pain, and try out some new options you may not have considered before. This post, as well as others to follow, will encourage you to look at how your pain affects you as a person. Most pain sufferers look at pain as something separate from the rest of their lives. But, the ability to cope with your pain begins when you learn to see it as part of your physical and emotional reactions.
Learning To Cope
As the pain drags on, you may avoid even the smallest movement for fear of reinjury. You hold your breath and tighten your muscles, expecting the pain, as if that action somehow keeps it from returning.
The pain wakes you up in the middle of the night. It’s a chore to get out of bed in the morning; you frequently feel groggy and half-alert during the day.
The pain interferes with your work and your home life; it is on your mind almost constantly. Often, your family and friends cannot understand it because you have no broken bones or torn muscles and you still look like you always looked. But, you look in the mirror and see the bags under your eyes and the pale, thin look of a face that is fighting pain.
The hardships of chronic pain may force you to withdraw from family and friends, which adds to your feelings of frustration, isolation, and loneliness. People say, “Exercise.” “Use ice.” “Use heat.” You do or you have tried those things. But at the first sign of pain, you are not sure how much is too much and stop for fear of doing more damage.
If you have not returned to work but run into coworkers, you must explain to them that you have not been on vacation and politely tolerate their unsupportive comments (“Aren’t you better yet?).
You hold yourself very still and wait, hoping that someone will come along with a cure, or at the very least an answer, so that you can get off this vicious cycle of pain.
You may feel depressed about your prospects for recovery. You think to yourself, “this will never get better.” Sometimes, you lose hope that you will ever be your old self, able to enjoy, able to do things spur-of-the-moment. Sometimes you feel scared. You imagine the pain continuing until you feel overwhelmed or crazy, until you believe everything you love or count on is lost. You resent this is happening to you. You hate that your pain is making you feel weak, unacceptable, and useless. You lash out at others and blame them for not helping you or for putting you in this difficult situation.
By becoming involved in your pain treatment, you become part of the solution to the problem.
As a result, your family and work relationships suffer. They try to be supportive, but turn on you or worry about you when you get angry or complain. Your children are confused about the change of pace at home (“Why is Mom/Dad staying home from work?”). Or, perhaps the family feels neglected and relationships become strained because your pain has taken up so much time, attention, and money.
When you are occupied with in pain, it is hard to make decisions. If you have been away from work for a while, you may find it difficult to imagine returning. If you do go back, you know that you will have to face the boss and request certain changes so you can continue to do your job. You are uncertain what his or her reaction will be.
In following posts, articles from our Patient Resource Guide will present alternatives you can include as part of a full treatment plan—a plan that you and your doctor can work out together. As time progresses, you will come to depend less on doctors and more on yourself.
Source: Prairie Spine and Pain Institute, Dr. Richard A. Kube II, MD.