Important Things to Know About Chronic Pain

Some of us or our dear ones are unfortunate to be suffering from chronic pain. While it’s really debilitating, you can help yourself and your loved ones by getting acquainted with some important things which most of us aren’t aware of. Check out the blog to learn about them.

Approximately 20% of the global population — one out of every five people — suffers from chronic pain (defined as pain that persists for at least twelve weeks). If you or someone you know is experiencing chronic pain, it is important to understand these 5 truths.

The 5 Truths About Chronic Pain

1. Even Healthy People Can Experience Chronic Pain

Many illnesses are characterized by chronic pain. Likewise, some injuries (either traumatic or recurrent stress) can cause nerve damage or musculoskeletal deformities that cause chronic pain.

Yet chronic pain is not a sign of poor health or failure to focus on healthy living. Often, people develop “primary chronic musculoskeletal pain” or idiopathic or non-specific chronic pain — which cannot be attributed to any specific illness or injury.

That means anybody can experience chronic pain.

2. Chronic Pain Does Not (Necessarily) Indicate Injury Or Illness

The biggest misconception about chronic pain is that it always belies some underlying (even if undiscovered) condition; “chronic pain is a sign you are unhealthy.” This misconception leads further to the conclusion that episodes of chronic pain signal worsening health or, alternatively, notable harmful disease progression.

In truth, acute pain (the body’s natural response to injury) tends to have the ability to heal and often resolves within twelve weeks.

Nevertheless, this myth about chronic pain persists. As a result, people experiencing chronic pain tend to demonstrate much higher levels of catastrophic thinking and focus more on their experience of pain than those with acute pain. The resolution to the issue lies in busting the myth and imbibing the truth that the presence of chronic pain doesn’t necessarily indicate that one is unhealthy.

3. There Is (Currently) No “Magic Bullet” For Chronic Pain

When it comes to treating chronic pain, whether with prescription medications, physical therapy, or healing pants, there is no panacea (yet). Despite this hard truth, many chronic pain sufferers become hyper-focused on fixing their pain, then depressed when treatment fails. This undermines their feelings of control over the situation and negates any potential benefit of their efforts to cope with pain by resolving it.

In short: Accepting that chronic pain is sometimes incurable is essential and practicing accommodative coping (changing goals to match the situation) is the most effective way to improve well-being.

Sometimes, though it might seem impossible to accept, being practical helps in the long run. That said, acceptance of the present situation is the first practical step towards a positive life. It seems like a never-ending argument between “you” and your inner self, where the debate goes on whether the chronic pain will ever get cured.  By adopting the accommodative coping ideology, you put an end to the relentless battle with yourself. 

In simple language, accommodative coping means compromising with your initial goal by modifying it to a newer goal as it looks impossible to attain. This might initially cause a lot of disappointment and anger. However, by coping with this adjustment, you can move forward towards a happier life.

4. Holistic Healthy Living Supports Chronic Pain Management

Though there is no cure-all for chronic pain, adopting a holistic healthy living attitude — which recognizes the biopsychosocial nature of pain — can help you find new avenues for relief. For example, effective alternative approaches to chronic pain management include therapy, natural supplements, exercise programs, and even smartphone-mediated interventions.

Benefits of Mindfulness Exercises

There are quite a few benefits that mindfulness provides. Some of the primary ones include:

Improves physical health

While mindfulness exercises help in overall well-being, there are some distinct benefits that they offer as well. These include relieving stress, reducing blood pressure, lowering the risk of heart diseases, improving sleep, and helping deal with chronic pain

Improves mental well-being

In addition to improving physical health, mindfulness plays a significant role in enhancing mental well-being as well. Medical healthcare specialists have found mindfulness to be highly effective in treating various mental health issues, including depression, anxiety disorder, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more.

Improves overall well-being

Mindfulness training helps people be more cognizant of their present situation as it focuses on the “now” moment. Studies have shown that those practicing mindfulness are more engaged in their activities, stop fretting over their past regrets or worrying about the future, and are able to establish a deeper connection with others. In addition, it makes people less anxious about their success and self-esteem and helps them derive greater satisfaction with what they have. Thus, it enables overall well-being and fosters a spiritual essence to the purpose of one’s existence.

How to get started with mindfulness exercises?

While it is good to reach out to a medical practitioner or therapist to understand the ways of performing mindfulness exercises, there are also ample resources available online that can help you. There are various audiobooks, CDs, and apps on smartphones that help you get started with mindfulness training. Besides, several mindfulness practitioners offer courses specific to your chronic issues and generalized resources as well. 

In case you wish to tap the potential of mindfulness training in a group environment, there are various local communities or agencies that offer such services. In addition, there are mindfulness retreats, workshops, and sessions organized by various facilitators and experts who can provide you with initial guidance in this direction. This could serve as a great starting point in your mindfulness training journey.

The exact method of action for each of these interventions is unique (therapy teaches you to replace maladaptive thoughts with a healthy living mindset; natural supplements may have an analgesic effect, relax musicals, or ease anxiety; etc.). Nevertheless, each of them approaches chronic pain as a multi-faceted mind-body experience. The greatest benefit of natural supplements is that they don’t result in any side effects, unlike other medications, offering a therapeutic cure or some degree of relief. 

5. Attitude Is Important

Recent research suggests that mindfulness training — including exercises like body scans and mindful movement practice, breathing anchors, and kindly awareness meditation — can have a significant impact on how people perceive and cope with chronic pain. Mindfulness training can not only reduce pain intensity but also minimize pain-related interference in daily life. This is because mindfulness strengthens a person’s accommodative coping skills, giving people the ability to accept things they cannot change and move forward.

Coping With Chronic Pain Takes A Village

Recent findings suggest that the actions/attitudes of people involved in your treatment can impact your experience of chronic pain.

For one, dismissive perceptions of chronic pain — especially “invisible” or “unprovable” chronically painful conditions — lead to undertreatment and poor management. What’s more, participation in compassionate caritative communities (which empower patients to identify and stand up for their needs) can significantly reduce the emotional and physical suffering caused by chronic pain.

This underscores the fact that learning to cope, live, and thrive with chronic pain is a cooperative process, not one you must (or should) endure alone.

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