For the past three years or so, I’ve lived with pain every day. I had some back troubles before that; the problems started more than seven years ago, but in the beginning, the pain was intermittent. I’d have a few days or even a week or more of pain, then I’d feel better for weeks or months. Gradually, the episodes of pain grew more frequent and lasted longer, while the time between episodes grew shorter. These days, pain is a constant companion.
My pain is caused by degenerative disk disease and a couple of herniated disks in my lower back. People suffer chronic pain for all kinds of reasons, though, including arthritis, migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and nerve damage. Here are some things I’ve learned over the past several years, which I think will be helpful for people suffering chronic pain from any cause.
Sometimes there is not much that can be done, medically speaking, to relieve pain. Don’t give up too quickly, though. If one doctor is unable to help you, seek a second opinion. If your doctor doesn’t seem to listen, understand or care about your pain, see another.
Don’t deal with the pain all alone. You don’t have to. According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, more than 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from chronic pain. Join a support group or participate in one online. Of course, you can get support from friends and family members, too. They might not always understand what you’re going through if they don’t deal with chronic pain themselves, though.
Talk about It
I try not to complain about my pain too often. I figure no one wants to hear someone complain all the time. However, it is important to talk about what we are feeling. It’s also important to let people close to us know how we’re doing. If I don’t tell my friends that I’m in pain, they won’t know. If they don’t know I’m in pain, they won’t offer to help with things, offer emotional support, etc. It’s my responsibility to let them know how I feel. That doesn’t mean I should complain about it all the time, but it is good to talk about it sometimes.
Ask for Help
I’ve always found it hard to ask for help and I know I’m not the only one that does. Unfortunately, with my back issues, I cannot do everything on my own the way I’d like to. I’ve had to learn to ask for help. What I’ve found is that many people actually want to help, but they don’t always know how. Expecting people to help, or just hoping they will, without asking for what I need is unreasonable. Ask for help when you need it. You might not always get the things you ask for, but you’re much more likely to get them if you ask than if you don’t.
Just coping with pain seems to take a lot of energy. I can’t do all the things I used to do. I can’t do all the things I’d like to do. I can’t do as much as some other people can. I have to prioritize and conserve my energy so I can do the most important things. Say no when you need to and ask for help when you need to so that you’ll have the energy for the things that are most important to you.
American Academy of Pain Medicine. http://www.painmed.org/patientcenter/facts_on_pain.aspx. AAPM Facts and Figures on Pain.