An estimated 50 million Americans live with chronic pain caused by a disease, disorder or accident; and an additional 25 million suffer from acute pain caused by a surgery or accident. Pain has become a silent epidemic that has left millions of people suffering in fear and isolation. If chronic pain has hijacked your life, there is hope. Here are 10 steps to managing and overcoming pain, provided by the American Chronic Pain Association (www.theacpa.org).
Step 1: Accept the Pain
Learn everything there is to know about your physical condition. Accept the fact that there may never be a cure for your pain within your lifetime and that you will need to deal with pain as an everyday fact in your life.
Step 2: Get Involved
Take an active role in your own recovery. Follow your doctor’s advice and ask what you can do to take a partnership role in your own health care.
Step 3: Learn to Set Priorities
Look beyond your pain to the things that are important in your life. Make a list of the things you would like to do. Setting priorities can help you find a starting point to lead you back into a more active life.
Step 4: Set Realistic Goals
We all walk before we run. Set goals that are within your power to accomplish or break a larger goal down into manageable steps. And remember: Take the time to enjoy your success.
Step 5: Know your Basic Rights
We all have basic rights. Among these are the right to be treated with respect, to say no without guild, to do less than humanly possible, to make mistakes, and to not need to justify your decisions. These rights apply to many areas of your life, including your pain.
Step 6: Recognize Emotions
Our bodies and minds are one. Emotions directly affect physical well being. By acknowledging and dealing with your feelings, you can reduce stress and decrease the pain you feel.
Step 7: Learn to Relax
Pain increases in times of stress. Relaxation exercises are one way of reclaiming control of your body. Deep breathing, visualization, and other relaxation techniques can help you to better manage the pain you live with.
Step 8: Exercise
Most people with chronic pain fear exercise. But unused muscles feel more pain than toned, flexible ones. With your doctor, identify a modest exercise program that you can do safely. As you build strength, your pain can decrease your confidence will increase.
Step 9: See the Total Picture
As you learn to set priorities, reach goals, assert your basic rights, deal with your feelings, relax, and regain control of your body, you will see that pain does not need to be the center of your life. You can choose to focus on your abilities, not your disabilities. You will grow stronger in your belief that you can live a normal life in spite of chronic pain.
Step 10: Reach Out
It is estimated that one in three people suffer from some form of chronic pain. Once you have begun to find ways to manage your chronic pain, reach out and share what you know. Living with chronic pain is an ongoing learning process. We all support and learn from each other.