Dr. Ducharme’s Blog: Managing Chronic Pain August 20, 2018

August 20, 2018
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Pain is an all-too-familiar problem and the most common reason people see a physician. At least 100 million adults in the United States suffer from chronic pain, according to the Institute of Medicine. Pain actually serves an important purpose. It alerts us to injuries such as a sprained ankle or burned hand. But chronic pain is a bit different and relieving pain is not always straightforward. Most of us understand that pain is physical. But, many don’t realize that pain actually has biological, psychological and emotional factors. Chronic pain can cause feelings such as anger, frustration, hopelessness, depression and anxiety.

We never want to ignore pain. We need to determine the cause. But when pain becomes chronic, there are many  psychological ways to help manage it. Stress, in particular, can contribute to many health problems and can trigger muscle tension or muscle spasms that may increase your pain.

Psychologists can help you manage the stressors in your life, teach you relaxation techniques, such as meditation, abdominal breathing and encourage appropriate exercises. Some psychologists also practice hypnosis or biofeedback which teaches you how to control certain body functions, including muscle response. Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but good management techniques will help your mind and body and can often lessen your pain.

Stay Active   Pain or fear of pain can lead people to stop doing the things they enjoy. It is important to not let pain take over your life. Speak with your physician so you can understand your physical limitations and plan a program for appropriate exercise.

Make Social Connections  Call a friend or family member or make a coffee date with someone you have not seen in a while. Research shows that people with greater social support are more resilient and experience less depression and anxiety.

Distract Yourself  When pain flares, find ways to distract your mind from it. Watch a movie, read a book, listen to relaxing music, practice meditation, take a walk, engage in a hobby. Pleasant experiences help you cope with pain.

Don’t Lose Hope  With the right kind of psychological treatments many people learn to manage their pain and think of it in a different way.

Follow Prescriptions Carefully  If medications are part of your treatment plan be sure to take them as directed to avoid possible dangerous side effects, including addiction.