Living with chronic pain is difficult, you can appear healthy on the outside but on the inside you’re constantly suffering from pain throughout your body. Because you don’t have a physical injury, people may dismiss your chronic pain and that can make dealing with and managing chronic pain even more challenging .
Chronic pain is often described as consistent pain lasting longer than three to six months. Chronic pain can sometimes develop into chronic pain syndrome, which is a condition that involves experiencing chronic pain in addition to depression and anxiety. According to the U.S. Pain Foundation, about one in three people are living their lives with chronic pain. Chronic pain affects more Americans than cancer, heart disease, and diabetes combined. More specifically, 100 million Americans suffer from some kind of chronic pain.
History of Pain Awareness Month
In 2001, the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) declared September as Pain Awareness Month. The ACPA led an alliance of support groups for chronic pain organizations to help establish Pain Awareness Month as an officially recognized initiative. In addition to creating Pain Awareness Month, the ACPA also organized Partners for Understanding Pain that include 80 organizations involved health care professional and consumer groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The goal of implementing Pain Awareness Month is to raise awareness and get people involved in promoting and recognizing ways they can help people with chronic pain. Pain Awareness Month’s purpose is to create a better understanding of pain management for healthcare professionals, people suffering from chronic pain and the families of those suffering.
The 2018 Campaign: #PainWarriorsUnite
The U.S. Pain Foundation has chosen “unity” as the theme for this year’s Pain Awareness Month using the hashtag #PainWarriorsUnite. The organization is also encouraging everyone to use this frame on all of your social media pages.
In addition to showing your support on social media, there a number of other things you can do to participate in and help to promote Pain Awareness Month:
- Talk to your healthcare provider to let them know that September is Pain Awareness Month.
- Share with your friends and family what Pain Awareness Month is about and why it’s important.
- Reach out to local media or newspapers and ask them if they’re doing anything to promote or raise awareness for Pain Awareness Month and if not pitch them ideas.
- Donate to the ACPA, donations can help for year round awareness of chronic pain and the search for effective pain management.
How to Manage Chronic Pain
With chronic pain you may feel fine one day and be bedridden the next day.The unpredictability is one of the things that makes managing chronic pain so difficult. When diagnosed with chronic pain you may feel a little lost when looking for pain management. To help you navigate through the good days and the bad days, you can learn more about some simple lifestyle changes and tips that may include:
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of therapy that can assist you with the acceptance of your condition, helping you to focus on what you can still do.
- Use calming techniques. The body’s innate reaction to feelings of pain typically causes the “fight” (i.e., “fight or flight”) reaction and can cause damaging stress on the body. Learning a relaxing technique can calm your body down. Some techniques may include: mindfulness, guided imagery, diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation yoga or tai chi.
- Save Your Energy. Even when you’re having a good day, physicians suggest to not overdo it. When you’re feeling good, it can be tempting to engage in activities like you had in the past but doctors warn that this can result in increased pain in the following days.
- Set Realistic Goals. Setting small, attainable goals will help with your pain management because you can work your way back to doing some of the things you used to do. By accomplishing small goals, it will keep you motivated to keep moving toward the bigger goals.
- Keep Moving. Some days you may not be able to get out bed, but physicians suggest to still engage in physical activity. Even gentle exercise can keep stiff joints lubricated and muscles strong. It also benefits your mental health and may prevent you from gaining weight which could increase your pain. Chair yoga is often a gentle exercise that is suggested for chronic pain sufferers.
- Distract Yourself. This technique can be used to take your mind off your chronic pain, it won’t reduce your pain but may help you forget it for a while. Physicians suggest playing video games, knitting, coloring or painting, crossword puzzles and even texting can distract chronic pain sufferers and give them a break from the pain.
- Change Your Diet. Eating foods that cause inflammation can cause you to experience more pain, so it’s important to know what foods cause inflammation so you can avoid them. Physicians suggest choosing to eat foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and tuna, fruits and vegetables like carrots, squash, tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, peaches and dark leafy greens.
- Keep a Journal. By keeping a journal, you’ll be able to track your progress. Physicians suggest keeping a journal to keep a record of your goals and gratitude lists along with the good and bad days.
Risks of Prescription Opioids
When seeking techniques and treatment for chronic pain, doctors may prescribe prescription opioids like hydrocodone and oxycontin. Opioids are addictive substances and some people who have prescriptions become dependent on them and may develop a substance use disorder. Opioid addiction has been recently referred to as an epidemic by government officials and new laws and guidelines are being passed to reduce the availability of these addictive substances.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 50 percent of opioid-related overdose deaths in America are a result of a prescription opioid. Chronic pain sufferers often develop dependencies or substance use disorders, in fact, about 25 percent of people who are prescribed prescription opioids develop an opioid addiction. The CDC has released some new guidelines to help reduce opioid medication misuse. In addition to lifestyle changes and techniques to manage pain, there are other forms of treatment for chronic pain as well that doesn’t involve prescription opioids.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an opioid use disorder, recovery is possible. At The Recovery Village, we offer a full-continuum of care by an experienced and professional staff. Call and speak to a representative to learn more about treatment options.