5 Truths about Chronic Pain

5 Truths about Chronic Pain

By Lana Barhum Published at April 2, 2015 Views 1,853 Comments 1

People who live with persistent pain can be suffering from a specific condition, whether it is arthritis, fibromyalgia, MS, or something else. But when you are living with pain that has lasted several months, you are actually suffering from another condition too — chronic pain.

Despite decades of study, chronic pain still seems to be misunderstood and hard to manage. As a result, there is much misinformation about chronic pain and stereotypes about the people that live with this condition.
Here are five truths to dispel the myths about chronic pain.

Pain Is Real

For so many that live with illness and chronic pain, the pain they feel is often questioned. Doubt and misunderstanding come from loved ones, acquaintances and even members of the medical community. The reality is that pain is experienced differently by each individual.

There is no standardized way to interpret or measure the pain that each individual feels. In fact, each person feels and expresses pain based on how their brains respond to it — physically, emotionally and psychologically.

Sometimes chronic pain has no specific cause, but that doesn’t mean it is any less genuine. Moreover, pain associated with conditions like fibromyalgia and arthritis are viewed as exaggerated, and in some cases, not real. This misunderstanding does disservice to people whose pain is being discounted.

Emotions Are a Big Part of Pain

Affected emotions are a major consequence of chronic pain, as pain does not just affect people physically. People with chronic pain often have experienced many losses, from their jobs to their finances to their confidence and self-esteem.

Dealing with losses becomes a negative and frustrating experience. Pain takes over, disrupts sleeps, creates anger and even takes a toll on memory and concentration. All these things combined complicate the ability to cope, and physical pain levels become increasingly worse. It becomes a vicious cycle if patients do not receive the necessary support and treatment to manage pain and to cope effectively.

The Majority Do Not Abuse Pain Medications

No one living with pain wants to get addicted to prescription pain medication. Of the majority of people taking opioids for pain, only five percent become addicted, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The overwhelming majority of people are able to stop taking pain pills with no lasting harm. Some people have a genetic predisposition to addiction, but that doesn’t mean they and others can’t successfully take prescription pain pills to treat pain issues without experiencing addiction.

It’s Pain Management, Not Pain Treatment

Any doctor can prescribe pain medication to temporally relieve pain, but that is not the only way one should manage pain in the long term. What’s worse is that our society generally believes that some magic pill can just make pain go away, and that is not necessarily true.

People living with chronic pain need to be active and productive. The idea that doctors can just eliminate pain is simply unrealistic. Instead, improvement of function while managing the existing pain should be a bigger goal.

Pain should be managed and not just treated. Sometimes, this is a difficult but necessary experience for pain sufferers.

Expectations Play a Role in Pain Management

For many people, the answer to living successfully with pain lies in the mind. Our expectations — via our emotions — are messages to the sensory centers of our brain. Often, what we feel emotionally determines how we feel physically. There are numerous studies suggesting that believing in a treatment brings positive results via a placebo effect.

According to researchers at the Harvard-wide Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter, the body’s natural chemical ability responds as the patient expects it to. How significant the effect will be depends on the health condition, the strength of belief, how biased the patient’s response is and other factors, such as support and effective coping. Consequently, it is possible to utilize the mind to help reduce pain, create better moods and advance function.

Learn to Dispel the Myths

Chronic illness and pain affect relationships, finances and life decisions. Moreover, they significantly change the way people live their lives. Activities that once were routine may become difficult to do. Hobbies that once brought joy and stress relief may no longer be enjoyable. A career that once provided joy and a sense of success may become overwhelming. Chronic pain brings with it a new set of limitations that invade and impact every part of our lives.

There is no magic answer to help patients deal with the toll that illness and pain bring, especially when these are a daily reality. Pain can be a downward spiral if patients aren’t coping effectively and receiving adequate support.
Many of the millions that suffer from chronic pain don’t share their experiences out of guilt, embarrassment, pride or fear. For that reason, changing our misconceptions and dismissing the myths about chronic pain can help others to successfully manage pain and receive help and much needed support.

To learn more about chronic pain:

Hypnosis, Relaxation and Meditation for Chronic Pain Management
Confront Chronic Pain Challenges: Craft a Positive Vision for Your Future
How to Get Quality Sleep Despite Chronic Pain

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