Coping with Chronic Pain

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by JLH, Jan 19, 2010.

  1. JLH

    JLH New Member

    Coping with Chronic Pain

    Dealing with chronic pain is an on-going challenge.

    One way to deal with your pain is to get a handle on how bad your pain is on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. You may be asked "How have you been doing lately" and reply "my pain is out of control". That answer may be true for that particular day, but is it true for the past week or month? Keep track of your pain in a calendar or a journal. It can be as simple as a smiley face for a good day placed on your calendar or can be a page written in your journal outlining the various aspects of your condition and new symptoms that occurred.

    Knowing your pain triggers is another means of dealing with your pain.

    Using the journal mentioned above is a good way to identify what causes your pain. Once you know your pain triggers, avoid them. That may seem just too simple. But it is truly the answer. However, life isn't that simple. But you can make choices deciding which activities are important enough to warrant the pain you will have afterward. Following this approach may mean saying “no” more often than you are used to. Welcome to the world of chronic pain. Saying no to family, friends, and work, seems to be a constant with most who deal with pain on a daily basis.

    Regaining Control

    Often times people who live with daily pain also have at least one chronic illness they are dealing with and many have multiple diseases/conditions that cause pain. Having a chronic illness may sometimes make us feel less independent and have less say about aspects of our daily lives. But, we do have a say about our health care!

    Taking back control of your life from pain or a chronic illness, as well as taking charge of your health care itself, requires you to be an active participant in your health care. Taking on a 'partnership' role with your health care providers will give you a greater sense of control and can help you become a decision maker in the types of treatments for your condition. All too often, those of us who are ill take a passive role in our health care and feel as if we have no choices. We do have choices... and we do have rights. Here are some suggestions to help you get to the point where you feel empowered in your health management.

    Document Your Pain.

    Use a Personalized Pain Scale (see note) to communicate your pain with your physician. But it is also important to keep a journal/log of specific symptoms that occur between appointments. (Note: you can find examples of pain scales on the internet to use.)

    Write down any questions for your Doctor.

    Jot down your questions as they occur to you. Since short-term memory problems are common with chronic pain and some chronic illnesses, this is a very important aspect of taking charge of your health care. If you have a long list, you may want to put the most important questions/comments at the top in case your healthcare provider only has time to address the top three questions, for example. (You will then have to “carry over” the remaining questions until your next scheduled visit.)

    Take someone into the doctor's office with you.

    This person can be your note taker while you are getting your questions answered and also provide objective opinions about how the appointment went.

    Get Copies of Test Results.

    Ask your doctors for copies of all test results and for all correspondence between doctors. This is key to knowing how you are doing and to understanding what your doctor's interpretation of your tests and symptoms are.

    Be a Knowledgeable Consumer.

    Learn as much information as you can about your condition from your health care providers, support groups, and health associations. Be willing to share with your physician any new treatments, research, or health notices that you may have read concerning your condition.

    Follow your doctor’s advice.

    It is very important to follow your doctor’s advice, medications, exercise, rest, etc. Do not self medicate. Your doctor will be much more willing to discuss additional refills if s/he knows that you are a responsible patient. If you are having difficulties with any aspects of the treatment plan your doctor has set out for you, call her/him and let them know what the issues are. It's best to let them know as soon as possible if there are problems with medications or even with an exercise regimen.

    Be assertive.

    If you believe that you are not getting the health care you should, let your health care provider know. If the problem is with a specialist, discuss it first with your primary care physician and ask to be referred to another specialist. If the problem is with your primary care physician, discuss your concerns openly. Give your doctor a chance to explain his/her treatment plan. If you are still not satisfied, then begin a search for another physician that better suits your needs and personality. Physicians are our paid advisors to guide us through a path to better health, if you are dissatisfied, you have a right to seek care elsewhere.

    Know you medications.

    Ask your pharmacist for information about your medications. Keep a list of all medications, including over-the-counter medications, and their dosages. Take this list to your appointments for your doctor’s records. Also, it's a good idea to give a current copy of your medications and dosages to the person who is your emergency contact. Be sure to keep this list updated.

    Be as active as you can be.

    We all need to feel like we contribute. Doing even minor tasks can take a lot out of us. Plan your activities so that you can take short rests as you need them. NOTE: If your physician has limited your activities, you should always check with him/her before starting any new physical activity.

    Keep a journal.

    This can be an especially useful tool in writing down your questions for your doctor. Also, it can assist you in documenting dates if you are applying for SSI or SSDI and show what you can and can't do on a daily basis. Journals can also be a stress reliever. By writing down the problems and our feelings about them, we can help to release tension and stress. Lastly, it can also help us to see how many good days we are having. Sometimes when we are really down, we think that all we've had are bad days. Be sure to log those good days too.

    Join a Support Group.

    Become involved in a group such as an online support group or a local Pain/Condition Support Group. You can contact your local hospital for information about their support groups.

    Enjoy as much of life as your condition will allow.

    Make a list of things you can do. Then find a way to do one thing on your list every day. Find new hobbies that you can do to take your mind off your pain/illness. Games can be an excellent distraction, require very little physical activity and will keep you from feeling isolated from friends and family. Online chat rooms can also be a wonderful distraction.

    Source: Chronic Pain Support (2003)