Living with chronic pain is difficult. As I’ve written before, almost half of people in the UK live with chronic pain. This affects every area of their life, from work to relationships to sleep and the rest of their health. As you might imagine, when you’re distracted by dealing with chronic pain, you don’t have much time or energy left to deal with other things.
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Reframe the pain to sensations
Words have power. A person’s choice of language can affect not only how another person feels but how they perceive events around them. If you keep telling yourself that you’re in excruciating pain, guess what’s likely to happen? If you can reframe the sensations you’re experiencing and start to get curious about them you might find that there’s a range of different things happening in your body. Sometimes you might feel hot and heavy, other times throbbing or dull. It might get stronger and more insistent at times, but there’s also the possibility of noticing that it’s eased or changed.
Be nice to yourself
When living with chronic pain (or indeed chronic illness of any kind) it’s easy to fall into an oppositional relationship between the pain, and your body. What’s your self-talk like? If you’re like most of the clients I see who have chronic pain, you probably say some pretty shitty things to yourself. Often people start to think of their body as having betrayed them or that it’s let them down. Perhaps they’re frustrated that they aren’t able to do things that they’ve enjoyed in the past or can’t keep up with friends or family.
This negative self-talk sets up a cycle of distrust and disconnection with the body. If that relationship can become less adversarial, there are so many things that our bodies can tell us.
Make a point of finding pleasure
Don’t let yourself be defined by your body or your experience. Actively seek out things that you enjoy that you can do; fill your life with pleasure and enjoyment. Oftentimes when people start to experience chronic pain or illness they stop doing things that make them happy. Finding ways to boost your mood and reduce stress can reduce your experience of pain significantly.
If it feels as though there’s nothing left that you can enjoy, you might have developed depression. Depression is not an uncommon side-effect of living with chronic pain, but it is treatable, and resolving it can mean that you have a completely different experience of life, regardless of what’s happening physically.
True ‘pain management’ requires a different approach. It’s not enough to simply take pain medication and hope that life can continue as it did before. There are many different things that you can do for yourself to improve your comfort levels, including working on getting quality sleep, reducing and managing stress levels, and connecting with family and community.
Most of all, it involves changing the relationship you have with yourself, with your body, and with those parts of you that are causing you pain. I know this because I’ve lived through it myself. If you’d like to know more please get in touch.