If you have chronic pain it is important to develop a pain management plan that works for you. Some recommended elements include:
1. Understand your pain problem. Try to separate hurt from harm. The pain you experience is real, but the cause may be a heightened sensitivity of the nervous system and not increasing damage to some part of your body (even though it feels that way).
2. Maintain a cooperative but not dependent relationship with your doctors. Doctors have a difficult time treating chronic pain and may feel frustrated as well. Be honest and assertive with your doctors, but also let them know you understand they cannot perform miracles and that chronic pain management is a team effort.
3. Use medications wisely, as directed by your physician.
4. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your emotional response to pain, be it fear, anger, or depression. Seek out psychological help if needed. Remember that the best chronic pain treatment should include both mental and physical elements.
5. Use active and positive coping strategies as much as possible. Passive strategies lead to increasing helplessness and dependence.
6. Seek support when needed but stay in control. Family, friends, and health care professionals are all important resources for you, but often they are not sure how best to help. Let all the important people in your life know that you appreciate their support and that you will ask them directly when you need their help or just someone to talk to.
7. Remember that new knowledge and treatments are coming so stay in touch. Pain is a rapidly expanding area of research. New technologies in functional brain imaging and molecular biology are generating, for the first time, detailed portraits of our brains in action and the biochemistry of pain transmission. There is no doubt that improved pain treatments will not be far behind.
8. If your pain problem continues to be unmanageable, you can contact a pain specialty clinic. Be aware that many practitioners (medical and chiropractic) may call their own practice a “pain clinic.” However, a true pain management clinic provides comprehensive care by including multiple medical specialties such as anesthesiology, neurology, psychology and rehabilitation. Many of the best pain programs are located in university medical centers. Your primary care doctor should be able to refer you to a good one.
Adapted from, “An 8-Step Approach to Chronic Pain Management” – IFFGD Publication #140 by Bruce D. Naliboff, PhD, Clinical Professor of Medical Psychology in the Dept. of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA; Co-director, UCLA Center for Integrative Medicine; and Chief of the Psychophysiology Research Laboratory, West Los Angeles VA GLA Health Care, Los Angeles, CA