Coping With Chronic Pain

Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Many people experience chronic pain. This type of pain can take both a physical and mental toll. In this lesson, we'll explore techniques for coping with chronic pain that will help keep you mentally healthy during such a difficult time.

What is Chronic Pain?

Though it hurts, pain is actually a good thing. It's your body's way of telling you that something is wrong. Sometimes, pain comes on suddenly, like when you cut your finger or stub your toe. Other times, pain develops slowly over time. Generally, though, pain should subside as your body heals itself.

Chronic pain affects not just the body but also the mind.
chronic pain

However, many people suffer from long-term or chronic pain. Their pain can be caused by different things. They may have an accident that leaves long-term injuries and pain or they may develop a disease, such as fibromyalgia (a disorder that causes widespread pain and fatigue) or rheumatoid arthritis (a chronic inflammatory disorder), that triggers ongoing pain.

Chronic pain causes long-term bodily pain. It can also cause long-term psychological issues such as depression and stress. Therefore, management of chronic pain involves not only physical care but mental care as well. Since it affects both your body and mind, we're going to take a look at some ways to cope with chronic pain in a holistic sense.

Coping Skills

Chronic pain can be very stressful because it affects your daily life by limiting your activities. It can also be difficult to describe to someone what the pain feels like and can be mentally draining to be in pain all of the time.

Stress & Positive Thoughts

Good stress management is, therefore key to coping with chronic pain. Being in pain is very stressful, especially if the pain is persistent over a long period of time. This can include taking time for yourself, eating well, getting enough sleep, and engaging in physical activity (even if you are limited by pain).

Positive thinking and self-talk are very important coping mechanisms for chronic pain. It's been shown that both can significantly impact mental and physical well-being. Positive thinking involves focusing on the progress you are making and what you can do (instead of what you can't do). Self-talk includes reminding yourself that you are working hard to better yourself, both physically and mentally.

Connecting With Activities & People

Even though chronic pain may limit your physical activities, it's still important to be active and do things that you like to do. Being engaged in hobbies and activities that you enjoy keeps your mind and body active; it also serves to distract you from the pain you are experiencing. Additionally, hobbies help connect you with people in your community who share similar interests and can be a positive influence on your life.

Talking to others about your pain in a support group can help you feel that you are not alone.
support group

Finding support from others who suffer from chronic pain is also important. This often comes in the form of a support group. Chronic pain is different for everyone so it can be difficult to explain how you are feeling to those who aren't suffering from it as well. In a support group, you will be surrounded by others who are going through similar struggles. This can help you feel that you are not alone as well as provide thoughts and support for taking care of yourself mentally.

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