Reclaiming your life in spite of chronic pain

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Reclaiming your life in spite of chronic pain

Complete relief from chronic pain isn't always possible — but a full life certainly is.

If you have a condition such as a broken bone, you recognize discomfort as a symptom and trust that treatment will help. After surgery, pain medication provides relief while your body heals. Chronic pain is different.

Sometimes chronic pain follows an illness or an injury that appears to have healed. In other cases, chronic pain develops for no apparent reason. Whatever the cause, the emotional fallout of chronic pain can make you hurt even more. Anxiety or depression can magnify unpleasant sensations, and disrupted sleep may leave you feeling fatigued and helpless.

But chronic pain doesn't have to rule your life. Here's how to take control.

Break harmful patterns

Many other habits and thought patterns can contribute to a constant struggle with pain. To become informed about your condition, for example, you may spend hours monitoring pain-related publications and Internet newsgroups. This may keep you focused on what's wrong — when you could be finding ways to build on all the things that are still right.

Other harmful patterns may include:

  • Avoiding normal activities
  • Sleeping irregularly, such as napping in the evening and staying awake most of the night
  • Eating unhealthy foods
  • Ignoring signs of depression or other mental health conditions
  • Using pain medication to treat other problems, such as stress or frustration
  • Focusing on blame, litigation or other negative thoughts
  • Engaging in unhealthy relationships that prevent rehabilitation
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Using recreational drugs

What next? You guessed it. Set reasonable, attainable goals to fight each harmful pattern. One by one, reaching each goal can give you power over chronic pain.

Take back your life

You don't deserve chronic pain, but it's there. You can let the pain disrupt your career and damage your relationships. Or you can learn new ways to keep the pain in check so that you can enjoy a full life.

Changing established behavior patterns isn't easy. No habit yields to will without a struggle. But your persistence can help you gain control. Look to friends, loved ones and your doctor for support while you put chronic pain in its place.

Last Updated: 06/16/2006
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