More Tips for Controlling of Chronic Pain

 Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D.

I received a lot of positive feedback on my article on chronic pain, published on the 30th of August. 

Some of you told me that you mailed a copy of the article to your friends and relatives. So, bowing to the popular request, here is a follow up with some more tips. 

We all know of two things to do when we have pain. First, to take medication and second, to rest. When you have acute pain, these two things normally work effectively. 

But in the case of chronic pain, we are still stuck with the pain. "No matter, what I do, it doesn't go away, (or) it becomes worse. " We begin to feel we have lost control over our life.  Hopelessness and despair are our worst enemies. If I were to advise you just one thing about pain, it would be what Churchill once said to the gathering of his old high school, "Never give up! Never! Never! Never! " 

This is a great message. Write it down on small index cards and keep it in your pocket book, car, bedroom, and all other areas where you usually spend your time. Look at this card every time when you feel discouraged and hopeless. Picture in your mind the facial expression of courage and the tone of voice that Churchill must have displayed when he uttered these words. Picture yourself delivering the same message (maybe to group of chronic pain people) with appropriate emotion and bodily expression.  

The feeling of loss of control and despair comes from having run out of options. Keep a number of options up your sleeve to choose from when you are trying to control your pain. As long as you can take something out from your arsenal to defend against pain, you are winning. 

1. See in your mind's eye an imaginary "pain meter" to measure how severe your pain is before and after you try a pain control method. Imagine that a pain meter looks like the parking meters you see downtown. Imagine that on its dial, it has numbers from 0 to 100 in the units of tens, like 0, 10, 20, 30, and so on, up to 100. In this scale, 0 means "No pain" and 100 means "Extreme pain" 

How much your pain is at a given time can be shown by the needle moving across the dial, between the 0 to 100 numbers. Color the dial of the pain meter so you can read it easily. The dial from 70 to 100 may be in red color, 40 to 70 in orange, and 0 to 40 in yellow. The shades of color can be visualized according to the value of the numbers. Now, you are ready to use the meter. Sit back, close your eyes, and look at the needle in your imaginary pain meter. 

Take a few, easy relaxing breaths and see if the needle is moving towards the lighter shade. In most cases, the needle will slide across the lower numbers. Let it slide until it settles down--it won't move down any further. Take a second reading at this point. Many people when they get a hang of it and practice patiently, are able to slide the needle 10 to 20 points. Accordingly, they feel instant relief, at least partially. 

2. Find appropriate words and analogies to describe your pain. For example, is it a throbbing pain like the pus-formed wound or does it burn like you have touched a burning cigarette, or does it feel like someone is cutting it with a sharp knife? You may have other words and analogies that would describe your pain more appropriately. 

We are frustrated when someone asks us what our pain is like and we don't know how to describe our pain. We feel a sense of control when we can describe the pain accurately just as it hurts. Then it becomes a tool that we can use to change our pain, as described in the next point. 

3. Take a set of crayons and papers. Draw the shape and color of your pain. Let us suppose I have a burning pain in my thigh. I would draw a small burning log and color it to represent the flames coming out of the log. Then I would sit down and imagine that the flames have started to die out. I would see that the color of flames has begun to fade. The log has started to become smaller and smaller. I would see white ash collecting over the log to muffle the heat that was coming out of it earlier. 

The heat changes to just the warm feeling. If my sensations are changing with my imagination, I might then go on to imagine, a big block of ice on the top of the extinguished lot. It is possible that I may feel the cold of the ice and even the numbing that ice can produce. 

You may devise your own creative imagination that best suits your pain and your imagination. As I said earlier, it doesn't matter what you try. As long as you have some things up your sleeve that you can do to engage your mind, you will come out as a winner. Please follow your doctor's prescription along with these techniques.

This is an educational article for general information and not professional advice. Consult a professional for your specific case

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


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