Pain Control Tips

Pain Control Tips

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Pain that won't go away is still a medical mystery, but for a person who is struggling with pain, there is no mystery about it. You feel the pain loud and clear; it hurts and doesn't ever seem to stop hurting.

Pain is not just a medical condition. There is no denying the fact that the experience of pain is complex and multifaceted. For many, no matter how many pain pills, cortisone shots, cold and heat treatments, massages or surgical procedures are performed, pain becomes worse instead of getting better.

Everything in your universe can worsen pain. For example, how your employer, family, friends, doctor, health insurance, disability insurance or social security treats you can affect your pain.

How the significant people in your life respond to your pain can influence how you handle it. I don't mean they should pamper you and make you totally dependent because you are hurting. However, if you feel they have abandoned you or stopped caring about you because you are no longer useful and able, that feeling can become a constant source of pain. Note: it's possible that your perception of their behavior toward you may be inaccurate.

We are all different. Pain management in parts depends on our "psychological hardiness" and other personality traits. Some people, as soon as they hear the "P" word or, sense pain coming on, cringe and dash for a pain pill. There are others who would resist taking a pill unless the pain causes their muscles to jump or they break into a sweat fighting it.

Psychological hardiness, in the context of pain management, may be defined as, "emotional poise to deal with negative feelings associated with pain, and determination to move, stretch and do exercises as prescribed even in the face of pain."

Many patients, after an injury, become fearful of movement of any type. They must overcome the irrational fear of injury but also not over exert themselves.

Psychological hardiness does not mean foolhardiness. One must not be foolishly bold, rash or venturesome in performing activities or exercises. For example, walking, standing or exercising more than advised by your physician or doing too much too soon without proper breaks or pacing is a sign of foolhardiness.

The day you feel you hurt so bad you can't move at all is the day you most need it. Move some that day, within reason of course. That is psychological hardiness.

The person overwhelmed with such negative feelings as anger, guilt, self-pity or false sense of betrayal by everyone is low on psychological hardiness. Such a person distracts himself or herself from focusing on rehabilitation. A person high on psychological hardiness does not focus on such negative feelings and quickly recovers from insensitive treatment meted out by others.

The P word can also stand for "purpose." Find purpose in your pain. Don't be upset by the notion of finding a purpose in your pain. Think about it. By regarding pain as your enemy, you can't gain any advantage over pain. Such a negative relationship with pain may keep you frustrated and angry about the fact that you are hurting. Such a negative emotion is likely to increase stress and pain.

However, regarding pain as your friend at this point, you can start coming to terms with it and may even discover a purpose of the pain that you never thought about. Finding a purpose for the pain can lead you to set appropriate goals to fulfill that purpose, and taking your mind off the pain by working on those goals may increase personal satisfaction and boost self-esteem.

If you are someone whose life has been totally changed by pain, what are the circumstances in this new life that you can utilize to your advantage. For example, seek answer to the question, why the pain is there in your life. Pain can be a good teacher. Is the pain here in your life so you can help others who are also in pain? Or, you may be someone who can take up to painting that you never could find time for in your past busy life? Or, maybe pain can help you discover the strength of your faith.

Such a plan of action is more than making lemonade out of unwanted lemons. It requires you to turn a vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle.

Chronic pain can lead to problems with self-image and self-esteem due to reduced productivity and sexual dysfunction. Emotional stress from lowered self-esteem can lead to strained relationships, social withdrawal, depression or insomnia. Being proud of something may just be the thing you need to help insulate yourself from surges of low self-esteem.

"P" can also stand for "positive." People with positive and relaxed personalities respond to treatment better than those who are characteristically negative, tense and unhappy.

Engage in such practices as relaxation, meditation, and prayers that can bring physical and mental relaxation and peace, notwithstanding the experience of pain.

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 2003, Mind Publications 
Posted October 2003


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