Pain Management for the Patient; 6 Crucial Points

Pain management; what is it? How do you manage pain? Is pain something that manages you?

When we think of pain, we usually think of it as a  passing phenomenon, associated with injury, or a temporary pain such as a headache, toothache, or muscle ache. But, what about pain that doesn’t go away? What about pain that is chronic, or even that gets worse? What does “managing pain” mean when it is no longer something temporary, an occasional annoyance? What about the pain described by Emily Dickinson, who wrote:

Pain has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there was
A time when it was not.

It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.

It is this kind of pain, “chronic pain,” that has as its unwelcome guest the disruption of the lives of those who suffer from it. The pain which has, as Dickinson writes, “…an element of blank; It cannot recollect.”

When most people are asked how much pain is acceptable, on a 1-10 scale, they’ll answer “0” or “less than 3.” But that answer changes as one becomes more accustomed to the intrusion of pain in one’s daily life. Most sufferers of chronic pain have learned to decrease their expectation that pain will ever be absent from their lives. Rather, they wish only that it won’t diminish the quality of their life.

What can you do if you suffer from chronic pain? There are plenty of approaches, but in terms of the most crucial points, there are six which you can use to make sure that your pain doesn’t manage you.

  1. Know yourself. What makes your pain worse and what makes it better? What kinds of activities provide relief, either in the form of distraction, or in how they make your body feel. The more aware you are of what it is that helps or hinders you in relation to your pain, the better off you are. While this may sound pretty basic, it’s amazing to see how many people there are who knowingly do things which increase their pain, when there are alternatives to the things that they’re doing.
  2. Choose the right pain specialist. We all have our favorite health-care providers. Perhaps we’ve known them for a while, or we’re comfortable with their bedside manner. When it comes to pain management, we should  choose a practitioner the way we’d choose a brain-surgeon! Choose someone who is an expert in their field, who is willing to work with you, and someone who is knowledgeable enough to provide innovative and even unique solutions to your pain based on their years of experience and their broad knowledge of pain management.
  3. Know your medications. It’s amazing to me how many people I meet who are on numerous medications for their pain, yet know very little about how their medications work or even why they’re on certain medications. Whenever you’re prescribed a new medication for pain (or for anything for that matter) make sure that you ask whoever is prescribing the medication about what it is that they’re giving you and what you should expect. And don’t stop there. Ask your pharmacist, search online, read the package insert. Know as much as you can about your medications, especially when it comes to pain management.
  4. Be flexible. I’ve suffered for years from chronic pain due to a bicycle accident. Over the course of time, I’ve tried many methods and remedies, ranging from purely “alternative” methods to mainstream pharmaceutical intervention. What I’ve learned is that there is no one way, nor right way to manage my pain. Depending upon my life’s circumstances, I’ve had to change my views on what is and what is not acceptable in order to live a full and active life. Flexibility means being willing to try something that you wouldn’t have considered previously.
  5. Have a sense of humor. Bringing a sense of humor, even a sense of the absurd to our problems, whatever they may be, helps us to change our perspective and our view of things. Getting too claustrophobic in our view of what is happening dampens our sense of perspective and  sense of humor. If you find that you’re no longer able to laugh, either at yourself or at a good comedy, then you need to lighten up. Seriously, or – perhaps – humorously; when we stop taking our predicament too seriously, and learn to grin even at the painful needle-pricks of life, we find that our perspective changes, and with that, maybe, just maybe, our perceptions about our pain can change too.
  6. Accept your pain. For me, the greatest relief came when I realized that I couldn’t fight the pain anymore and that I had to accept it as a guest, however unwelcome that guest might have been, in my life. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t happily send it on its way if I could. Nor does it mean that I “like” having pain disrupt my sleep, or my daily activities. What it means is that I accept it as it is, just another facet of my life that adds a new perspective to how much I enjoy the rest of my life, and how much I can do in spite of it. This isn’t “giving in” to pain, it’s more like acknowledging it and getting on with life. Through my journey in pain, I’ve found that the more that I fight it and the more that I resent it, the greater its hold on me.

These points are crucial only in that they’re here for you to consider. And in considering them, think of your own crucial points. What methods can you think of to work with your pain that you haven’t considered? Are there ways that you can modify these suggestions to fit them into your personal toolbox of tricks? These points are starting points, the rest is yours to explore.