Health help!

How to cope with chronic pain

Woman’s Day (NZ) - - Contents - Health Ed­i­tor Penny Lewis

Chronic pain is a con­di­tion that can af­fect any­one. It doesn’t dis­crim­i­nate and it can dis­rupt any part of your body.

“It could be caused by an in­jury that hasn’t com­pletely healed,” says chronic-pain ex­pert Dr Co­ralie Wales. “It may ac­com­pany a chronic con­di­tion that pro­gres­sively causes dam­age such as arthri­tis or it may be caused by changes in the way our bod­ies re­spond to pain.”

HOW IS CHRONIC PAIN DIF­FER­ENT FROM NOR­MAL PAIN?

“Chronic pain is any pain that lasts longer than would nor­mally be ex­pected,” ex­plains Co­ralie.

Un­for­tu­nately, the prob­lem is of­ten dis­missed due to the lack of med­i­cal ev­i­dence as­so­ci­ated with it.

“Some­times chronic pain can be med­i­cally un­ex­plained, which is in­cred­i­bly frus­trat­ing for any­one ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it,” says phar­ma­cist Jar­rod McMaugh. “This doesn’t mean it doesn’t ex­ist. How­ever, med­i­cal di­ag­nos­tic tech­nol­ogy is not so­phis­ti­cated enough to see the changes in the brain that in­di­cate that pain is present.”

So can you cure the con­di­tion, how do you man­age it and what don’t we know about it that we should? Co­ralie and Jar­rod an­swer fre­quently asked ques­tions so we can bet­ter un­der­stand chronic pain and sup­port those who are suf­fer­ing.

CUR­ING CHRONIC PAIN

By def­i­ni­tion, the af­flic­tion sim­ply isn’t some­thing that can be cured, ac­cord­ing to Co­ralie. “Just like other chronic con­di­tions such as di­a­betes, heart dis­ease or men­tal health, there is no treat­ment or so­lu­tion that will fix the con­di­tion,” she says. “Chronic pain re­quires on­go­ing man­age­ment. While med­i­ca­tion may be a part of this, it should only have a sup­port­ive role to other ther­a­pies. The aim of treat­ment

for chronic pain is to get to the best pos­si­ble re­duc­tion in pain, while un­der­stand­ing that it may not be pos­si­ble to be pain-free.” MAN­AGE­MENT TECH­NIQUES What can peo­ple do to ease their dis­com­fort? First, it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand there’s no one-size-fits-all ap­proach. “What works for some peo­ple may not work for oth­ers,” Jar­rod ex­plains.

Fig­ur­ing out emo­tional and men­tal trig­gers to come up with man­age­ment strate­gies is one way that can dras­ti­cally im­prove your ex­pe­ri­ence with chronic pain.

“There are many other dif­fer­ent treat­ments, most com­monly phys­io­ther­apy, to help stay ac­tive and move as nor­mally as pos­si­ble,” adds Jar­rod.

“Coun­selling is also ben­e­fi­cial as it helps peo­ple un­der­stand how to cope with the changes that pain brings. Most im­por­tant is for peo­ple in pain to learn to do less than they think they can do ev­ery day – a tech­nique called ‘pac­ing’, which leads to over­all im­prove­ments over time.” HOW TO HELP SOME­ONE YOU LOVE If a friend or fam­ily mem­ber has chronic pain, do some re­search.

“Find out as much as you can about the phys­i­ol­ogy that ex­plains chronic pain,” says Jar­rod. “This helps an un­der­stand­ing of symp­toms and ex­pe­ri­ences. Don’t take over all ac­tiv­i­ties for your loved one – have a con­ver­sa­tion about what they feel they can and can’t do. Los­ing in­de­pen­dence is re­ally dif­fi­cult.

“Last of all, laugh and love when­ever pos­si­ble. It’s ac­tu­ally help­ful for chronic pain be­cause it’s anti-in­flam­ma­tory!”

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