From Patient to Person: Managing Chronic Pain
For those who suffer from chronic pain, it doesn't take long before the pain can overwhelm, leaving isolation and fear in its wake. Decision making is influenced by the pain. The sufferer can experience depression and even hopelessness. Taking back control of one's life and making a return to some sort of normalcy takes time. The journey from patient to person is one accomplished in phases.
Herself a pain survivor, Penney Cowan lived for many years with chronic pain. After taking part in the pain management clinic at the Cleveland Clinic, Cowan wanted to maintain the skills she had learned and share them with others. Finding others whose lives were compromised by ongoing pain, Cowan formed the first chapter of the American Chronic Pain Association in 1980.
In all of their years of collective experience, the American Chronic Pain Association created a 10-step program for moving from patient to person:
1. Accept the Pain
It's important to learn all you can about your physical condition. Understand that there may be no current cure and accept that you will need to de4al with the fact of pain in your life.
2. Get Involved
Take an active role in your own recovery. Follow your doctor's advice and ask what you can do to move from a passive role into one of a partnership in your own health care.
3. Learn to Set Priorities
Look beyond your pain to the things that are important in your life. List the things that you would like to do. Setting priorities can help you find a starting point to lead you back into a more active life.
4. Set Realistic Goals
We all walk before we run. Set goals that are within your power to accomplish or break a larger goal down into manageable steps. And take time to enjoy your success.
5. Know Your Basic Rights
We all have basic rights. Among these are the right to be treated with respect, to say no without guilt, to do less than humanly possible, to make mistakes, and to not need to justify your decisions, with words or pain.
6. Recognize Emotions
Our bodies and minds are one. Emotions directly affect physical well being. By acknowledging and dealing with your feelings, you can reduce stress and decrease the pain you feel.
7. Learn to Relax
Pain increases in times of stress. Relaxation exercises are one way of reclaiming control of your body. Deep breathing, visualization, and other relaxation techniques can help you to better manage the pain you live with.
Most people with chronic pain fear exercise. But unused muscles feel more pain than toned, flexible ones. With your doctor, identify a modest exercise program that you can do safely. As you build strength, your pain can decrease. You'll feel better about yourself too.
9. See the Total Picture
As you learn to set priorities, reach goals, assert your basic rights, deal with your feelings, relax, and regain control of your own body, you will see that pain does not need to be the center of your life. You can choose to focus on your abilities, not your disabilities. You will grow stronger in your belief that you can live a normal life in spite of chronic pain.
10. Reach Out
It is estimated that one person in three suffers with some form of chronic pain. Once you have begun to find ways to manage your chronic pain problem, reach out and share with others what you know. Living with chronic pain is an ongoing learning experience. People support and learn from one another.