For people with pain, confusion and frustration can match the physical aches they experience. The process of daily pain management can be hampered by everything from increased drug regulations and changes in pharmaceutical options to an overall lack of understanding from the public.
One of the biggest issues in chronic pain is the stigma that people with pain experience. Pain is invisible and the activity level of these patients can fluctuate. Coworkers or family members taking on more responsibilities for a person with pain can begin to feel that the person is just lazy. People often attach their value to what they can accomplish in a day, and when pain takes that away, self-esteem can suffer. Advocates can help people with pain recognize their right to do less and not feel guilty.
Chronic pain isn't something to be diagnosed and treated quickly; patients must learn to manage their pain on a day-to-day basis. Finding knowledgeable providers for treating pain can be difficult. People with pain need to seek out professionals who can help with long-term care, which can be difficult in our society of quick fixes. Taking an active role - a must for someone with chronic pain - can be hard to do, since typical ailments don't require as much self-care. Learning to understand their goals can help people with pain live full lives in spite of their pain. Pain management specialists can help people with pain learn to set realistic goals - and then help them get on a path toward reaching them.
Another area where people with pain face an uphill struggle is with drug therapies. Pain medications have hit the headlines in recent years. One issue is drug safety. Every medication is a chemical, it has an effect on your body, and it may create side effects.
Overprescribing and mis-prescribing have also come into the spotlight, bringing focus not only to those abusing the drugs, but also to the health care providers and pharmacists supplying them. The 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health highlights teen abuse of prescription medications, showing abuse of painkillers to be up slightly.
Since there is no quick fix for chronic pain, providers need to advocate for people with pain as well as learn positive self-care strategies to maintain self-esteem and an active life. Although people with pain can suffer social stigma, and negative attention surrounds many of the drug therapies, there is a wealth of positive information to share. Managing pain goes far beyond the prescription pad. People with pain can take an active role in managing their condition:
- Goals. Set realistic goals to remain focused.
- Stress management. Stress is going to increase pain levels.
- Emotions. Recognize that emotions have a direct physical effect.
- Exercise. Find and follow through on a daily exercise program.
- Assertiveness. Take responsibility for actions.
- Personal needs. People with pain must recognize their own needs.
- Pacing. Recognize personal limits, and don't try to play "catch up" on the good days.
For people isolated by pain, learning that they can live a full life again is the most important idea to share. By implementing coping skills and taking an active role in their recovery, people with pain can regain control over their lives. For more information on non-narcotic pain treatment, contact The Franklin Pain and Wellness Center.