Chronic pain doesn’t make sense. I mean, pain is meant to be a message or a warning, and then it’s meant to fade away and everything’s meant to go back to normal, right? Chronic pain doesn’t. It hangs around nagging away at everything you do. It doesn’t make any sense.
If you want to get on with life, though, you really need to sort a few things out about your pain otherwise you’re likely to keep worrying about it, getting frustrated and annoyed looking for answers that don’t appear.
To make sense of pain you need to:
- Have a name for your problem. This might be something like “Oh you have fibromyalgia” or “Yes, you have chronic low back pain” – the name might not be much help in terms of managing the problem, but it does give you something you can look up on Dr Google! Be cautious though, chronic pain problems can be called many different things even though the problem is exactly the same. And Dr Google can give you some very frightening information, not always accurate either.
- Learn to accept that hurting doesn’t mean you’re harming yourself. You won’t do any more damage to yourself even though your pain is probably going up and down and every which way. Now this is really hard to do, after all, some health professionals are not keen on letting you know that this pain is just a noisy nervous system. But rest assured, most of the time you need to use your body for the tissues to heal – and you definitely shouldn’t use pain as a guide and wait for all the pain to go away before you get moving.
- Get to understand the pattern of your pain. This means doing things and noting the effect on your pain. You don’t need to be obsessive about this, but it helps to know that some activities and emotions send your pain through the roof. I guess it’s like getting familiar with what’s “normal” pain for you.
- Know the effect fluctuations of pain have on what you can do. While pain isn’t a sign that there’s damage going on, it does get in the way of doing things because it interrupts concentration, memory and thinking straight. You can feel really fatigued even though you’re not doing much. You can forget to do things, or just go blank because your brain is busy trying to make sense of pain – and there’s only so much “brain space” to go around! So get familiar with the effect of pain on things like making decisions while grocery shopping, concentrating while driving, planning your week.
- Begin to work out what this means to you and the things you want to do. One of the hardest parts of having chronic pain is learning that you can’t keep on doing things the same way, and expect a different result. It is important to begin deciding what you value in your life, what brings you the kind of life you want to live. I’ll be writing more about this in future posts, because it’s THIS part that makes living with chronic pain something more than just being stuck in limbo land.