What type of Pain are you dealing with?
- Acute Pain – Usually of sudden onset or trauma and is caused by disease, inflammation or injury to tissues. It is often limited in time and area on the body, occasionally it can become Chronic.
- Chronic pain – The simplest description of Chronic Pain is Pain that lasts longer than a 3 month period or longer than the ‘expected period of healing’. This type of pain can be more complex as it is deeper or less localised and can be linked to the central nervous system.
What’s a ‘normal’ emotional reaction?
It is perfectly normal to experience Anxiety, Irritability and Agitation when we are hurting – these will usually subside as the pain subsides. It’s worth noting that if your pain was born out of an accident or trauma your mind will need time to heal as well as your body and sometimes an increase in Anxiety can be prolonged.
If your pain persists and becomes Chronic it is possible you may experience Severe Anxiety, Fatigue, Confused Thinking, Inability to Make Decisions, Sleep Disturbance to name but a few. These symptoms are known to be related to depression hence the relationship between Chronic Pain and Depression in its basic form. Scientific evidence suggests that Depression and Chronic Pain share some of the same neurotransmitters – the chemical messengers traveling between nerves.
No-one likes to feel ‘its all in their heads’ – it really isn’t, it’s a genuine recognised bodily response.
So what can you do about it?
- Talk to your Physician about how you feel you are coping – understand what type of pain you are dealing with and what you can expect in terms of recovery and quality of life.
- Physical Activity – the less you do the less fit you will become increasing the risk of pain and injury. Also exercise releases Serotonin – your own natural antidepressant. Discuss what exercise you can do with your Physician.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – This is not ‘mind over matter’, more a case of making sure you are not a ‘victim’ of your pain and addressing unhelpful thought patterns that in turn make you feel lower. Recent studies by Beverly E. Thorn, professor of psychology at the University of Alabama found that after 10 weeks of CBT 95% of Chronic Pain patients felt their lives were improved and 50% reported feeling less pain. Other studies suggest the more depressed you feel the more you are likely to report higher pain levels.
- Mental and Spiritual Health – try not to sink into your pain or you’ll end up just sitting around. Work towards being a ‘well person with pain’ and take control of it (CBT can help). Keep busy and have a focus. If there is likely to be long term adjustments to your life or career consider getting Counselling to help you work through it. It can be tough when life doesn’t pan out as you thought – but not impossible!
- Medication – be on top of your medication, take it regularly and as prescribed but be aware that some pain killers and anti-inflammatories can increase symptoms of depression and anxiety, always discuss any concerns with your GP.
Managing Pain is a ‘Whole-Life‘ approach!