The holidays are a busy time. You have to plan to host or travel. You have to decorate and shop. You have to get ready for winter and extended time with family. It’s difficult to find a moment for yourself.
If you have chronic pain, that personal time is even more important because it helps you find some relief. When your pain won’t go away, it’s best to see a doctor—particularly a board-certified pain specialist—but sometimes you’re too busy to make that appointment. That’s when a self-management program could be useful.
Chronic pain usually starts with a short term injury or illness but then lasts longer than six months. Sometimes it causes complications that can make the pain worse. Chronic pain syndrome is the combination of chronic pain and the secondary complications that are making the original pain worse. Before you know it, you’re caught in a vicious cycle.
Dealing with these issues can affect more than just your physical well-being. There is a large toll on your mental, emotional, and spiritual state as well. Chronic pain becomes all you think about, and it is easy to slip into depression—yet another factor in making pain worse.
Pain self-management relies on the idea that you are in control over how you deal with your pain. You are the foremost expert on your own body and play the biggest role managing your pain. Health professionals and researchers agree that self-care and life skills play vital roles in a person’s pain management.
Some of the best ways to improve your life is to help you live with your pain instead of masking it. When you accept your pain, you change how you experience it and begin the process of reducing it. Therefore your pain management program needs to broaden its focus to deal not only with the pain but also with improving your overall quality of life. Research shows that a healthy, well-balanced life can have a huge impact on the experience of chronic pain.
Even though the Institute of Medicine recognizes the value of chronic pain self-management, the approach is not used widely enough to determine a detailed recommended process. That’s why theInstitute encourages patients to work closely with a physician when attempting to manage their own pain.
Characteristics of most pain self-management programs include
- Understanding the functions of chronic pain
- Setting reasonable long-term and short-term goals
- Stretching and exercise, supplemented by training in appropriate physical activities
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Massage techniques
- Healthy eating
- Improving your sleep quality and practicing proper sleep hygiene
- Management of setbacks (which takes you back to goal setting)
Every self-management program also emphasizes the importance of staying connecting with your friends and family as well as others who share your experiences. That’s why the holidays present a good time to start the program. The loved ones surrounding you can provide support that takes you well into the new year.