The Reign of Pain
Coping with chronic or acute pain
Pain, no one wants to deal with it, but we all experience it at some point. The main objective is to learn how to manage your pain so you can continue having a full life.
People suffer from pain in different ways. Some have chronic illnesses where pain is at the forefront, and others may only experience pain when there is a drop in barometric pressure as the weather changes. The key is knowing which type of pain you are experiencing and then deciding the best course of action from there.
The two main types of pain are classified as chronic and acute. Though, on their website, Ochsner describes four main types of pain one can experience – chronic, acute, breakthrough, and pathologic. But there are many others.
Chronic pain is different than just a cut finger or pulled muscle. According to Merriam-Webster, the very definition of chronic is “continuing or occurring again and again for a long time.” This means that though the pain may go away at times, it will typically come back daily or sporadically throughout your life. It’s also more resistant to medicine. Examples of chronic pain include autoimmune diseases, fibromyalgia, cancer, nerve damage, and many more.
Acute pain is the other main category of pain. It can involve damage to certain parts of the body like bones, muscles and organs.
Ochsner defines acute pain as “the pain associated with the normal recovery process from surgery.” It’s not something that persists for long periods of time and should be easier to deal with.
In all aspects of pain, the main thought is how to tackle it. Whenever I am asked about pain and my own chronic illness (rheumatoid arthritis), the first thing I tell people is to talk with their doctor. Whether it’s an ENT or a rheumatologist, they know your pain and all of your symptoms, and together you can find those medicines or other forms of treatment to aleviate pain.
Since many forms of pain can be brought on by stress or anxiety, easy tactics can include meditation, yoga or simply stretching a few times a day - all of which can be done at home or your desk at work. Even just being consciously aware of where you tend to hold your stress in your body, for example I hold all of my stress in my neck, you can make a conscious change to loosen those tension areas when stressed.
Luckily, we live in the digital age where apps and videos are just a fingertip away. This is true for these three outlets. Two meditation apps that have been my favorite are Calm and The Mindfulness app. Both of these have their own individual qualities that make them great resources, but my favorite is that they are free.
I have yet to find a yoga app I like, but there are a plethora of videos on YouTube and written tutorials you can find. Yoga incorporates a lot of meditation techniques, like focusing on your breathing, while still working your joints and stretching out your body.
Some of the best stretches I’ve found are from my chiropractor, Dr. Ben of Allied Chiropractic. As a chiropractor, he knew exactly how to alleviate the pain I was experiencing. I would also include acupuncture and massage therapy into this list, because there is little you actually have to do to complete these tasks.
Exercise is also a large component to some types of pain management. Many who experience pain can fall into a rut, where they stop moving and exercising. This happened to me and I had to find my new perfect rhythm. Exercising seems like the last thing you’d want to do if you’re feeling horrible, but it’s something that could really turn everything around once you nail down a routine that works for you.
Medicine and a self-help plan for tackling pain should be guided by a medical professional. I do not allow anything to be done to me, like acupuncture or certain massages, unless my rheumatologist says it is okay. Make sure you trust your doctor and know your body. If those two things sync up you’re on the path to less pain and a happier lifestyle.