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Living with chronic pain

Long-term or chronic, pain - such as pain from a back problem - can affect a person's mental health alongside the physical pain from the condition.

A person with long-term pain may experience depression, anger and anxiety and may be worried about further injury delaying a return to work or normal activities.

This emotional toll can also make pain worse. Anxiety, stress, depression, anger and fatigue interact in complex ways with chronic pain and may decrease the body's production of natural painkillers. Moreover, such negative feelings may increase the level of substances that amplify sensations of pain, causing a vicious cycle of pain.

It is important to seek medical advice about long-term pain and any concerns you have.

Managing chronic pain

The ideal treatment for chronic pain is a comprehensive approach that addresses a person's physical, emotional, and cognitive needs. Successful treatment requires choosing a life-long plan of wellbeing that may include:

  • Medical services
  • Physiotherapy
  • Psychological counselling
  • Occupational therapy.

If you suffer from chronic pain, the first thing to do is to see a doctor and get treated. Other steps that can make living with chronic pain more tolerable include the following:

  • Learn how to relax through deep breathing and other stress-management techniques.
  • Set achievable goals and don't overdo it on good days; learn to pace yourself.
  • Engage in positive self-talk (statements that reaffirm positive qualities).
  • Build rest, exercise and relaxation times into your daily schedule.
  • Join a chronic pain support group.
  • Know your medications, including expected benefits and side effects. When the ‘cons’ exceed the benefit, ask your doctor if something else might work better.
  • Decrease or eliminate alcohol consumption. Pain often disrupts sleep and alcohol can further disrupt the sleep cycle.
  • Give up smoking. Cigarettes can impair healing and have been identified as a risk factor in the development of many diseases including degenerative disc disease, a leading cause of lower back pain.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on July 27, 2016

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