‘You look so good – how can you be in pain?’.
Chronic pain is not something that can be seen externally , and it is not something that people are visibly able to recognise. The impact however, on someone’s life, can be very distressing and negative. Being in severe pain for any length of time can be an emotionally draining experience, and it can really bring people down.
People often describe the experience of being in chronic pain, as either throbbing, aching, stabbing, or something like sharp or severe. These words do not fully explain the experience that someone is having. Chronic pain can be triggered by nerves, circulation organs, muscles or joints. And when pain is triggered it can be horrific for people. They can feel like there is no hope or way out. Because despite how many painkillers they take, the pain is still there.
Psychologically chronic pain can have a very damaging impact. It can cause people to feel physically exhausted at the same time, so they are more likely to be low in mood and run down. This can lead to depression, or high levels of stress or agitation. People can become more withdrawn and less likely to want to do things, and the things that they normally enjoy, can become something that they want to avoid
Chronic pain can have a negative impact on people’s relationships, and it can effect their sex drive and interest in the opposite sex. They may become disinterested and have a low libido for example. They can also become tenser, and less likely to laugh or take jokes in the right way. In general they can seem on edge. They can also be more tearful and more likely to get very upset over any small thing. In addition to this their mood become generally low, and they may find themselves struggling to cope with work. They may be no longer likely to do the hobbies that they used to do, and may withdraw from things and people. Sleep and eating can also be disrupted. People can end up feeling as though there is no way out.
There are however things that people can do to help them to manage chronic pain. Rest and relaxation are of course an obvious and initial one. Often people can be highly stressed and have so much to do, that they do not find time to sit down and rest . But it is so important that people make time to do exactly that. This can include for example taking a hot relaxing bath, getting an early night, or sitting down to watch a film or read a book.
In addition to this there is treatment that is available for chronic pain. Acupuncture can really help people to manage pain and make a significant difference to the experience that people have. It is very releasing and good for both the body and the mind.
Yoga and meditation can be very good for people and help them to relax and unwind. In addition to this exercise is also really good for chronic pain. Of course the choice of exercise is vital. Swimming for example is something that is calmer on the muscles and body. More gentle exercise is recommended and it is always advisable to get the advice of a professional before choosing the type of exercise for the body parts that are in pain.
Massage is also very useful when people are in chronic pain, and it can soothe and relax muscles that ache and that are tight/ tense. It can also be good for the mind to unwind and relax.
Finally general lifestyle changes can make a very big difference for people. These can include getting the right amount of sleep, looking at posture, ensuring that diet is well balanced, working on communicating feelings and expressing them and changing negative thought patterns. In addition to this it is important that people who are suffering ask for help. It can be these last changes that people can sometimes need counselling for. It can be good to talk to a therapist about how to improve communication, or how to get needs met, or to ask for help. Often the body is expressing something that people are not saying / verbalising. Therapy can help individuals to get in touch with what it is that they need, and to help them to work on how to get these things. It can also help if people are feeling very low in mood and negative about things, and it is of course really good for people living with depression. Overall it can really improve things for people that are living with chronic pain.