Self Help - Managing Chronic Pain

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Colette Stroud

Chronic pain is a very common problem affecting about 1 in 10 people at any time. The most common types of chronic pain are back pain, rheumatoid arthritis and recurrent headaches.

Pain is something that we feel physically and experience emotionally. It has both a physical and a psychological component.

Why do we feel pain?

Acute pain serves a very clear purpose. It signals danger lets us know that we need to take some action to avoid damaging ourselves.

However, chronic health problems can result in chronic pain for which there are no medical cures. Unfortunately, even after an injury has healed, pain can continue when no harm is occurring.

Living with chronic pain

Living with chronic pain can be extremely distressing. Trying to cope day in and day out while everyone else is able to get on with their lives day out can be a really soul destroying experience. Frustration, irritability, tearfulness and depression are all too commonly a result of living with chronic pain.

People often worry about their health getting worse and start dreading what the future may hold for them. It is all to easy to end up feeling hopeless.

The Challenge of Pain

Western medicine has traditionally viewed the mind and body as operating independently.

Chronic pain is a challenge for health professionals as they can become just as frustrated as their patients when they do not have remedies or cures to treat people with. Sometimes we don’t help matters as it is all too easy to go along to the doctors and expect “a pill for every ill”. As a result of this seeking medical help can end in disappointment or, even, damaging and unnecessary treatments.

Appreciating these issues can help you begin to recognise the need to become your own expert. People with chronic pain need to take a very active role in managing their own health care and eliciting active support from health professionals and others.

Seeking Help

The health professionals involved in your care may include, your general practitioner, medical specialists (often an anaesthetist), psychologists, physiotherapists, nurses, counsellors. They may see you at your doctors surgery or the local hospital. There may be a Pain Clinic your doctor can refer you to.

It may be hard for you to believe but there are lots of things that can help people who are experiencing chronic pain.

First steps will include the following;

  • Learning about your condition.
  • Identifying local and national sources of information and support.
  • Helping your doctor and other health professionals understand your problems.
  • Obtaining the support and understanding of local voluntary organisations, family and friends.
  • Psychology of pain.
  • Managing chronic pain does not simply involve a search for the best pain killer, From a broader point of view there are many things that the chronic pain sufferer will have to be able to manage better than most other people. This can involve changes in lifestyle, exercise, diet, stress management, relaxation techniques, and a positive mental attitude.
  • Learning additional coping strategies can allow people to lead more constructive and productive lives and build up confidence.

Chronic Pain Further Reading


The Pain Society

BackCare Clinic