Approximately 80 million Americans suffer chronic pain. The most common issues are headaches and lower back pain. The cost of dealing with chronic pain is an astounding $70 billion a year and countless hours of excruciating suffering.
By definition, chronic pain persists for more than six months. Some people with chronic pain conditions have symptoms for months -- or even years. Chronic pain may be the result of a specific injury (such as an injury to your back or knee) or an ongoing chronic medical problem (like arthritis, cancer, or shingles). Chronic pain may also occur for no apparent cause, baffling patients and doctors alike. It can hurt all the time or occur on and off. The most important issue to keep in mind when it comes to pain management is that is just that; it is not a quick fix but rather a personalized program to manage your pain.
There are several techniques that are used over a period of time to address pain issues. They include pharmacological treatment and lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise and stress management. Experts say it often most effective to deal with chronic pain with these two tiers. It also helps to think about managing your pain as you might if you had a chronic disease like diabetes. Accept it is part of your life which needs to be addressed on a daily basis and with professional treatment.
The first step toward developing a pain management program is to find a knowledgeable physician to assist you with your medication and treatment decisions. This physician will play a starring role in your pain management program. But before you see one, heres what you can do to make your visit as effective as possible:Keep a diary of your pain. This will also help you because the more aware you are of when the pain intensifies the more in control of the pain you will be. Documentation of all your previous diagnostic testsA medication diary including name of drug, dosages, side effects and whether or not the drugs helped you. Include all over-the-counter drugs as well.There are also steps you can take right now that studies have shown are effective in managing chronic pain. These are:Visualization. Learn to visualize a peaceful and calming place. Research proves visualization lowers stress levels and can even lessen pain.Choosing activities that are not stressful and take your mind off the pain. Listen to music, paint or draw, meet up with an old friend, watch a movie that you associate with good feelings.Trying to minimize negative thought patterns. For example, if a normal feeling is, "I don't want to do this project." Try changing that to, "I will feel much better when this project is done." It is not wishful thinking. Countless studies show positive thinking works and can overcome blocks even ones caused by chronic pain.Resting. Listen to your body when it is telling you that it is tired or in pain. Try to get 6-7 hours of sleep a night and be sure not to over or under sleep. Ultimately, contacting a pain management specialist is your best course of treatment. Early detection of pain problems is key for effective treatment. Robin Westen is ThirdAges medical reporter. Check for her daily reports. She is the author of Ten Days to Detox: How to Look and Feel a Decade Younger. (Bantam Dell)See what others have to say about this story or leave a comment of your own.