FSM Media

by Dianna Ranere

The Pain Of Pain Management

Living with pain is, for many, just as crushing as a life sentence. While it might not have the same dramatic effect as being diagnosed with an incurable disease, pain affects your life in a devastating way. It’s a constant obstacle to your wellbeing, your happiness, your mobility, or even your ability to make new friends and maintain relationships. Pain takes control over your life, and for many, it is a battle of every day to manage it. 

Your mind goes on a journey that is very similar to grieving. You have to say goodbye to life as you knew it and accept that painless existence might be over. Unfortunately, it is a difficult journey, both emotionally and physically. Not everyone is able to understand the journey the human mind and body make through pain. As a result, while there is a lot of specialist support available, very few patients feel they have the help and understanding of their friends and relatives throughout the process. Indeed, because pain is invisible, it can be hard to work with. More importantly, it makes it hard to isolate, control, and finally cope. Managing pain can, indeed, be a real pain! 

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Keeping track of the pills 

Some patients can find an appropriate level through medication, depending on their condition. However, pain medication requires constant monitoring. Indeed, living with chronic pain can create a sense of brain fog which makes you forgetfulness. It’s not uncommon for patients to accidentally take higher doses of their medication because they simply forgot they had already taken the prescribed pills for the day. Therefore, keeping track of your pills and other medicine is absolutely vital. Some people create a motivational reward system that grants them a treat after a week of the correct medication, for instance. Others prefer to trick their brain into remember by keeping a sweet snack in the pill organizer so that they always remember to check! You can also set up an app to remind you throughout the day of your meds – it’s also helpful to order refills before you run out. 

Finding alternative solutions is time-consuming

Strong painkillers are only effective for a short period. When you rely on painkillers for chronic pain treatment, you’re likely to encounter problems that have been brilliantly illustrated by the TV drama, House M.D.: At some point, the painkillers stop working. And ultimately the pain comes back. Ouch. While Gregory House’s story was entirely based on the way pain affected his day-to-day job and relationships, in the real world, nobody wants to endure pain for entertainment. However, finding an alternative solution that can replace painkillers is hard work. Indeed, your body might go through withdrawal symptoms if you’ve been taking high doses, which means that while your mind gets used to functioning without medication, you are going to feel even more pain than you usually do. There are, nevertheless, effective strategies that you can use to alleviate your painkillers’ consumption before it’s too late. 

You have to find what works for you

It can be difficult to figure out by yourself which approach is best suited for your pain. Most people hope for immediate relief and therefore find it tricky to invest time into developing the right path to manage their health condition. However, you can find specialist programs that deal with one condition only, such as the Paddison Program to help relieve rheumatoid arthritis pain. Unfortunately, with hundreds of misdiagnosed and unknown health issues, it can be challenging to find a supportive program for your needs. Rare illnesses, for instance, are too often ignored by pain specialists as a result of lacking information and observational training. As a result, many people who struggle with pain can’t find a handy system that helps them to manage day after day and regain back control over their life. A dedicated program can help you to set healing milestones, which may relate to your physical or emotional healing over time. Left on your own, you have to navigate through the unknown and terrifying world of pain with no compass to find your direction. 

I want a sense of normality

There was a time when life was easy and pain-free. You still remember those glorious days. When you’re in pain, you live in the memory of the time before pain came into your life. For those who have experienced a pain-free life before their diagnosis, the process of grieving the past can exacerbate your pain. How can one handle a nuisance that you were not born with? For many, the memory of what life used to be before the pain can make them feel excluded from normality. You are not just suffering. Your pain makes you a freak of nature. Emotionally, it is a long and challenging journey before you learn to accept the situation and choose to manage it. 

The mind remembers the pain

Your memory works in a strange way. Indeed, while your cognitive system retains facts and data, your nervous system, on the other hand, can remember physical sensations. As a result, the central nervous system has a memory of physical pain. Consequently, people who deal with chronic pain can often experience pain memory, which is when the brain makes you aware that you are hurting because you did in the past. Physically, your body may not have registered the presence of pain. However, if you can’t erase the stored memory, your mind is going to submit you to the same excruciating experience than if you were in physical pain. Researchers are trying to find a path to block the experience directly at a neuronal level, which would eliminate the risk of memories torturing you. Indeed, memories are stored at the level of the neurons, which means that you need to erase them at the core to reduce chronic pain sensations. 

It’s all in your head

Is pain real? While scientists have already found that the memory of pain could be stored at the neuronal level, this specific memory refers to a real situation that happened in the past. However, there is another case where you get to experience pain that isn’t there is when your mind hallucinates the sensation. In other words, the brain transmits the information of pain even though there is no neuronal activity to confirm its presence – either in the present or the past. Doctors can find it challenging to diagnose and treat these pain disorders when there is no physical reason. While the common explanation is that the mind created the pain, in reality, it remains an unsatisfying approach. When doctors can’t identify the trigger for the pain, patients find it impossible to manage their condition. 

Your life is too stressful

There is, nevertheless, documented cases of pain complaints that are not only the result of mental health issues, but that can also be successfully managed by improving your mental health. Stress-related pain, for instance, is common in a hectic workplace where it can lead to neck and back complaints. Taking steps to reduce stress in the workplace can help to alleviate painful sensations over time. More importantly, stress-induced pain doesn’t react adequately to prolonged exposure to painkillers. In the long term, the body becomes more resilient to painkillers. Additionally, painkillers fail to target stress, which means that your back pain is likely to remain. Ideally, doctors recommend a healthy change of lifestyle, which can include considering a new career or a different employer for workplace-related anxiety. 

You are afraid of pain

You’ve probably heard that it’s best to pull a plaster quickly from the wound that to do it slowly. Admittedly, nurses would argue otherwise and suggest using moisture to unglue the plaster in the first place, but it’s not the purpose of the debate here. Pulling the plaster quickly is all about acting before your body can feel the pain. For a lot of people, the fear of pain can be handicapping. Knowing or thinking that something might hurt can cause you as much trouble as being in actual pain. The elderly population, especially, is vulnerable to the fear factor. It’s not uncommon for older adults to go through great lengths of unpleasant lifestyle changes to keep their fear at bay. Some even prefer to starve at home than to walk down the street to their local grocery shop because they are afraid of injuring themselves on the way. 

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Pain comes in a variety of shapes and forms. While some of us experience physical pain, others struggle with the memory or the fear of pain. Even doctors scratch their heads in disbelief on countless occasions as they are unable to identify the source of pain in some of their patients. It is therefore essential to ask one crucial question about pain: Is there such a thing as pain management? Indeed, in a world where science doesn’t always recognize, identify, or even understand pain, it appears unfair to expect from patients to be able to handle their suffering effectively. More importantly, as none of them perceives pain in the same way, can we truly talk of managing a sensation that differs in each individual?