Managing Chronic Pain in College

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Adjusting to college life can be challenging—especially when chronic pain weighs you down. However, it’s a challenge you can overcome with proper planning and preparation. Instead of giving in to the stress or giving up on your dreams, use these tips to manage your chronic pain in college.

Visit the Office of Disability Services

The first step to succeeding in college despite chronic pain is to get help. Trying to go it alone or tough it out will increase your stress, which in turn will have a negative impact on your health. Fortunately, most schools have an office dedicated to helping students who need special accommodations. Think about what you need and make a list, then stop by to discuss how they can help. Often, students with chronic pain are able to register early or access classes in a different way. You may also need help getting to class or even taking notes.

Choose Your Classes Wisely

When you suffer from chronic pain, you have more to consider than which classes you need for your major. Pay attention to the timing and location of the classes. Will you be able to make it from your first class to your second on time? If you start your day with a 7 a.m. class, will you have enough energy for that two-hour class at 6 p.m.? How many classes can you handle in one day, and how many books will you need to carry at once? Don’t forget the time you need for breakfast, lunch, dinner, studying, extracurricular activities, and your social life.

Get Involved and Stay Connected

Speaking of social activities, it’s important to get plugged into campus life. Even if you are uncomfortable discussing your condition, there are some people you should tell, such as professors, roommates, and your resident advisor. Look for a support group where you can connect with others who suffer from chronic pain—but don’t stop there. Find activities you enjoy and get involved. Chronic pain can strain relationships, but supportive friends and feeling connected can have a positive impact on both your physical and emotional health.

Stay on Top of Your Health

Before you leave for college, make an appointment with your own doctor to discuss your treatment plan and stock up on any medications you may need. Once you get to campus, make an appointment at the health center. You’ll want to make sure they have your medical records and understand both your condition and treatment plan. You may also want to get a referral to a specialist near your college. Otherwise, do what any college student should: get the vaccines you need, exercise regularly, eat healthy food, and avoid sharing personal items too liberally.

Don’t let chronic pain keep you from achieving your dreams. It certainly won’t make college any easier, but it doesn’t need to make college impossible. With help from your doctor, your school, your support system, and a positive attitude, you can make it work.

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