Having lived with varying levels of chronic pain for over six years now, I often joke that I could write a book. The frustrations that come with an invisible illness don’t come with a handbook, but it sure would help!
Amy Orr’s new book, Taming Chronic Pain: A Management Guide for a More Enjoyable Life isn’t a manual for life with chronic pain, but it is a great guide and quick read for anyone that struggles with pain.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only is Amy Orr a scientist, but she also has personal experience with chronic pain. Most importantly, she doesn’t promise any miracle cures or easy answers. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that there is no universal cure for chronic pain, but it is possible to have a life that you enjoy (mostly). However, it may look different from the life you imagined for yourself prior to your illness.
The Use of Humor Really Connected
“Pain isn’t always rational, and we don’t have to be, either. Part of my personal experience is that pain can make you a little crazy and having a sense of humor about it is at times the only solution”– Amy Orr
Orr starts her book with some background on chronic pain, including important definitions. Although I’ve personally done a lot of research on chronic pain and my own conditions, it provides important context for those who don’t suffer from chronic pain, including caretakers, spouses, and friends.
Because pain can make everyone a little crazy sometimes, humor can provide a helpful balm. Orr consistently inserts humor into her writing. She injects sarcasm into each chapter but also manages to write honestly about her own experiences. And good to know that other people have to deal with strangers telling them to try yoga for the 45th time! Throughout each chapter, Orr also includes graphics that truly elevate the writing.
The Advice on Talking to Doctors Rings True
Chronic pain patients have to learn to not only manage their pain but also their doctors. As Orr points out, the average appointment time in the U.S. is just over twenty minutes. But for more than half of the world’s population, that number is halved. Because my personal experiences have corroborated this fact, I wasn’t exactly surprised that doctors have such little time with their patients. However, it’s still very disappointing to read.
Most doctors don’t even begin to discuss how chronic pain effectively changes your life. They may not warn you about how it affects your mental health, cognitive function, or energy levels. Furthermore, they probably don’t understand the shame, guilt, and anger that forms alongside the pain.
Thankfully, Orr has included a valuable chapter on doctor’s visits. She provides tips on preparing for your visit, speaking with your doctor, and modifying your expectations.
Orr also introduces phrases to use during your visit and even includes an exercise to perform before your appointment. In fact, I’d recommend this book simply for this chapter alone. The information applies to anyone dealing with illness or pain, not just chronic pain patients. A section about advocating for yourself would have been a nice addition to the book, but in my experience, that information could fill a whole other book!
The Book is Realistic About Relationships
Chronic pain takes a serious toll on all the relationships in your life. However, I wish she had expanded on how changes in your life due to chronic pain can also cause you to lose friends. From my own experience and from what I’ve heard in support groups, many people don’t know how to react when their loved one has chronic pain. As Orr states, “Anyone that wants you to push through your pain for their convenience is not your friend.’’ That’s 100% true, but sadly, still a hurtful realization.
If someone important in your life is unsure of how to be there for you but is still interested in remaining a part of your life, this book is a great read. However, if they can’t handle your new situation, then you should cut your losses or risk hurting yourself trying to keep it.
I appreciate how Orr examines the full spectrum of repercussions adjacent to chronic pain but doesn’t place the blame on patients. Because most days, we CAN handle the pain. Orr provides some great, albeit surface-level suggestions for speaking about your pain. She also encourages patients to look for further counseling and accept the need for long-term mental health care.
The Treatments Included Are Wide-Ranging And Personalizable
While we all dream of a miracle cure, Orr takes a realistic approach to treatment. She makes no promises of a one-size-fits-all solution. Orr covers a variety of medications and alternative therapies, including meditation and mindfulness practices. She also comments on some of the frustrations that come with finding the right treatment.
The best part of the treatments section is her attitude and honesty about treatment. I felt especially connected when she wrote that she “Felt a deep spiritual need to cause physical hurt to the moron saying… ‘to breathe through the pain'”.
The Bottom Line
I recommend “Taming Chronic Pain” to anyone struggling to manage their health and enjoy life at the same time. Many people struggle with the fact that there is no such thing as normal when it comes to chronic pain. Reading this book was a form of self-care that reminded me just how important it is to prioritize your own health. We are all doing the best we can, and comparing ourselves to others isn’t helpful or productive.
The author’s tongue-in-cheek attitude and practical exercises can be applied in a variety of situations. The book can help family members and caregivers understand your struggle as well. As Orr states, “You get more life by accepting what needs to be normal for you, then moving on”. Who doesn’t want more LIFE and less suffering?
Taming Chronic Pain by Amy Orr is out now on Amazon.
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