Living with Chronic Pain Isn’t Easy
Whether you’re newly diagnosed with a condition that causes chronic pain or you’ve lived with it for a long time, living with chronic pain is very challenging. Sometimes, you may feel angry, frustrated, lonely or depressed. Remember, it’s completely normal to feel these emotions. However, it’s also important to learn to be okay living with chronic pain, and we’re here to help with a few self-care tips.
Dealing with Morning Pain, Stiffness and Fatigue
Mornings are often challenging for people living with chronic pain. Typically, getting up and moving is a tall order. Pain and stiffness in the morning can last for a few hours for many people with chronic pain, making getting up, dressed and out the door seem nearly impossible.
If this happens to you, here are some techniques you can try:
- Start with gentle movements—Allow yourself to wake up slowly. Sit on the side of your bed and let your legs hang for a few seconds. Then gently wiggle your toes and move your ankles from side to side. Bring the gentle movements up to your arms and fingers, and then up to your shoulders and neck. Instead of rolling your neck, try moving your neck slowly from side to side as if you’re going to touch your ear to your shoulder. Go slowly and at your own pace.
- Stand up slowly—Don’t be in a rush to stand up after your gentle movements. Place both feet flat on the floor and balance yourself by holding the side of the bed. Let yourself stand for a few seconds before trying to walk. When you start walking, take your time.
- Take a warm shower—Now that you’re up and starting to move around, help your body by taking a warm shower. Warm, moist heat may help your joints and muscles relax even more, helping you decrease pain and stiffness.
- Avoid hard to wear clothes—Clothes can be hard to wear if you have chronic pain, especially tight-fitting clothes or things with buttons or laces. Wear clothes that you feel most comfortable in and that are easy for you to put on.
Letting Go of What Other People Say
While most people try to be encouraging and their comments are well-intentioned, sometimes people say things that can feel hurtful. Living with chronic pain isn’t easy and can often be hard for loved ones to understand.
There are many well-intentioned things people may say, and a few common and unhelpful phrases may include but are not limited to the following:
- You don’t look sick.
- I understand completely. One time, I had this cold that lasted for a week.
- I had a friend who had that same problem and was cured.
- You need to see this one doctor I heard about on TV.
- You just have to push through the pain.
- Stay positive because someone has it worse than you.
Chronic pain is caused by other conditions, and these chronic conditions cannot be cured. Hearing these phrases can be frustrating and tiring.
If your family, friends or co-workers say something that bothers you or comes across as insensitive, try not to take it personally. While this is very hard to do, it can help you let go of what people say.
A simple yet effective way to not take what they say personally is to imagine moving yourself from what’s bothering you. Carry a button or coin in your pocket. This button or coin represents you and how you feel. Anytime someone says something that “pushes your buttons,” move your button or coin from one pocket to the other. Think of yourself as the button, so you can remove yourself from the situation.
Remember, if you do feel hurt, upset or angry about something someone said to you, that’s normal. Consider talking about it with someone you trust. Sometimes just talking about things helps get them out, so you can let them go and feel better.
You Have a Lot to Offer
People living with chronic pain often experience anxiety and depression. It’s very hard to live with pain every day, so it’s normal to feel tired of it and depressed. While you’re taking care of your physical health by seeing your doctors regularly, consider taking care of your emotional health by seeing a therapist or counselor, too.
There are professional counselors who are certified in helping people living with chronic health conditions, such as chronic pain, autoimmune diseases and more. They can listen to you as an objective third party and provide you with helpful advice. You may learn new coping strategies, relaxation techniques and other tips for living with chronic pain.
Seeing a counselor or therapist is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s a sign that you’re very strong and want to take care of your whole self. You have a lot to offer, and you can help other people dealing with chronic pain with your insights.
While it’s a daily challenge to live with chronic pain, there are steps you can take to manage it and live a happy life.