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Living with chronic pain is not easy, and with time, can really affect one’s lifestyle. In fact, the psychological effects of chronic pain are often times just as significant as the painful physical condition itself. Emotional effects of chronic pain include irritability, depression, and anxiety.  Chronic pain can also affect one’s ability to interact with others and maintain stable relationships. Patients with chronic pain are not necessarily diagnosed with depression or anxiety, but dealing with a condition leading to chronic pain can cause a patient to feel depressed and anxious.

Emotional effects of chronic pain
  • Losing the ability to do the things normally enjoyed
  • Altering the way one interacts with others
  • Difficulty maintaining stable relationships
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability and short temper
  • Weight gain
Helpful Tips When Dealing with Chronic Pain

It is very important to develop coping skills. Some people are able to live a relatively healthy lifestyle despite the pain, and others are unable to do so. It is very important to understand that you are not alone.  In order to deal with chronic pain, these are a few tips to keep in mind.

  1. Exercise - Although this may be difficult, under the guidance of a certified physical therapist, a proper home exercise regimen can be tailored to an individual.
  2. Eat healthy - Proper nutrition can add to a healthy life-style in general.
  3. Learn to relax - Take some time to relax completely. Meditation and yoga are great modalities to help one relax, especially while listening to your favorite peaceful music.
  4. Get a proper night’s sleep - Sleep disturbance is very common amongst patients with chronic pain. It is important to try to relax, to not eat heavy meals prior to going to bed, and to wind down after a long day.
  5. Try alternative treatments - Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS units)massage therapyacupuncture, and other modalities are often useful.

Pain psychologists and counselors can be beneficial for most patients with chronic pain. Although narcotics are very useful in treating many painful conditions, they are only part of treating chronic pain. It is important to realize that medications do not cure pain, but rather are there to allow one to function better than they would without medications.

Speak with your doctor or pain specialist if you are having a hard time coping with chronic pain. If chronic pain starts affecting your personal life and self image, or interfering with your work and relationships, it is important to seek the proper medical assistance.

Tracking Your Pain

Diagnosing, treating and managing a patient’s chronic pain can be the most challenging task for a medical provider.  Your physician has only a short span of time during your visits to obtain a comprehensive history of your pain and it’s components.  The various features of your chronic pain, including but not limited to the items listed below, can assist your physician with identifying your pain source and creating an appropriate treatment plan.

  • Onset- how your pain came about
  • Duration - how long you have had this pain
  • Frequency- how often does it occur in a period of time or is it constant
  • Aggravating Factors- what makes your pain worse
  • Alleviating Factors– what makes your pain better
  • Past Treatments - what has helped to decrease your pain

This multitude of information about your pain is important to help with medical decision making.  Additionally, once treatment is applied whether with medications, physical therapy, injections or surgery, your physician will then need to know your response and the change in your previous pain.  Information pertinent to therapeutic trials include:

  • Quality/Quantity of Relief - how much does it help
  • Improvement in Function - how much more and what can you do afterwards
  • Frequency- how much and how often do you need treatment or medications
  • Efficacy of Medications - how many is required, how long does a dose last, what does it allow you to do
  • Adverse Effects - what are the untoward side effects you experience with treatment or medications

To depend on just your memory to recall these various pain symptoms over a period of weeks, months, or even years to report to your physician is an impossible task.  Many chronic pain doctors ask their patients to track the frequency and properties of their pain and symptoms.  The goals for this is to track the efficacy of a new treatment, identify common triggers, confirm suspicions, or determine a diagnosis. Tracking your pain efficiently and effectively can play a crucial role in better pain management.  In the past, it was done with pen and pencil.  With modern technology and the advent of smart phones and smart devices, it can be done electronically.  If you have questions about tracking your pain, speak to one of our pain management specialists for further guidance.

Pain Management Specialist Dr. Thomas Nguyen outlines the practice of pain management with both acute and chronic pain patients. 


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