Have you experienced a terrible headache or an intense lower back pain, so bad that you could not do the daily tasks you usually could? Or have you wondered what living with chronic pain is like? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States alone, over 20.4% of adults suffer from chronic pain, which is over 50 million Americans. Pain is considered as chronic when it persists for more than 6 months, despite receiving medication. It is usually constant, ongoing, and at times, debilitating; making it difficult to complete daily tasks.
What causes chronic pain? It generally begins with an initial injury, like a pulled muscle or sprain. Chronic pain develops after the nerves become damaged, which means that even when the underlying injury is treated, the pain may remain. Even so, there are some cases when people experience chronic pain without prior injuries, but this may occur due to their deteriorating health conditions—detected or not.
It’s important to keep in mind that there is a difference between acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain is often caused by something specific, such as surgery, dental work, fractured bones, giving birth, and so forth. It is sudden, and it feels “sharp,” but it doesn’t last longer than 6 months. When the cause is treated, the pain will go away.
The most common types of chronic pain are the following:
Lower back pain
Fibromyalgia (widespread musculoskeletal pain)
Neurogenic pain (pain caused by nerve damage)
Psychogenic pain (physical pain that arises from psychological stressors or disorders)
For those who have to deal with chronic pain, doing simple day-to-day activities can be challenging. Their mobility is limited, they’re faced with a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and dependence on opioids; basically, their overall emotional state and quality of life decreases. Some days can be harder than others, to the point that even taking care of personal hygiene feels impossible. Medications help, but don’t make the pain disappear. In fact, they come with side effects, which, well… bring even more issues.
Moreover, chronic pain may not be as visible as we tend to think, thus, people who suffer from it also have to deal with other people’s assumptions and misunderstanding about their pain. Some might mean well by saying things like, “Hope you feel better soon!” or “Have you tried consuming [insert a type of medicine] and doing [insert a type of exercise]?” However, in most cases, the pain is constant—and more often than not, the sufferers have done everything they can in their power, everything they could think of to be cured, but unfortunately, there may be no such thing as “feeling better soon.” And sadly, this is what living with chronic pain is like.
Nonetheless, if you happen to be one of those people who are forced to live with chronic pain, please don’t lose hope! We’ve got some suggestions of what could make your life slightly easier. The pain may not go away entirely, but you should never let it dictate your whole life.
1. Modify your home, car, and workstation.
Rearrange your home (closets, shelves, cabinets) to make things a little easier for you. Modify your workstation as well, by placing objects that you use daily within easy reach to help you do your activities with as little hindrance as possible. If you need to go somewhere, adjust your car seat so that you can drive somewhat comfortably.
2. Do light exercises.
Although some days, you may not feel like it, getting active and exercising helps you maintain or improve your mobility by keeping your muscles active and your joints flexible. In the long run, doing this can contribute to easing your symptoms and pain.
3. Seek help and support.
Surround yourself with people who understand and support you through it all. You don’t have to go through this alone. You are not a burden, and it’s okay to ask for help. Psstt… support doesn’t have to be a person or a group of people, but you can even get a service and emotional support animal, too! 🙂