Pain causes fear. Fear is distressful and can cause pain. It is a vicious cycle. When fearful, you may avoid situations and events that you think will cause you to hurt. But in the long run, you begin living a life of avoidance. According to Shape.com, one out of every four people suffers from ongoing pain. In his book, "I'm Hosting As Fast As I Can," Tom Bergeron, host of "Dancing with the Stars," talks about how back pain almost took over his life. But finally, he looked fear in the eye and laughed at it. The point is, you must face your situation in order to overcome it.
Learn about pain management. Go to a support group of like-minded individuals who get together and share stories and pain-alleviating techniques. Visit a pain management clinic. They have teams of dedicated professionals who can put a unique plan in place for you that works. You can also take classes that teach you about alternative methods of pain control, such as acupuncture, which involves having thin needles placed in meridian points (energy centers of the body) to promote healing. Explore all your options for keeping pain at a minimum level and do not give up until you do. When you know you have treatment options, fear often dissipates.
Find a few tried-and-true techniques that help you manage pain. Cold therapy often works for arthritis or when pain is due to inflammation. Massage can help to relieve musculoskeletal pain. Warm water or a hot tub can also relieve chronic pain. Yoga breathing or meditation can help you focus on something other than what hurts. Chanting or listening to relaxing music may be an option. When you find something that works, practice it often so that you feel empowered to use it when you are inclined to give into fearful thoughts.
Celebrate when you feel better. Acknowledge and be aware when pain lessens or goes away. These times reinforce the concept that pain cannot last at the same intensity, every day, all the time. You will have some periods that are pain-free or with diminished pain. Do something special on these days to reinforce the positive. You may even want to keep track of your good days on a calendar or in a journal to keep your situation in perspective. More good days than bad days is a cause for celebration.
Use cognitive therapy to change negative thinking. According to the book "When Panic Attacks," the cognitive model stems from the belief that "you are what you think." Negative thoughts can cause depressed, anxious, or even painful feelings. There are exercises to do, and techniques to practice, that will counteract "stinking" thinking. For example, when anxious, you might think, "I cannot live with this pain." Practice changing this thought to, "I am strong and can become pain-free."
Face your fears in a controlled way. Avoidance does not work. There are several therapies that help you face your fears and work through them. Try exposure therapy (facing a fear or its sensations a little at a time), self-hypnosis, tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique), and Jin Shin Jyutsu (uses gentle touch on the body's energy points). All can help you face the physical sensations and fearful thoughts that come up while you experience pain.
Tips & Warnings
- Remember that you are not alone. A survey from 2006 conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics claims that 26% of adults had a period of at least 24 hours of continuous pain in the previous month. Physical activity helps manage pain, so walking, dancing, and biking might be an option.
- Pain medications can become addictive and create other problems. Work closely with doctors and therapists to come up with a medication plan. If living with pain is a recent change, give yourself time (several months) to adapt and cope.
- When Panic Attacks; Dr. David D. Burns; 2006
- Pain Management
- I'm Hosting As Fast As I Can; Tom Bergeron; 2009