People have a hard time understanding how on some days, better days, I can run, jump, and play, but can barely walk to the kitchen on other days.
Chronic pain is defined as persistent pain that lasts weeks, months, or years. Usually, beyond 3 months. The pain may be caused by inflammation or dysfunctional nerves. Treatments include medications, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and surgery.
Treatment could help, but this condition cannot be cured.
In my case, it's been years of pain even before my spinal fusion surgery. My pain comes from both inflammation and nerve damage from the surgery. I have tried all of the treatment options stated above, different medications, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, talk therapy, and well, surgery. I have done it all and nothing really helps. Medication helps lessen the pain only sometimes. Acupunture was nice and I loved it, but wasn't helping much with the pain. Electrical stimulation was okay and I bought my own little TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machine to do it at home, but its hard for me to do it on myself. Therapy is just talking about it and learning to cope with it by changing your mindset. And after the surgery, the pain was worse.
That quote above is something I have said when talking about my pain. I have had multiple different doctors to try and see what can help me with my pain and nothing has come from it. I see a pain management doctor now to get pain medication that hardly helps. That's about it. It can seem sort of gloomy and disappointing. And well, it is. But accepting it and moving forward is part of coping with chronic pain.
Every day is a new day. The pain can be better or worse. The pain can come and go in intensity. But the pain is always there. It's just become part of my life.
"It’ll come as no surprise that chronic pain can sap the joy from your life and reduce your level of functioning... The concept of living well while living with chronic pain can sound impossible, but you can thrive despite chronic pain. Living well with your chronic pain isn’t just about managing your pain, but rather about finding ways to live a happy, fulfilled life in spite of your symptoms."
- Ann-Marie D'arcy-Sharpe, How to Live Well with Chronic Pain – Your Complete Guide
I go through the day holding in my anxiety and impatience from the pain. I can't sit still for too long so I move around a lot. I can't sit for too long because it makes the pain worse. I can't stand for too long either, but I prefer to stand then sit. I sometimes need to lay down to recuperate from the intensity of the pain. You'll sometimes see me lay on the floor for a minute or two to relax my back. And sometimes you just have to cry it out. I used to get mad that I would cry about my pain but now it's sort of become a coping mechanism. Cry it out and move on.
Other Things I've Tried
I have had plenty of time to try different pain suggestions. And everyone has a suggestion for pain to give. Trust me, I've tried almost everything out there. At least, the stuff I can afford or is covered by insurance. I have tried meditation, but it's very hard for me to focus when my anxiety and/or pain is acting up. I have a membership with Massage Envy to get massages every so often. That I still do and they do help somewhat. I have tried cortisone injections, which worked for a while. But there is only so much the insurance will cover. One doctor told me an epidural injection might help but my insurance won't cover it. So, I never did that; though I am still contemplating it. I have tried physical therapy which felt like a weaker gym session to me. Turmeric pills I take often, whenever I remember, along with other anti-inflammatory herbs. Among other things that I probably tried and can't remember right now.
I think the hard part about medications is that since my pain is so unpredictable I would need a STRONG medication for those bad days and a lesser daily medication on hand at all times. But as a young patient asking a doctor who hardly knows her for hard drugs, you can see why they would be reluctant to prescribe away a strong medication. I still haven't figured out how to convince a doctor that I won't abuse it but use it when I actually need it. AND I totally would. I have built a high pain tolerance. I don't even take the pain pills I have now unless my pain is severe or intolerable.
I have accepted the fact that I have a chronic pain condition. I know it's not my fault and I have grieved about this. With the many conversations I have had with doctors over the years, I have learned a lot about chronic pain and steps I can take to help my pain. For example, I know I cannot be overweight, EVER. Weight gain can cause me more pain as my back will have more to carry. Knowing this, I know I have to eat healthy and exercise. Daily stretching and exercise has become key to coping with my pain. Even though I sometimes get discouraged to exercise and stop working out, I know my pain will remind me how important it is to exercise. I have also learned how to move in ways that will not cause me extra pain. Learning the triggers is so vital in coping with chronic pain. I know it can be hard sometimes as the triggers can be as simple as picking up the pencil that fell. However, finding way around the triggers is an important process to learning to cope with chronic pain. I have a lot of triggers and every day they can be different. That's probably the hardest part. Some days I can do anything, while there are other days I can't.
Link Between Depression And Chronic Pain
The link between chronic pain and clinical depression is very real. It's important to understand that the impact of chronic pain goes beyond the physical. It can become a vicious cycle, where having pain makes one depressed and being depressed causes more pain. Sometimes I can't distinguish which came first, depression or pain. The reason why chronic pain and depression are so interwoven is because of the way stress works in the body. Eventually, you can get lost within the two. I know, because it's happened to me. Having pain can make me feel down and unmotivated. Then, I fall into a depressed state. It can be hard.
How I Keep Moving Forward
Distractions are what keep me going. Sometimes the pain is incredibly strong and not even distractions help. However, when things get that bad, I know it's time to lay on a heating pad and watch some T.V. I used to get mad at these days. Days when I couldn't be productive and enjoy the day. But changing my mindset to seeing this as a self-care kind of day helped me move forward. Remember moving forward is what keeps us going. Life isn't stopping for us so we need to keep it moving. It's okay to have an off day or even week. A month is where I start to worry.
Finding joy in the little things is part of my dealing with chronic pain journey. We have to appreciate the little things in life. We often take a lot of things for granted and that can suck the fun and joy out of life. Things, as well, as people. Surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people is very helpful when dealing with chronic pain. Plus, no one likes a Negative Nancy around. A positive mindset helps me cope. If that means I have to give myself little pep talks throughout the day, then so be it.