Thursday, October 12, 2017

Coping with Chronic Pain

I believe strongly in the importance of treating pain as total pain. I have learned in therapy that this means treating the four individual aspects of pain to reduce your total pain, or your experience of this pain. The four aspects are the physical (probably the most obvious), the mental, the spiritual, and the behavioral. I hope that by sharing some of my coping strategies, I can help you reduce your total pain, or give you some inspiration for treating total pain.


Now I will admit, I am much better at treating the physical part of my pain, so this section will likely be the longest. Some days I only use one of these, and some days I do them all!


  • Going on walks- start off with just a mile or a half mile, and build your way up!
  • Yoga- Yoga with Adriene on youtube is amazing! I recommend her 31 Days of Yoga series for beginners 
  • Breathe deeply- there's a reason they teach this to pregnant women!
  • Get a massage- most places offer a massage at introductory pricing for 
  • Neck rolls, gentle stretching 
  • Heat/cold- ice packs, Hot Water Bottle, or heating pads

The mental side of things is all about rewarding your thinking mind, and in all honesty is one that I personally struggle with. These suggestions below are definitely a great start.

  • Ask for help- often times people who aren't sick don't realize that the smallest tasks can seem so huge when you don't feel well. My mom is always asking if there is something she can do. Ask for help making your dinner, or getting a load of groceries- most people would love the opportunity to help you!
  • Call a friend- pain can be so isolating- call a friend while you clean, or even just sitting in bed
  • Do one social task a week- (a goal for me!)

Try and mention non-medical things in your conversation. Talk about hobbies, goals, ambitions, or even something positive you did that day! Focus on the good

  • Think positive thoughts!- Some examples are "I am strong. I am resilient. I am worthy." It seems silly, but if you say them enough times, you'll start to believe them!
  • Adjust your expectations- I cannot do anywhere near as much in a day as I could before my pain turned chronic. But instead of focusing on this, I recognize my effort and the tasks I DO accomplish. Don't compare your days to someone else- we all walk our own path

For some people spirituality means religion, however, for others this can simply mean connecting with something bigger than yourself- like nature, or building a community of your own. 

  • Hypnotherapy- I currently have a hypnotherapist and we use lots of visualization techiques while in trance. Let me know if you want a detailed post about my experience with hypnotherapy! 
  • Meditation- Lots of free apps can help by offering guided meditations. I have Breethe and Headspace
  • This book, Meditations for Pain Recovery, has an incredible way of talking about exactly what I need on any given day. It is described as a book of helpful lessons learned during the author, Tony Greco's, recovery. This book has a holistic focus and really looks at the whole picture. Each day of the year has an inspirational quote that Greco expands upon in a beautiful and natural way. 
Slow Down:
  • Stop and smell the roses! Again, it sounds corny, but slow down in your daily activities and take stock of the things that are so amazing about this world
  • Love others- This one is so important. You never know what the next day brings, so truly appreciate the special ones in your life- and tell and show them how much they mean to you
  • Remember that healing happens, and have patience
  • If religion is your thing, I suggest going to church or joining a bible study group
  • For exercise, I have participated a running club before and really enjoyed that. Especially on vacation, running tours are a great way to view the city!
  • Chronic Pain Anonymous is a great resource and community for those that just want someone who gets it

Behavioral healing techniques are another category I like to think that I utilize effectively. Behavioral techniques focus on the little things we can do that naturally uplift our spirits.


  • Sing, or play an instrument- Fun fact, I play guitar! Music is proven to be therapeutic, and I know I feel better after belting out show tunes in the car on the way home from the doctor!
  • Read- transporting yourself into another world is fantastic for taking your mind off of emotional pain, especially. My favorite fiction author is Kurt Vonnegut. His short stories are futuristic and thought-provoking. 
  • Do something artistic- now this can be drawing, taking photos, or anything that gets those creative juices flowing. I am currently working on a going away scrapbook for someone special in my life, and I do not exactly consider myself the most talented artist. It's the thought that counts, right?
  • Now you can definitely take this literally and clean off your countertops of unwanted junk, or cleaning out your closet and making a donation our of gently used items.
  • However, there is also the non-literal route to de-cluttering our lives. For instance, screening calls when you just don't want to talk, or keeping noise down, or single-tasking, instead of trying to do a million things at once. These things help to declutter the mind, and help you focus on what is truly important. 
  • I have a four year old black cat- who is the light of my life. Playing or cuddling with him on the dark days is something I wouldn't trade for the world. Especially when living alone, a pet makes you feel less isolated. Clearly he'd had a busy day in the picture below (lol)
  • If a cat or dog seems like a lot of work (they are!) then consider a small pet, like fish or a hamster. Any other form of life can uplift your spirit, and the little guys are probably less work physically and financially!
I know this post was a lot, but I hope some of my suggestions resonated with you! Taking care of all aspects of our pain is important, and I want to share some of the methods I've learned over the years. If you have any that work for you, I would love to hear about them, so write me below! Thanks for reading and I hope you have a good day! 

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