We’ve all experienced pain at different times in our lives. As a child we may have fallen and ended up with scuffed knees, had more serious accidents or endured a long and protracted labour prior to the delivery of our child; we know what pain feels like. Emotional pain can be even worse at times; being bullied, left out, rejected or bereaved can all leave painful scars. And when we’re hurting emotionally we’re more vulnerable to physical pain, feel it more acutely and are more likely to experience accidents through being careless, clumsy or stressed.
Imagine then those people who are in constant. unremitting physical pain, where there is a daily battle with pain and its management. When we know our pain has an end in sight, where we’re going through a period of healing and recovery or, like childbirth, have an anticipated, much-wanted outcome in sight, we are motivated to keep going and even put a positive spin on our pain.
Long-term pain that presents as a never-ending part of any future life often brings with it associated despair, a sense of hopelessness, even anger and resentment; why me? Let’s look at some ways to support pain management and aid that daily battle with pain.
– Some pain relief medicines bring side-effects that are quality of life limiting, influencing mood, mobility and the ability to function well. It is important to fully discuss the pros and cons of your medication with your GP or pain-management specialist.
– Are there times when the severity of your pain lessens? If so, gather as much information as you can about those times so that you can utilise any relevant factors. Little pockets of ease may occur when you’re busy with work, absorbed in a book or film, distracted by a conversation or find your attention drawn to something happening outside.
– How do you find sleep and relaxation? Learning self-hypnosis may help. Focusing on your breathing, then revisiting a place, perhaps somewhere in nature or from a holiday, where you were safe, secure, floating, supported can enable you to remember sounds like birdsong, the distant hum of voices, waves lapping on the shore or sensations like a gentle breeze or the warmth of the sand underneath you – all those peaceful, relaxing sensations which may allow you to drift, float and find respite, even for a short time.
– Another pain management technique may be to imagine your pain level on a dial, with 0 being low and 10 high. If your pain is at a 7 right now, try to turn it up slightly, say to 7.5. Most people are able to turn it up. But by doing so you’ve also discovered that you have some ability to control the dial. Turn it back to 7 and then try bringing it down to a 6.5. Perhaps by linking in with the breathing and visualisation exercise previously mentioned you may find you can introduce a little control into the management of your pain.
– If your pain is localised to one area of your body try to ‘spread’ it, like a pat of butter, throughout your entire body. By spreading and dispersing it everywhere its severity and intensity can become lessened and, again, your mind learns how to become more powerful and help you deal with the pain better.
-Lessen your anticipation of pain by managing the stress in your life and practicing positive self-talk. Whatever we focus on becomes more real, so choose to take better control of your thoughts. Do your best about the things that worry or concern you and then let them go. Distracting yourself to other thoughts and introducing a more positive perspective allows you to appreciate what you have rather than agonise over what you don’t have. Over time this discipline will become easier and your mindset will improve.
– All that aside, continual pain brings with it massive lifestyle changes, including isolation, loneliness, loss of income. It impacts on friendships and family relationships and can mean everyone involved has to modify their hopes, dreams and expectations for the future.
Talking, counselling and support groups can provide reassurance, opportunities for open and honest communication and information as to what practical help is available. Accepting help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a way of utilising things that have been provided to try to make your life a little easier. Talk, complain if you can’t access the toilet in a restaurant or store, share how you’re feeling with others, listen and pay heed to how they’re feeling too. A good friend will listen, encourage and be supportive, and may even tell you to ‘shut up’ occasionally.
Be aware of the importance of not over-doing things and taking too much on, but don’t allow yourself to be defined by your condition either. Finding ways to become involved and engaged in your life can gradually open up a different but valuable next stage on your life journey, yes, unexpected and unwanted, but rewarding and valuable nonetheless.
Susan Leigh is a long established counsellor, hypnotherapist, writer and media contributor who works with clients to help with relationship conflict, stress management, assertiveness and confidence issues. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.