According to the Cleveland Clinic, chronic pain is defined as pain that is ongoing and usually lasts longer than six months. This type of pain can continue even after the injury or illness that caused it has healed or gone away.
If you occasionally have pain that can be taken away with a dose of Tylenol or lasts for a day or two, you do not suffer from chronic pain. There is a pain scale of 1 to 10. One being the least and ten being the worst. On a good day, I am a 7. On most days, I live at an 8. This is with pain killers. It is, in fact, a pretty miserable existence. I go to a pain clinic once a month and they give me the minimum amount of meds they can because of regulations. It’s not their fault, there is so much opioid abuse, the regulations have gotten pretty strict.
For those of you out there dealing with the same thing you understand what I am talking about. You live every day in agony and there seems to be no one that can seem to do anything about it. Your cognition is diminished, your memory is weak. A combination of pain and pain meds blurs everything and normal daily function is hard to find. I’ve tried to go back to school but I struggle to do tasks that used to be easy for me. I have a very high IQ but when you add pain and pain meds to the mix, I find that it is diminished. It is one of the most frustrating things I deal with on a daily basis.
I’ve tried every kind of medication, natural remedy, acupuncture, hypnosis and everything you can think of that is legal. If you suffer from chronic pain you know this feeling. You pray for relief but it never seems to come. It affects every part of your life; your sleep, your decision making, your job, and everything else. Chronic pain can be extra frustrating if there is no apparent cause or you have had surgical procedures that were supposed to fix your pain but only made it worse. I have had seven surgeries on my neck and back including three fusions. I was hoping these surgeries would relieve my symptoms but they did not. I also have Rheumatoid Arthritis and Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease; all of which contribute to my pain.
According to www.uspainfoundation.org, typically, pain is considered chronic when it persists for six months or more. But for some patients, chronic pain can last for years or even a lifetime. There are many possible causes for long-term pain, including injury, such as involvement in a car accident, or underlying disorders or diseases, like fibromyalgia or arthritis.
The type of pain experienced can be as varied as the reasons behind it. Pain can be felt as burning, stabbing, aching, pulsing, and many other sensations. These sensations can occur anywhere in the body, and can range from mild to severe, from intermittent to continuous, and from distracting to disabling. Over time, chronic pain can become a disease in and of itself, creating notable changes in the body, particularly the nervous system. Because each individual person with pain is so unique, it can be challenging to manage pain effectively. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, and pain management is usually aimed at reducing pain, not eliminating it. Working alongside health care providers, most people with pain will need to engage in a process of trial and error to find a treatment plan that works for them. Typically, successful pain management requires finding a combination of multidisciplinary, multimodal therapies that reduce pain enough to improve quality of life and increase function. There is good information on this website including a pamphlet you can download about dealing with chronic pain.
One of the most difficult aspects about living with chronic pain is trying to get your friends and loved ones to understand what you are dealing with. It’s hard to describe what you are dealing with and how it affects daily life. Having a strong support structure is critical in living with chronic pain. Without that, it can be a very lonely existence.
Finding the right pain doctor is also critical. It’s a balancing act between too much, where you live in a narcotic induced fog and not enough, where you are suffering all of the time. One of my brothers who passed away earlier this year was on so much pain medication, there were days he could barely have a conversation. Then there is my experience where I have gone from one doctor who had me on Fentanyl and Oxycodone to my new doctor who only has me on Oxycodone. Somewhere in the middle is where I need to be. Here in lies the problem. In one of my previous posts “I Am Not a Junkie”, I talked about how difficult it is telling your doctor what you a really going through in fear of being labeled a pill seeker. The opioid crisis in the country has made doctors very weary in prescribing pain medication. My insurance company just signed me up for a service called 2ndMD which is a service where specialists give second opinions and help you find a provider that will treat you the way you need. In the town that I live in, there only a handful of pain clinics available. I was at one where I saw the doctor once and was treated like cattle the rest of my visits and then there is the doctor I see now, who is seeing patients via telehealth right now and my last appointment lasted a minute and a half.
I know people who are just starting on this journey and I know people that have been dealing with chronic pain for more than twenty years. I am convinced that there has to be a holistic approach to pain management. I think you need to treat the mind, body, and soul to effectively treat pain. I believe in including a combination of cognitive therapy, medication, and state of mind in the treatment of pain. If you don’t treat all three, I don’t believe there can ever be true healing. The state of mind, or soul, is the hardest, as we all have different belief systems. Although I have not found a good medication balance, I am at peace with my soul and I have had good luck with therapy.
The biggest challenge I face right now is getting treatment during the Covid-19 pandemic. Psychologists have basically shut their doors; it’s nearly impossible to get in to see a new doctor so I know that people are really suffering these last few months. I have found an outlet by writing about my experiences but that doesn’t relieve my physical pain. I take pain medication but it barely puts a dent in my pain. If I could get to a six on the pain scale, which is still a great deal of pain for most, I would be very happy. Know that if you are suffering, you are not alone. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are nearly three million new cases of chronic pain diagnosed each year. So, until things get back to normal, stay safe, stay healthy, and search for peace amidst your suffering.