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Pain Management, Chronic Pain, Nerve Pain Treatment, Pain Therapy, Chemotherapy, South Carolina

5 Ways to Boost Your Pain Management

Right about now there is a good chance that you have been thinking about ways you might “hit the refresh button” on your pain management approach in the coming year. As you’re thinking about what you’d like to change, make sure that whatever goal you’re shooting for is both impactful and sustainable.

And, as with starting anything new, try to set yourself up for success. First off, make it easy to do. Look for options that are not too time-consuming or taxing. Seek out strategies or therapies that you can ease yourself into, one step at a time. Also, keep your plan affordable and try to get as much value as possible out of the time and money that you spend. And try to make it fun. The more enjoyment, inspiration, and fulfillment that you get out of whatever you do, the more likely you are to make it a lasting part of your routine.

Now let’s look at some easy ways you can spruce up your approach toward making chronic pain more manageable and better controlled –

  • Unplug an hour earlier. Research has shown that when we sleep better at night, we experience less pain during the day. I also know that one of the most frequent complaints I hear from my patients is that they just don’t sleep well at all. While there are many strategies that can improve sleep, an easy one to try is to simply disconnect from your smart phone an hour earlier at night. Stopping whatever stimulation and agitation that you could get from looking at emails or social media well in advance of bedtime helps the mind and body wind down to fall asleep more easily.
  • Download a meditation app. Over the last several years, a number of studies have found that meditation can play an important role in pain relief. But finding the time and inclination for meditation in our busy and over-stimulated culture can be a real challenge. While attending an 8-week mindfulness course can have serious benefit, that is not something most folks can commit to. But downloading a meditation app, most of which are free or low cost, puts a daily 5-minute mediation at your fingertips, making it easier than ever.
  • Exercise smarter, not harder. While getting enough exercise is critical to both physical and mental health, this can be a real struggle for folks with challenging pain problems. In many cases, trying the typical gym exercises will only flare-up the pain even more, making the whole subject of exercise even more frustrating for patients. This is where looking outside the box can pay off by exploring other movement strategies, some of which, like tai chi and yoga, can even be done in a chair. When trying a new activity, go slow and gentle, and consider breaking it up into smaller sessions during the day instead of doing it all at once. Adding good music and making it social can boost the fun value of whatever you are doing.
  • Start event planning. Commit to doing at least one joyful activity each month. Spend some time planning to do something that is special and has meaning for you, and then book it on your calendar. It can be as simple as going to the movies or taking a walk in the park. The anticipation of having something fun coming your way can boost optimism, improve mood, and lower stress.
  • Take it outside. Make a habit of going outdoors and getting some fresh air in the middle of the day on a regular basis, even if it is for just a few minutes. Midday sunlight increases vitamin D levels, helps set our biological clocks, and can improve mood.

No matter what new, exciting, or different therapies or strategies that you explore this year, try not to fret about any hiccups or missteps that you encounter along the way. Appreciate each moment of the process as meaningful in some way. And if you can get through the first few months, there is a better chance that the new resolution will become a lasting habit.

Article Provided By: WebMD

Carolina Pain Scrambler Logo, Chronic Pain, Greenville, SC
If you would like to discuss what Carolina Pain Scrambler do to help relieve your chronic pain symptoms or receive more information on our treatment
process, please do not hesitate to call us at 864-520-5011 or you can email us at info@carolinapainscrambler.com
Pain Therapy, Pain Relief, Nerve Pain Treatment, Nerve Pain Therapy, South Carolina

Can Your Gut Health Impact Your Pain?

Gut Health & Pain

You may have noticed that at any given moment your pain levels can fluctuate based on many different variables, including the weather, how much sleep you got the night before, and whether or not you are having a stressful day. But you may not have given much thought to the role that bacteria might be playing in how you feel. You have hundreds of different types of bacteria living inside the gut that make up what is referred to as the microbiome, and like a fingerprint, each person’s microbiome is a bit unique but swayed by factors like diet, the environment, and lifestyle habits. Research has shown that the composition of the gut bacteria in healthy people often differs from those with certain diseases, including obesity, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and even depression.As we start to learn more about how our microbiome affects our overall health, we are also starting to see evidence that it can also play a role in how much we hurt. Consider a recent study published by researchers from the University of Rochester that looked at the effects of the microbiome on joint pain and swelling in mice. In comparing the gut bacteria of mice that had been plumped up on an unhealthy diet with mice kept on a healthy diet, they found that the obese mice’s gut bacteria was not only different than that of their slimmer counterparts, it also included inflammation-causing strains. These gut changes coincided with signs of inflammation throughout their bodies, including their joints. The researchers also found that when both sets of mice experienced cartilage damage to their knees, the obese mice with the inflammation-causing gut bacteria experienced a rapid deterioration of their joints compared to the other mice.In a short amount of time, these unfortunate mice developed advanced osteoarthritis of their knees. When the researchers treated the obese mice with a prebiotic (a food source for growing healthy bacteria in the gut), they were able to prevent the inflammation and arthritic deterioration in their knee joints, without changing their body composition.
This is very interesting research, but despite this and other evidence suggesting that the microbiome can directly impact the amount of inflammation, arthritis, and ultimately the amount of pain that we experience, it is still unclear how to take advantage of this information to treat pain in our everyday lives. Unfortunately, in humans we have not found that simply adding a prebiotic to our diet will make all of the pain and swelling magically disappear. There may be a number of reasons for that, including the wide variation in microbiomes from person to person, and the unique environments that we each live in. But, just because we don’t know exactly which foods might help improve gut health doesn’t mean we can’t give it try. I’ve personally made it a point to increase my intake of both prebiotics and probiotics (live, beneficial bacteria). Prebiotics can be found in fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and you can get probiotics in foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut, or via supplements. As always, make sure to talk to your doctor before making any big changes or starting a supplement.
Article Provided By: WebMD

Carolina Pain Scrambler Logo, Chronic Pain, Greenville, SC
If you would like to discuss what Carolina Pain Scrambler do to help relieve your chronic pain symptoms or receive more information on our treatment
process, please do not hesitate to call us at 864-520-5011 or you can email us at info@carolinapainscrambler.com
Nerve Pain Therapy, Peripheral, Carpal Tunnel, Pain Center, Pain Relief

Let People In With Chronic Pain

How to Let People In When You Have Chronic Pain

When someone is in pain, their whole family is impacted.

I was reminded of this truth recently as visitors approached my booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I was struck by how many people were stopping by my booth on behalf of somebody in their lives who was having a difficult time with chronic pain. The most memorable was when a brother and sister, probably about 5 and 6 years old, dragged their mom over to talk to me about their grandfather, who was struggling with neck pain. At their young age, they shared powerful insights about their grandfather’s condition, not to mention a strong sense of wanting to help.

Though you might feel isolated in the midst of a pain experience, those around you are likely deeply impacted by what you are going through – and there’s a good chance that they really want to be with you in this experience. They may just not know how to get in.

Here are a few ways you can share your pain experience with people who care about you:

  • Education: The better others understand your health challenges, the more helpful they can be. I recommend you share some of the books or articles that you have found helpful, and consider inviting them to join you at some of your doctor visits or physical therapy sessions.
  • Recreation: To build better bonds, try to have some fun together. If there are activities, sports, or hobbies that you no longer do, now is the time to find new pursuits that you can share with others. Whether it is going on walks together or hosting a movie night, plan activities that are joyful for everyone. Try to use this as an opportunity for growth.
  • Communication: It is easy to feel closed-off from others and to not want to engage when you don’t feel well, but it’s important to make an effort to create dialogue between you and your family. If you feel a strong instinct toward isolation, you may need to create a deliberate plan to combat it – consider scheduling a specific time to chat. Of course, it’s reasonable to spend some of the time talking about your own challenges, but to truly connect with others, you’ll want to talk about things going on with other members of your circle as well.
  • Expression: Nonverbal communication plays an important role in how we connect with others, especially when we are in pain. Facial expressions and grimacing can say a lot without uttering a word, and how we say things, or the tone that we use, also influences how others receive our message. I am not recommending that you try to hide how you feel or present yourself in a way that is false, but it might be worth taking stock of your nonverbal communication patterns to see if any subtle changes might make it clearer to the people around you that you are open to  connecting with them. Eye contact can boost connectivity during a conversation, and a smile can go a long way to letting someone know how much you appreciate them.

Hopefully, adding a few of these strategies can help open the door to connection, and possibly even strengthen your relationships.

Article Provided By: WebMD

Carolina Pain Scrambler Logo, Chronic Pain, Greenville, SC
If you would like to discuss what Carolina Pain Scrambler do to help relieve your chronic pain symptoms or receive more information on our treatment
process, please do not hesitate to call us at 864-520-5011 or you can email us at info@carolinapainscrambler.com
Chronic Pain, Neuropathy Treatment, Pain Relief, Pain Therapy, Pheripheral Neuropathy

When It Hurts to Be Touched

Our sense of touch is a fundamental part of the human experience. Being touched by others a powerful tool of communication, whether it is through a handshake, a hug, or a pat on the back, and it can also boost a sense of general well-being.Unfortunately, living with chronic pain can interfere with your ability to touch, feel, hold, or be held by others. One of the most challenging examples of this occurs when we develop extreme sensitivities to touch from things that aren’t usually painful. The medical term for this is allodynia, and it means that something is painful from a non-painful stimulus. Imagine lightly brushing the back of your hand with a cotton ball. That should not hurt in the least, but now suppose doing so is all of a sudden associated with the feeling of intense pain in the hand.This type of extreme sensitivity to touch can have a dramatic effect on a person’s life. They may completely avoid using an affected body part, like a hand in our example, or they may avoid even leaving the house out of fear that being around others may risk contact with the sensitive body part.One of the most common types of pain that can lead to something like allodynia is nerve pain, also known as neuropathic pain. One nerve pain syndrome, in particular, that is often associated with cantankerous forms of allodynia is complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS. CRPS can be a debilitating pain problem that usually involves an extremity, like an arm or leg, after some type of tissue injury has taken place.Allodynia can be associated with other types of chronic pain problems, as well, including fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, TMJ, painful surgical scars, and skin damage from ultraviolet radiation. In fact, migraine sufferers have been reported to have pain with hair combing, shaving, and putting in contact lenses.Researchers believe that allodynia is a result of the amplification of pain signals going on in the brain – a problem called “central sensitization” – though it is still unclear what causes it.

Fortunately, allodynia can be successfully treated under the right circumstances, so it is important to find health care providers who understand this problem and can help. Desensitization techniques are one way of reducing the hypersensitivity of the skin or tissues, and you can even learn how to do some of this at home on your own. For example, placing a sensitive hand or foot into a bowl of uncooked rice or lentils is one tool we use with some of our patients. Other topical treatments include things like contrast baths, paraffin wax, and clay. Because desensitization can be a painful process to start, it helps to have as much support and guidance from your treatment team as you can get.So, if you are struggling with hypersensitivities and it is interfering with your quality of life, ask your health care team for help.
Article Provided By: WebMD
Carolina Pain Scrambler Logo, Chronic Pain, Greenville, SC
If you would like to discuss what Carolina Pain Scrambler do to help relieve your chronic pain symptoms or receive more information on our treatment
process, please do not hesitate to call us at 864-520-5011 or you can email us at info@carolinapainscrambler.com
Back Pain Relief, Pain Relief, Nerve Pain Relief, Pain Therapy, south carolina

Traveling with Chronic Pain

Traveling With Chronic Pain? Tips From a Spoonie

I love to travel. My favorite way to deal with stress is to plan my next adventure. My husband and I go on getaways whenever we have the chance. So, I didn’t think it was a big deal when I applied for a graduate school program that would require me to fly across the continental U.S. on a monthly basis.Then, last January, I had a terrible flare of what I soon learned was psoriatic arthritis. I had to learn how to travel across the country by myself with an uncontrolled autoimmune disorder. I had to adjust my daily life to being a spoonie. (“Spoons” are finite units of measurement that those of us with chronic illnesses use to budget our energy throughout the day – more explanation here.)  But how could I adjust my travel plans?I researched bloggers, I asked Twitter, and I reached out to family and friends who had traveled on a low-spoon budget. After a few trial weekend trips with my husband, I had to travel across the country alone. All told, I’ve traveled 47 days this year, including 2 camping trips, and 2 trips that were over 2 weeks long.Here are some spoon-saving strategies I’ve learned (so far):

Airports Are Big. Flights Are Long. Plan Ahead.

• Purchase your tickets well in advance so you can select your seat – and buy as much comfort as you can afford. Take Business class if you can swing it. If you’re in economy, try to get a seat with extra legroom. And take the window seat. If I can avoid basic economy center seats for the rest of my life, I will.

• Get to the airport early and check your luggage. Even if it’s a carry-on size roller-bag. When I fly by myself, I only carry on the backpack that I can put under the seat in front of me. Managing extra luggage just means additional pain for my hands and wrists.

• Use a wheelchair. When I asked for traveling with chronic pain tips, one of the things my friends and family repeatedly advised was “swallow your pride.” I have a hard time with this. I want to muscle through. But, even in small airports, I find it’s a mistake to think I can muscle through and go without a wheelchair. (And even if I can, I’ve then spent a spoon or two that I might want to save for after I land at my destination!)

You can reserve a free wheelchair service when you buy your ticket. But whether you reserved it ahead of time or not, when you arrive at the ticketing counter to check that luggage, let the agent know that you need a wheelchair. Usually, someone wheels a chair out for me to sit in while they dispatch a “pusher” out to me. Again, planning well in advance is necessary, because this can take a while if it’s a smaller airline and has a shared pool of wheelchair attendants. The service is always free, but it is customary to tip your wheelchair attendants. They are so nice and friendly, it’s hard not to overflow with gratitude. The wheelchair attendant will scan your boarding pass – this is very important, because for some airlines, that’s the only way to ensure you’ll have one waiting on the ramp upon arrival at your destination. (Yes, you added it to your ticket when you bought it, but that doesn’t guarantee someone will be waiting. Also, just because you added it to your ticket doesn’t mean anyone will notice until you say something at check-in.)Using a wheelchair, for me, isn’t so much about saving me from walking – my body seems to be okay with a slow walk. I can shuffle along terminals all day. But what my body hates is standing still. You know what involves a lot of standing still? TSA lines. I’ve learned the hard way that TSA lines become a struggle for me if there are even 5 or 6 people in front of me, let alone 500 or 600.• Consider getting TSA Pre-check. The $ 85, 5-year membership doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to avoid lines entirely, but it does guarantee that you won’t have to take off your shoes or unpack liquids or electronics from your bags. For me, that’s worth the extra expense.

The All-Important Carry-on

•  Carry on all of your meds. All of them. The drug companies that make my various injectables always have a free travel kit to transport syringes. I’ve never been stopped about my prefilled syringes or my autoinjectors, but I carry a doctor’s note with them just in case. I’ve also never had anyone ask me about my loose supplements, so my favorite way to pack meds is an extra-large pill organizer with everything already counted out and sorted. All of these things have to be in my carry on, because once I had a 24-hour delay between flights and didn’t have access to my pain relievers. I’m never checking them again.

•  Bring an empty, reusable water bottle. I use a massive Nalgene. Most airports have bottle-filling stations at the drinking fountains along the terminal. This is not just economical and good for the environment, it also ensures I get more than a Dixie cup of hydration along those long flights.•  Treat yourself with stick-on, disposable heating pads. I keep a “lower back” sized one in my backpack, because it can provide the warmth and relief of a heating pad without needing batteries or a plug, and I can just put one on in the restroom when I really need it.• Don’t forget a jacket. You’re probably dressing in layers if you’re traveling with chronic pain between climates anyway, but keep in mind that planes can get chilly. I am almost never fine without my jacket. And even if I don’t need it, it makes a nice pillow against the window. What do they say? Get warm and stay warm? I curl up inside my poncho every flight.• Pack snacks. Depending on the airline you fly, the free snacks (or even the costly ones!) might not be what you need for your health. (Many airlines still don’t worry about gluten – ugh.) I usually pack nuts, because I feel like I need protein on long flights.

• Try other travel tricks. There are lots of gadgets and do-dads that may or may not make your flights more pleasant. Personally, I am on the fence about my neck pillow. When I’m in the middle seat, I love it. It’s the only way I can sleep. When I’ve been able to plan ahead and get a better seat, then I don’t need it. I prefer to lean against the window with my jacket, and the neck pillow takes up so much room in my carry on, I almost resent it.

I’m also up in the air about compression socks. Some people swear by them. They are uncomfortable to me, and the compression doesn’t help my pain. It’s worth experimenting with, though.

What to Pack in Your Suitcase• Take everything you need to sleep comfortably. Because I am traveling with chronic pain across the country every month, I have adapted this plan according to the hotels where I know I’ll be staying.• Take care of all 5 of your senses. For me, this means packing chamomile tea bags, a small candle and a lighter (which I put in my checked luggage without a problem), essential oils, electric blanket, knee pillow, eye pillow, sunglasses, earplugs, headphones, fuzzy socks. All of these things are a waxing and waning part of my list, depending upon how I feel. My destination hotel often has enough pillows I can forgo the knee pillow. Sometimes, I can skip the headphones. But think about your senses when you pack – aim to make comfort portable.• Pack 2 pairs of shoes. Minimum. You can pack more than that, but I don’t recommend packing fewer. If one pair gives you a blister, without a second pair as backup, you are in for a miserable time.

• Don’t forget bath supplies. A long, warm bath is sometimes the best thing for me after traveling with chronic pain.

Once You Get There, Rest.

• If possible, take a full day to rest after you arrive at your destination and again when you return home. When I fly from Atlanta to California, I leave in the morning and make no plans until the following day. It makes me more patient about flight delays, for one thing. But more importantly, the only thing I need to do when I arrive is check in at my hotel and get comfy. I give myself that whole evening to just relax. I order room service. I take a bath. I change into pajamas at 5:30 PM. I go to sleep at 8. It makes me better able to face the next day!

On the other end of the trip, I almost always end up crashing for nearly 24 hours after I get home. At this point, it’s lower stress to just plan for it and let it happen. I feel better afterwards, anyway.

During Your Trip, Think of Every Stop as a Rest Stop.• Rest whenever you can. As an adult, I’ve learned that if the opportunity arises to go to the bathroom, I’m going to try to pee on principle. I’ve cultivated the same rule when it comes to people standing around and stopping for any reason. If we stop, I sit. Period. And on my next sightseeing trip, I plan on trying a new energy-saving trick — I just learned that scooters are able to be rented in most major cities, so you can ride while others walk. Most of these rental companies will drop the scooter off at your hotel, and pick it up from there at the end of the trip.Traveling with chronic pain or not, traveling is overwhelming and exhausting – even for people who aren’t spoonies. I find it helps to keep that in mind. Be gentle with yourself.Article Provided By: WebMD

Carolina Pain Scrambler Logo, Chronic Pain, Greenville, SCIf you would like to discuss what Carolina Pain Scrambler do to help relieve your chronic pain symptoms or receive more information on our treatment process, please do not hesitate to call us at 864-520-5011 or you can email us at info@carolinapainscrambler.com

Neuropathy Treatment, Pain Relief, Pain Therapy, Pain Center, Chronic Pain

What is your relationship to chronic pain?

What is your relationship to your chronic pain? At first thought, it seems like an odd question. But, if we stop to reflect on it, couldn’t we have a relationship to pain? Don’t you already have one?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (n.d.) defines the word ‘relationship’ as “the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other.” We usually think about relationships as applying to people, such as our spouses, children, family, or enemies, but we also have relationships to non-human beings, such as God and pets, and even inanimate things, such as our work, our children’s schools, our own alma maters, our country, or nature. We also have relationships to things that are somewhere in between, such as our bodies. Might we not have a relationship to chronic pain?

Let’s look at a number of different possible relationships to chronic pain. We’ll simply try to take an inventory of different relationships without judging whether they are good or bad or better or worse than any of the others. Our only goals for taking this inventory are to see how people relate to chronic pain and to see how different people relate to chronic pain differently.

Chronic pain as something that we must get rid of

In the acute medical model of healthcare, we often treat pain as something that we must get rid of. It’s a bad thing. It’s so bad, in fact, that we might unquestionably go to great lengths and almost all costs to get rid of it. As healthcare providers and as patients, we try one therapy after another, one procedure after another, and one medication after another.

All this healthcare hardly ever requires justification: our relationship to pain is such that it is something, which is assumedly bad — so bad, in fact, that we must get rid of it.

Chronic pain as something that we fight against

Indeed, pain is something that we declare war on. For after all, it is often thought of as fighting us. It’s stabbing, piercing, jolting, burning, and pounding. It’s like hand-to-hand combat, but it’s our hand, or arm, or leg, or neck or low back that’s fighting us. Our bodies have turned against us and the pain is insidious and relentless. It’s taken our life away. Our relationship to pain in such instances is one of fighting and war. Like any people under siege, we vow to maintain hope by never giving up the fight.

Chronic pain as something that imprisons us

Patients commonly tell me that they wish the painful part of their body could just be cut off. When you think about it, there’s something very primitive about this wish. It brings connotations of what an animal might do when caught in a steel jaw trap: it chews its limb off.

Pain can indeed capture our attention and ensnare us. We might find ourselves entertaining doing most anything in order to become pain-free. Our relationship to pain at such times is one of having been taken prisoner. Having lost our abilities to move about freely, we have to stay at home and rest day after day. Our sentence: house arrest.

Chronic pain as a mechanical problem that requires a fix

We can also think of pain as a mechanical problem for which there must be some type of fix. Both providers and patients can relate to pain in this way. Spine surgeons and interventional pain physicians commonly conceptualize back pain as ‘mechanical back pain.’ A common explanation for sciatica is that a disc in the low back has ‘slipped’ or ‘ruptured’ and is now ‘pinching’ the nerve that extends down the leg. It brings connotations of a car engine part slipping out of place or breaking altogether and is now pinching some important cable or hose. In a procedure called a ‘discectomy,’ a spine surgeon attempts to free the pinched nerve by scraping away the part of the disc that’s impinging the nerve. Interventional pain physicians attempt to temporarily reduce the inflammation around the ‘pinched’ nerve with epidural steroid injections. They might also attempt to temporarily deaden the nerve altogether with a rhizotomy (i.e., a radiofrequency neuroablation procedure, or what is called a ‘nerve burning’ procedure).

Chronic pain as something that is the result of a long-lasting injury

We can also relate to chronic pain as something that is the result of a long-lasting injury. In conditions that are acute, such as a bone fracture, pain occurs and we think of it as the result of the underlying acute injury. In such cases, we tend to react to the pain by staying home and resting. Commonly, people think of and react to chronic pain in similar ways. Even if it has been years since the onset of the initial injury that started the pain, we can think of the original condition as remaining unhealed (or even getting worse) and continuing to cause the chronic pain.

As such, we might remain concerned about making the underlying injury worse and engage in behaviors that we think will prevent harm. Similar to what we might do with acute injuries, we might stay home and rest. We also avoid activities that we think have a chance of making the underlying injury worse. In these ways, we tend to think of the pain that occurs with activities as a sign that we are in fact making the underlying problem worse.

Chronic pain as an illness

Sometimes, people with chronic pain think of themselves as ill. Their relationship to pain is one of illness even in cases of chronic pain that started with an injury or had no identifiable cause. They hear explanations for back pain, such as ‘degenerative disc disease,’ and understandably think of themselves as having a disease. People with headaches too can often refer to themselves as ‘being ill with a headache.’ Conceptualizations of chronic pain as an illness naturally lead to the above behaviors that we do when ill: we stay home and rest. Frequently, pain relievers subsequently get referred to as ‘medicines,’ a term that has connotations of something one takes to cure an illness.

Chronic pain as something that is alarming

In all the above ways of relating to pain, there is a common element: it’s that chronic pain is alarming. Whether it is war or imprisonment or a mechanical problem or an injury or illness, pain is an object of concern. It’s not only bad; it is bad enough to do something about it. In other words, it impels us to act like a fire alarm. Such alarms are emotionally distressing. We become concerned and aroused with some degree of fear. We can also cry when in pain. We don’t jump up and down for joy. Rather, we are emotionally distressed while in pain. As such, pain is alarming.

Differing relationships to chronic pain

As is clear, different people can have different relationships to chronic pain and an individual might have different relationships to his or her pain at different times in life. Moreover, this inventory of possible relationships is not exhaustive. There are more relationships that we could describe.

The point is important to remember because when you are in one of these relationships to pain they seem obviously accurate to the situation at hand. It’s hard, for instance, to recognize that it is just one perspective that you might take on pain when you are in one of these relationships. It can be hard to understand how someone might have a different relationship to his or her chronic pain. For instance, one might say, “Of course, you are going fight against the pain… Who wouldn’t?” The relationship to pain as alarming and something that must be gotten rid of seems so obviously true. What the inventory makes clear, though, is that each relationship is but one perspective and that it is possible to have different perspectives that you can take on your pain.

Are there other relationships to chronic pain? Ones that are very different than the above?

Sometimes people with chronic pain have none of the above relationships to pain and are, in fact, not very alarmed by their chronic pain. Rather than fighting against it, they have made peace with it. They are no longer alarmed by it and instead have learned to live with it.

Some people with chronic pain treat their pain like a noisy neighbor next door or in the apartment above. They once tried to get the neighbors to quiet down, but were unsuccessful and so have come to accept that they must learn to live with them. While the neighbors are still noisy, they no longer allow the neighbors to occupy too much of their time and attention. They still hear their neighbors but they then move on with the rest of their day.

Many people with chronic pain have a similar relationship to their pain. They are no longer alarmed by their pain. It’s there, but they realize that there’s not much they can do about it. So, ‘why fight it?’ they might ask. Instead, they move on with their day and get busy with other things. Of course, they would rather not have it, if they had a choice. But, they recognize that they don’t and so accept it. Part of acceptance is that they are just not that alarmed by pain anymore.

Their relationships to chronic pain involve understanding pain as something that is not alarming. They see chronic pain as part of life – the bad, along with the good, that we just have to put up with.

Now, what might that look like?

Chronic pain as a stable condition

Some people with chronic pain see their pain as a stable condition that doesn’t have any bearing on whether they are healthy or not. They might think of it or refer to it as ‘my old war injury’ or ‘my trick knee’ or ‘my old high school football injury’ or ‘my bad back’ or the like. The connotation in these ways of thinking about pain is that chronic pain is an old condition that isn’t going anywhere. That is to say, it’s stable and not going to get much better or much worse. In its familiarity, there’s not much cause for concern. While they may have seen a healthcare provider initially, a long time ago, there’s no need now to get it checked out. They know what it is and know that it is stable.

Notice too that people like who I’m describing tend not to view chronic pain as a health problem. They don’t see themselves as ill or unhealthy or in need of healthcare because of it. It’s a condition that they put up with. We all have things about our bodies that we don’t like or are bothersome, but we don’t feel any strong need to do anything about it because they are not indicators of an illness or poor health. Sometimes, it can be really big things, such as an old spinal cord injury that led to a paralysis. We don’t consider people in wheelchairs as ill. Paralysis is a stable condition that you live with. It is not an indicator of illness. Some people with chronic pain might see chronic pain in a similar way – it’s a stable condition that doesn’t lead to considering oneself as ill or unhealthy or in need of healthcare.

In these ways, they relate to chronic pain in ways that have taken the sense of alarm out of being in pain. As such, it makes it easier to put up with and they move on with their lives. The ‘bad back’ or the ‘trick knee’ or ‘the old war injury’ comes along for the ride, of course, but it is relegated to the background of their life. It is not a daily cause for much concern.

Chronic pain as part of growing old

Some people with chronic pain relate to their pain as something that just happens to most of us at some point in life. [They are not too far from the truth, in this regard. Anywhere between 20-30% of the general population haschronic pain and the percentages increase as we get older (Andersson, 1999; Manchikanti, et al., 2009; Toblin, et al., 2011.)] In this way, it’s not cause for much concern. It’s not unusual or startling. It’s an expected part of life and so it is not especially alarming. “Things are gonna hurt,” they might say with a certain amount of acceptance. Now, they might do things to manage pain, such as staying active, exercising, pacing themselves, and not doing any one thing for too long of a time. At the end of the day, though, they accept it and have made a place for it in their life.

Chronic pain as a broken check-engine light

A common cognitive behavioral intervention in chronic pain rehabilitation is to teach patients to relate to their chronic pain as a broken dashboard check-engine light. It goes something like the following. Acute pain is like a working check-engine light. When it comes on, it signals or warns us that something is wrong in the engine. As a result, we become mildly alarmed, pull over, and bring the car to the mechanic.

Acute pain has a similar function. It’s a danger signal that warns us that something is wrong in the body. As result, we become alarmed, stop what we are doing (i.e., pull over, as it were), and go see a healthcare provider.

Chronic pain is like a check-engine light that’s broken and remains stuck in the on-position. It doesn’t serve any useful function. The nerves are chronically reactive but they are not signaling any corresponding problem in the body (i.e., engine). Even if it is signaling some underlying problem, there isn’t much you can do about it. So, the check-engine light – the chronic pain – remains lit.

What if you had a check-engine light that remained lit up, but your mechanic says that, while there is a problem in the engine, its basically not fixable. He adds that as long as you drive reasonably, such as not driving a hundred miles an hour, it’s safe to drive. He concludes that you should just ignore the check-engine light and learn to drive with it on. You don’t have to become alarmed by it, pull over or bring the car in every time it comes on or remains on. Now, you are no longer alarmed by it and you know that the car is safe to drive as long as you are reasonable about it. After awhile, you may not notice it as much. The check-engine light remains on, but it doesn’t capture your attention as much any more.

Similarly, for most people with chronic pain, it’s safe to keep living life and engage in your normal activities as long as you are reasonable about what you do. With such reassurance from your healthcare provider, you can learn to ignore the pain, relegate it to the background, and not be concerned by it. You don’t have to pull over, as it were, and seek healthcare. You’ve had it checked out and your providers tell you that you should stay active.

The metaphor of the check-engine light takes the alarm out of pain. You still have it. The light is still on when you look at your dashboard, but it is not cause for alarm. So, you keep driving, or living life, engaged in your normal activities, as long as you are reasonable about it.

Some people with chronic pain relate to their pain as if it is a check-engine light that is broken. It provides no useful information. So, they keep living life despite it.

Chronic pain as something you get up and get out of the house for

As we described above, some people with chronic pain relate to pain as an injury or an illness and as such they react to pain as something for which they should stay home and rest. Other people with chronic pain, however, relate to their pain in almost the exact opposite way. When they have a bad pain day, they think to themselves, ‘I got to get up and get out of the house and go do something!’ They tend to think that, if they don’t get out of the house and get busy, all they’ll do is think about how much pain they’re in and how hard life is. In other words, they know they don’t cope very well when they don’t stay actively engaged in the activities of life. As such, they do the exact opposite of those who stay and rest: they get up and get out of the house!

This relationship to pain tends to involve continuing to work despite having chronic pain. For people who relate to pain in this manner, work is not something that one does after they get pain adequately managed; instead, work is a form of pain management. Work helps them to cope with pain. It allows them to get out of the house, structure their day, be involved with others, feel productive, feel good about themselves, and reduces financial stress. All these things buffer their pain by helping them to cope and all of it makes up for any added pain that they may have by being active. Contrariwise, they think that staying home and resting makes them not cope very well. It gets too depressing, for instance, if they don’t have anything else besides pain to hold their attention. They end up feeling unproductive and socially isolated.

Chronic pain as a barometer of what else is going on in life

Some people with chronic pain see their pain as a barometer for what’s happening in their life and how well they are managing it. While they might recognize that they will always have some baseline level of pain due to the medical aspects of their condition, they also understand that the overt fluctuations of pain – whether for the better or worse – are due to how well they are managing the stress in their lives. For instance, they notice that they are having more frequent headaches recently. Rather than understanding it as progression of an illness, they identify that the more frequent headaches are due to the stress of their recent insomnia. Maybe, they notice that their low back pain is worse in the last week. Rather than understanding the increase in pain as the result of ‘degenerating’ discs, they identify that they have been overly busy at work for the last few weeks and as a result they have fallen out of their usual mild aerobic exercise routine.

Understanding fluctuations of chronic pain as reflective of the stress in one’s life allows for people to then do something about it. They work on their insomnia or the workload at work. In other words, they take steps to manage their stress better.

Their relationship to pain is one that involves seeing fluctuations of pain as providing important information. It is not to be dreaded. They don’t feel vulnerable to pain as something that seems to come and go out of nowhere. Rather, they feel empowered by the important information that fluctuations of pain provide them. It allows them to know what they are doing works when their pain reduces or what they need to work on when their pain increases. They know that on most occasions there is a reason for the fluctuation of pain and it involves how well they are managing the stress of their lives. In other words, the relate to chronic pain as a barometer of what’s going on in their lives.

Different relationships to chronic pain for different people

As our short inventory reveals, people relate to chronic pain in different ways. Each relationship to chronic pain can feel like the truth. They each seem obviously accurate to the situation at hand. It’s important, however, to recognize that it is possible to relate to chronic pain in very different ways. You don’t have to be stuck in any one particular relationship.

I’ll leave it to the reader to reflect on your personal relationship to chronic pain. You might see yourself in one of the relationships in the inventory above. Or maybe you have an altogether different one. Maybe you could comment on this post and describe it for us. I’ll also leave it to you to consider whether your particular relationship is the most accurate understanding of pain and the one that’s best for you. It may be. However, it might not be.

It is therefore important to reflect on your particular relationship to chronic pain and whether you might change it if it’s not working for you. If you feel stuck, it’s possible to change your relationship to pain. It likely will take some work on your part. It may even require the assistance of some chronic pain rehabilitation providers or a full-fledged chronic pain rehabilitation program. But, it is possible to do. You can change your relationship to chronic pain.

Article Provided By: Institute for Chronic Pain

Carolina Pain Scrambler Logo, Chronic Pain, Greenville, SCIf you would like to discuss what Carolina Pain Scrambler do to help relieve your chronic pain symptoms or receive more information on our treatment process, please do not hesitate to call us at 864-520-5011 or you can email us at info@carolinapainscrambler.com

Chronic Pain, Nerve Pain therapy, Chemotherapy, Peripheral Neuropathy, Pain Center

Where Chronic Pain Hurts the Most

Where Chronic Pain Hurts the Most

As a doctor who sees firsthand the damage that chronic pain creates in people’s lives, I believe improving how we treat pain is the single most important public health challenge that we face – but not because of the opioid crisis or the $ 600 billion spent each year on treating pain and lost productivity. From my perspective, chronic pain’s most devastating effect, hidden just below the surface of all the tragic stories, is its impact on our most essential core need – love.Along with food, water, and oxygen, our most basic human necessity is love. From the moment we’re born, we carry with us an innate need to feel loved. And to feel truly fulfilled in life, we need to be able to express love toward others. Emotions like compassion and empathy are good for both our souls and our health.But the experience of pain, especially chronic pain, has the potential to tragically strip love from our lives in so many ways. We know that pain can lead to changes in emotional processing centers in our brains, creating mood swings, and a whole host of mood changes including depression, anxiety, panic-attacks, as well as anger and even aggressive behavior. Such alterations can dramatically interfere with our ability to communicate with others, and it disrupts relationships. Pain can quickly lead to social isolation and a desire to avoid being around others. What were once supportive or positive interactions now become negative and confrontational, or they just disappear altogether.The physical impact of pain can also reduce important social bonds. For example, back pain is one of the leading causes of missed work days, which can lead to not only losing a job, but also losing connections with co-workers who had previously served as a valuable support network. Functional limitations like problems walking or driving can also limit our ability to do things with our families and friends, all of which strips us of meaningful interactions and fulfillment. Strong social bonds and positive marital support also seem to correlate with better health and longer life, while loneliness does just the opposite.
Add it all up, and the most tragic consequence of pain for millions is loss, and in particular, the loss of love in their daily lives. Fractured or broken relationships and isolation are the silent casualties of a life in pain. This is precisely what needs more attention when it comes to how we treat pain. You can start this change today by directing the narrative about your pain management toward ways of bringing more love into your life. Let your doctors know that this is important to you and an area where you’d like them to put their focus.To jump-start a love-centered program for yourself, talk to your doctors about getting help in these areas:

  • Communication – Learning more effective ways of communicating and interacting with important people in your life when you don’t feel well is a major step. Ask for a referral to a psychologist or therapist who can help you hone these skills.
  • Show Up – You may not be able to make it to every function, but make a commitment to yourself to be more present at events or get-togethers. Pace yourself and have a plan to leave when you feel the time is right.
  • Steady Your Mood – Work on ways to calm mood swings through techniques like meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises. A pain psychologist can help you learn helpful tools.
  • Count Kindness – At the end of each day, jot down a quick list of things you did that showed kindness toward others, as a gentle reminder.
  • Volunteer – Find an organization or activity that has meaning to you and donate a little bit of your time each week.
  • Support Others – Finding the right support group can be tricky, but it is worth the effort to try. Look for groups that engage in healthy activities and try to encourage its members, as opposed to ones that are overly negative.

Give this love-centered strategy a try. After all, nobody can thrive on an empty tank.

Article Provided By: WEBMD

Carolina Pain Scrambler Logo, Chronic Pain, Greenville, SCIf you would like to discuss what Carolina Pain Scrambler do to help relieve your chronic pain symptoms or receive more information on our treatment process, please do not hesitate to call us at 864-520-5011 or you can email us at info@carolinapainscrambler.com
Chronic Pain Therapy, Pain Doctor, Pain Management, South Carolina

Chronic Pain Takes Away Life

When Chronic Pain Takes Away Your Life

Pain changes us. The minute we start to hurt, we make adaptions to how we move, what we do, and where we go. When we keep re-organizing our lives around our pain, we can become separated from our typical daily routine. The more we start to pull back, the less likely we are to go to work, exercise, walk, or even leave the house. Once this happens, we feel ourselves disconnect emotionally from friends, loved ones, and co-workers. Very quickly, we can start to lose much of what we value and enjoy about our lives.

Unfortunately, this kind of loss can be the biggest casualty of having chronic pain. Let’s take a look at some of the life-changing types of losses that I see patients face on a regular basis and where to look for help.

  • Family – As I often say, when one person at home is in pain, everyone who is living there hurts. A pain problem affects each person in the household in some way. The pain experience can disrupt how we interact with those closest to us. It may cause us to have mood swings or may prompt us to pull away from others, making it more difficult for everyone at home to communicate and support each other. Sadly, this can sometimes fracture relationships or even break up marriages.
  • Intimacy – If you find yourself avoiding intercourse because of pain, then you aren’t alone. For example, this can be a common problem for patients with low back pain or fibromyalgia. But in my experience, patients are often reluctant to bring this up with their doctor, and so, aren’t able to get the help they need. Besides the physical difficulties that can arise, the emotional consequences of being in pain can also make intimacy a big challenge. Feeling stressed or depressed over your health can stand in the way of bonding deeper with a significant other.
  • Income – Tragically, I have seen patients lose their careers, their life’s savings, and even their homes because of chronic pain. I have even seen some patients become homeless or start to live out of their cars, all because they could no longer stay employed because of the amount of pain they were in. Limitations with lifting, bending and carrying, as well as difficulties with tasks like keyboarding or even just sitting at a desk, can mean the loss of a long-standing career or can stand in the way of getting get back into the workforce. And beyond the financial consequences, there can be a deep-seated loss of self-esteem and self-identity from losing a career or no longer being a breadwinner.
  • Fun – Let’s face it, we all need to laugh, play, and have some fun in life. But sometimes the pain we feel stands in the way of doing some of the things we enjoy the most. That can include everything from the sports we like to play, keeping up with a favorite hobby, to dancing or just getting out of the house to visit friends or see a movie. Being in pain is no fun, but staying in pain can make having fun a big challenge, too.
An important step to overcoming loss is finding the right help. Ask your physician to help you find valuable resources like counselors, therapists, or pain psychologists who can help you process what you have been through while also helping you learn constructive tools that you can use to move forward. Community centers and public health organizations may also offer options, and there are now a lot of virtual online counseling and coaching resources available if you are having trouble finding the right resources close to home. Talk to a physical therapist or movement expert for guidance in becoming more active and engaged with recreational activities, work functions, and even explore what can be done to re-ignite your love-life.

The wounds from the loss we experience can run deep, but finding the healers out there can be a crucial step toward recovery.

 

Chronic Pain Takes Away Life  BY PETER ABACI, MD

 

 

Carolina Pain Scrambler Logo, Chronic Pain, Greenville, SC

 

If you would like to discuss what Carolina Pain Scrambler do to help relieve your chronic pain symptoms or receive more information on our treatment process, please do not hesitate to call us at 864-520-5011 or you can email us at info@carolinapainscrambler.com

Chronic Pain Therapy, Pain Doctor, Pain Management, South Carolina

Why You Need Hope

Why You Need Hope

“Is there hope?” is a question I hear often. One of my patients struggling with a low back injury recently mentioned that doctors keep telling her that there is no hope. The look on her face told me how upsetting this was for her, and she asked me, “What do you think?”

Before I tell you my answer, I first want to be clear about why both the question and the answer matter.

Broadly defined, hope is a feeling or expectation for a desired outcome. Using standardized tests like the Hope Scale, a number of different studies looking at the impact of hope on chronic disease suggests that it is associated with improved outcomes. Higher levels of hope often correlate with increased life satisfaction scores, better lifestyle habits, and lower levels of depression and anxiety. Cardiovascular problems seem to recover more favorably in patients that are more hopeful.

When it comes to chronic pain conditions, whether it be back pain, fibromyalgia, or migraines, experiencing constant pain can easily squeeze hope out. You want to stay optimistic and have a positive outlook, but the more you hurt, the more you start to question whether or not good times can lie ahead. Behavioral health researchers sometimes refer to this as emotional conflict, meaning all of this worrying about your future starts to take a toll.

Interestingly, a certain part of the brain, known as the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, seems to play an important role in boosting hope. In theory, the right thoughts or mindset generated from there help trigger a surge in more positive feelings or emotions in the brain’s emotional processing center called the amygdala, and this, in turn, activates behavior changes that eventually lead to accomplishing desired goals. The key step is mustering the right outlook to set this reaction in motion, and this is where folks can get stuck. If you start off with the notion that “This condition is chronic and won’t go away, and therefore, there is no hope,” then this plane will never get off the ground.

When doctors told my patient that there was no hope because she had a chronic condition, they zapped the air out of her sails, because they forced her to adopt the wrong mindset. Deep inside each of us is a human spirit with a core mission and a set of beliefs and values that spin off their own set of goals. Her outlook dramatically improved once I reminded her of all that she had accomplished since I had known her and how she was actually on the right path toward reaching her goals. We started to talk about how she was doing all of the right things, and if she stuck with the process, then her quality of life had a great chance of continuing to improve. Heck ya, there was hope!

Having a rosy outlook when things are going well is one thing, but seeing a glimmer of light when things seem to be at their darkest can pose a bigger challenge. The first step is finding that all-important spark that can rekindle hope, and then you can build your path forward based on the hope, not the pain.

 

Why You Need Hope  BY PETER ABACI, MD

 

 

 

Carolina Pain Scrambler Logo, Chronic Pain, Greenville, SC

 

If you would like to discuss what Carolina Pain Scrambler do to help relieve your chronic pain symptoms or receive more information on our treatment process, please do not hesitate to call us at 864-520-5011 or you can email us at info@carolinapainscrambler.com

Chronic Pain Therapy, Pain Doctor, Pain Management, South Carolina

No One Believes Your Pain

When No One Believes You’re In Pain

 

As a pain specialist, I’ve learned that one of the most powerful things I can do when I meet a new patient is to provide a sense of validation. Many of my chronic pain patients show up for their first appointment feeling misunderstood, frowned upon, or just not taken seriously. Most feel isolated – on an island with no one else to understand or appreciate what they are going through.

This sense of feeling misunderstood is partly due to the fact that there really isn’t a test that can detect and convey the complexities and impact of a pain experience, making the patient feel like they are on their own to prove how they feel. When something like pain can’t be put into a medical box of test results and data, then patients start to feel as though their doctors aren’t able to wrap their arms around the full breadth of their situation. And if the doctor isn’t getting it, then how can they possibly explain what is going on to their spouse or best friend? Insurance companies may start to question why you are still asking for treatment and not getting better, and coworkers start to frown when you miss work, especially if you don’t look injured on the outside. As all of this builds up, the person in pain feels increasingly more isolated and more likely to shut down.

But this shut down created by an absence of validation can zap the patient’s motivation to move forward in a positive direction. That is precisely why I try to make a concerted effort to let my patients know that I will do my best to better understand what it is like to walk in their shoes.

If a lack of empathy and understanding has gotten you down, here are three tips to help you work through this challenge.

  • Connect with people who get it. There are millions of others out there struggling with pain problems, some that may be very similar to your own. Making connections with others who have had similar experiences can be very empowering and provide valuable social support. Whether it be in-person or online, look to build bonds that will boost you up, not bring you down.
  • Remind yourself that you are not your pain. At the end of the day, you can only do so much to help doctors or important people in your life understand what you are going through, so don’t let your sense of self-worth and self-esteem get too wrapped up by how others see your pain. There is so much more to you than your challenging medical condition. Start to reconnect with your interests, passions, and hobbies again, or branch out and start new ones.
  • Don’t fret about the test. When it comes to understanding pain, both patients and their doctors put way too much emphasis on test results. Diagnostic findings on x-rays, MRIs, or blood tests should not be viewed as a way to rate how much pain a person is in. Some of the worst pain problems that I treat don’t have a test that can adequately diagnosis it, let alone pinpoint a way to treat it. I often say that I treat patients, not MRIs.

I know it feels unfair to be in pain and not receive the empathy and emotional support from those closest to you, but staying fixated on what you’re not getting from others can keep you stuck. Instead of worrying about how others see you, focus on taking the steps toward the life you truly want to lead.

 

 By:  PETER ABACI, MD

 

Carolina Pain Scrambler Logo, Chronic Pain, Greenville, SC

If you would like to discuss what Carolina Pain Scrambler do to help relieve your chronic pain symptoms or receive more information on our treatment process, please do not hesitate to call us at 864-520-5011 or you can email us at info@carolinapainscrambler.com

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