Living with Chronic Pain

The emotional and social toll of chronic pain makes the pain worse. Anxiety, stress, depression, anger and fatigue decrease the body's ability to handle pain. These feelings suppress your own endorphins, hormones which fight pain. Negative feelings increase the level of Substance-P, a hormone that will amplify sensations of pain. Together these cause a vicious cycle of pain. If you or someone you love suffers from chronic pain it is important to get help early.

Chronic pain was once viewed only as a symptom. It was often ignored by doctors focused on searching for and treating underlying medical problems. But for sufferers, pain is what brings people them to the doctor's office. It is pain that they want treated.

Pain can start a vicious cycle that damages your health. For example, if your back hurts when you walk, it is natural to walk less. When you stop walking, the muscles, tendons and nerves in your back and legs atrophy and deteriorate. That in turn causes more back pain. It also increases your risk of heart disease and depression.

Chronic pain also takes a toll on one’s social life. It can lead to problems with your family and co-workers. The people around you just can't see or feel what your pain and often discount your symptoms. They may avoid you or ridicule you.

If people know that you're taking a narcotic they may assume you are an addict. There remains confusion between dependence and addiction. A drug taken regularly, even medications like asthma inhalers, can cause dependence. Stopping the medication can cause symptoms of withdrawal. This still is not the same as addiction, a psychological problem.

Ideally chronic pain should be addressed in a comprehensive way. A person's physical, emotional, and cognitive needs are as important as their physical treatments. If you have chronic pain, see a doctor and get treated. Other positive steps include:

  • Set achievable goals and don't over do it.
  • Join a pain support group.
  • Know your medications.
  • Schedule rest, exercise, and relaxation.
  • Learn to relax through deep breathing and stress management.
  • Engage in self-affirmation.
  • Decrease alcohol consumption.

Your doctor can help you do each of these successfully.






The information in this site briefly describes issues related to medical treatments, and has been licensed by from Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc., who is solely responsible for said content.  This web site is not a substitute for good medical care or for a consultation with a spine specialist. It should not be used to plan your treatment. The well considered advice of a specialist who has personally examined you is always superior to even the best internet pages.


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Last modified: 07/27/08