Health Canada reports that nearly 8 million Canadians live with chronic pain. If you are reading this you might be one of those 8 million or know one of them. Chronic pain is pain that lasts longer than three months. Sometimes there is no known cause for the pain, sometimes it occurs after an injury has healed or a condition has been treated. The World Health Organization recognizes chronic pain as a disease and not only a symptom of something else.
Chronic primary pain happens when the pain continues after the body has healed or when there is no identifiable cause such as in fibromyalgia, lower back pain, pelvic pain, or musculoskeletal pain. Chronic secondary pain is pain that is accompanied by an underlying illness like rheumatoid arthritis or with treatment such as cancer treatment or post-surgical pain.
Chronic pain can leave a person feeling hopeless, helpless, and discouraged. It may seem like no one really understands how uncomfortable you feel and if you have no visible injury you may feel stigmatized by others. If you experience chronic pain, you may feel isolated and have difficulty accessing health services, may feel a lack of treatment and support, and you may stop seeking support. Chronic pain impacts many areas of your life including physical, mental, and emotional health. If you live with chronic pain you may find yourself unable to work as much which impacts your finances and job security. You may avoid social interactions and everyday activities. Chronic pain may impair your sense of identity.
Did you know that chronic pain is associated with feelings of depression and anxiety as well as poor sleep? The three go together and they have a bidirectional relationship which means that:
Chronic pain > depression/anxiety > poor sleep
Depression/anxiety > more pain > poor sleep
Poor sleep > depression/anxiety > more pain
Individuals who deal with chronic pain are at greater risk for mental health issues and insomnia. It makes it a little more challenging to manage all three but it can be done. Some strategies that can help include:
Relaxation activities – choose activities that make you relaxed. This might include coloring, creating art, tinkering with a motor, having a hot bath or shower, listening to soothing music.
Moderate activity – try not to over do it as that may increase your pain and make it harder for you to sleep. Walking, light stretches, leisurely swimming. Try to schedule your activity earlier in the day so that it impacts yours sleep less.
Pacing – figure out how much energy you have and plan activities to fit with your energy level. Schedule activities across the week rather than all on one day. You may need to break it down even further and do part of one task then rest and then do another part. Experiment with this to see what works best for you.
Change your thoughts – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be useful to help you change your thoughts related to your chronic pain, mental health, and sleep. For example, telling yourself that your pain will not kill you can be helpful if you are a person who tends to focus on your pain.
If you are suffering with chronic pain and need help please reach out to our clinic as our trained professionals can offer you support to help deal with these issues.