Newly Diagnosed with Chronic Pain: What Now?

 

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with chronic pain, you’re not alone. Chronic pain is a debilitating medical issue that affects more than 100 million Americans with an overall healthcare bill topping $500 million annually.Chronic pain feels like a never-ending hurt, but to get the diagnosis you have to have experienced persistent pain for at least six months. However, many Americans feel pain for much, much longer.

 

That’s why when faced with a chronic pain diagnosis, sufferers are also burdened with depression, anxiety, and stress. Maybe your life has changed in substantial ways due to the pain — you can’t stand up long enough to coach your kids’ soccer team or the medical bills and insurance premiums have you stressed out at the bank. People diagnosed with chronic pain have to live with it every day, but there are ways to understand, manage and even overcome this constant suffering.

 

Understanding the Diagnosis

 

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with chronic pain, you may be asking yourself, what happens next? A diagnosis doesn’t magically make the pain go away, but it does provide the foundation you need to get relief. First, you need to understand your health issue, from the root cause to the future impact. Some common causes of chronic pain include:

 

  • postsurgical pain
  • post-trauma pain
  • cancer pain
  • arthritis pain
  • nerve damage
  • psychogenic pain
  • Back and neck pain

 

Once you’ve talked to your doctor and understand where your pain comes from and where’s located, you can begin working on managing the symptoms and reducing stress.

 

Managing Symptoms

 

While your doctor may prescribe you medication for the pain, you should also consider alternative ways to manage the symptoms of chronic pain, both physical and mental. You can engage in regular exercise that’s approved by your doctor, which can boost endorphins and suppress pain. You can cope with pain using physical activities such as:

 

  • Walking
  • Yoga
  • Massage
  • Strength training
  • Stretching

 

Many Medicare Advantage plans offer wellness programs and access to the Silver Sneakers program, both of which can help provide fitness. Insurers such as Aetna offer plans that can help; click here to learn more about what they offer.

 

However, there are also mental techniques you can use to help with both pain in the body and the impact it has on your state of mind. Distraction is a very practical method for using mindfulness to manage pain symptoms. When you’re feeling heightened pain, do something to take your mind off of it. You can use positive self-talk, guided imagery, journaling, meditation, deep breathing, exercise, television or a hobby that you can immerse yourself in.

 

Another important way to reduce the symptoms of chronic pain is to reduce your stress. Studies show stress exacerbates pain, and one of the first places you can make stress free is your home sweet home.

 

Reducing Stress at Home

 

Even if your toolbox is filled with relaxation techniques, they’ll do you little good if you’re surrounded by stressors in your home environment. Reducing clutter, organizing your belongings and creating a serene meditation space are all powerful ways to lower the stress that can inflame your pain. You can make your home a place that manages chronic pain by:

 

  • Cut the sensory overload: Your counters are stacked with knick-knacks and your bookshelves overflowing with bestsellers. If packed spaces feel tight and out-of-balance, so will you.

 

  • Organize your storage: Nothing is more stressful than needing a item and not being able to find it. You dig through clothes, linens and holiday ornaments, searching desperately for something you need right away. Making sure your spaces are organized with see-through bins and labels on boxes can help diminish the kind of frustration that worsens pain.

 

  • Create a meditation space: Establish a nook where you can practice meditation, deep breathing and relaxation. A comfy chair with plush pillows, a floor cushion for sitting or a window seat with a comfortable back can help you settle into a mindset that lowers pain.

 

Keep in mind that coping with chronic pain isn’t a one-time goal, but a lifestyle change that you must commit to every day. It may seem overwhelming at first, especially as you deal with the shock of your diagnosis, but if you stay focused on pain management methods that work you will notice long-term improvement.

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