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Coping with Chronic Pain Through Mental Health

RWC Tutor Leslie Rivera discusses healthy ways to deal with chronic pain.

Chronic pain affects more than just the body; it also dramatically affects the personal life and one’s mental well-being. A lot of these conditions either affect mood or are affected by it. These conditions make people feel unable or unmotivated to engage in activities they want to participate in, diminishing their quality of life. This is further made worse by the fact that most of these diseases have no cure or even standard treatment. Having a chronic condition is also very isolating since not many people understand what it is like to live with chronic pain. Chronic pain often forces individuals to rely on assistance from others, leading to feelings of vulnerability and guilt.

The first step in learning to cope with chronic pain is understanding the condition that you have. Some of the most common forms of chronic pain are neck and back pain, often caused by injury or age. Studies show that many who experience neck/back pain suffer from anxiety or depression. Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints that makes daily activities like getting out of bed and opening containers difficult. This damages a person’s self-esteem and sense of independence. A cancer diagnosis is also an extremely stressful and draining time for a person. Anxiety and depression are common in cancer patients and can hinder a person’s chances of remission.

Migraines are severe headaches that cause sensitivity to light and sound; they can be occasional or chronic. Those who experience migraines often feel anxious about when their next episode will occur. Fibromyalgia is nerve pain throughout the body and is believed to be linked to emotional and physical stress. Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a disease that damages nerves and even affects eyesight. People with MS will either have gradually worsening symptoms or have periods of remission. Premenstrual syndrome is when a person experiences period-like symptoms like bloating and cramps prior to their menstrual cycle. The physical pain, along with the influx of hormones, often worsens a person’s anxiety.

There are several ways to deal with both the physical and mental aspects of a person’s chronic condition. Gentle exercises are a great way of reducing swelling and building strength without overexerting the body. It is crucial to start small when beginning to exercise as it allows your body to ease into exercise. You can use the internet to look up exercises for your specific condition for increased effectiveness. Adjusting one’s diet can also help a lot. Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into your diet while also avoiding inflammatory foods. Improving sleep can be done by purchasing mattresses and pillows designed for your condition, as well as taking medication at night to ensure pain won’t disrupt sleep. Being around animals and nature can boost mood and reduce pain. Therapy is the most effective way to deal with the psychological aspect of living with chronic pain and, combined with medication, can drastically improve quality of life.

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