Every gardener knows that Winter is harsh on the garden. When the worst of the season sets in, with thick clouds … howling winds … snow … ice … and frigid temperatures … the garden is a dreary place to be. Barren. Even lonely. Our lives are gardens, too; remember? And Winter takes its toll on them, especially if you live with Chronic Pain.
Most pain, thankfully, is temporary. In a few days, or a couple of weeks, the body is back to its old self and the injury is soon forgotten. Chronic Pain isn’t so easy. It is pain that persists for 3-6 months or longer. And it is usually the result of an underlying medical condition, or injury. Many Chronic Illnesses are associated with Chronic Pain, i.e. Cancer, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Back Pain, Parkinson’s, etc. If you have one, then you know all too well the effects that it has on the body. You live with it, daily. And you suffer. Often times, in silence.
Chronic Pain interferes with living. It changes even the little things. But it wrecks havoc with the more important ones. Chronic Pain prevents patients from getting much needed rest — even precious REM sleep. It changes mood and mobility. It raises stress levels, within the body. The added stress can and usually does create even more pain. I’ve been there. I know. It’s a vicious cycle. The effects of Chronic Pain can lead to Depression. Why? There is a link between our emotions and pain. If your body is in pain, you feel bad. As the pain increases, you feel worse. And when the pain is prolonged, as with Chronic Pain, you begin to feel very overwhelmed … desperate … alone.
Studies have shown that people with Chronic Widespread Pain, or CWP, are more at risk than individuals who do not struggle with pain. CWP patients are 1.7 times more likely to die from Cancer. They are 3.2 times more likely to die from Cardiovascular disease and 5.7 times more likely to die from Respiratory disease. Even when lifestyle factors were taken into consideration, i.e. smoking, those with CWP were at a 50% greater risk than individuals who do not live with long-term pain.
If you suffer with Chronic Pain, management is key to achieving some level of normalcy. How you manage your pain is between you and your doctor. What works for me, or you, may not help someone else. Pain medications, especially Opioids, should be carefully prescribed and monitored. The misuse of such medications has created a crisis all its own, in America. NSAIDs, whether by prescription or over-the-counter, are another option and should also be taken as-directed. Some patients may find relief, given the source of their pain, with a minimally invasive surgical procedure. The rest of us must stay vigilant and creative. We are in this battle, for the long-haul. If you are interested in alternative options, you might consider: Acupuncture, Massage Therapy, Aromatherapy, or Cannabidiol-infused rubs (CBD).
I have been living with Chronic Pain, for almost 18 years. I don’t profess to be an expert, but experience is a good teacher. If there are two items that I cannot imagine living without, it’s my trusty heating-pad and a well-made recliner. I actually tried living without the latter, for a time. I did pretty good, until a flare threw my body into levels of pain that I hadn’t experienced in nearly 3 years. I immediately purchased a new one. As simple as it may sound, a recliner (when reclined) provides relief to the body much like a hospital-bed. Think about it. When your pain goes from bad to worse, owning one becomes a necessity. In some cases, it provides the only sleep you can get.
Last but not least, I have personally found that treating your “level of pain” is as important as treating the pain itself. Chronic Pain isn’t always a 5-alarm fire, but it is always present. So, focus on the level of pain — not eliminating it. The term “Chronic” means that it’s not going anywhere. Accept this fact. Don’t let it drag you down, or defeat you. Rest assured, it will try. There will be good days and bad. But the best way to live with Chronic Pain is to learn how to fight back. It empowers you — emotionally and physically. Yes, it is draining. That’s the nature of living with the beast. There’s nothing easy about it. Still, you become wiser from the battle — better equipped to handle the next setback (when it comes). You learn to make fewer mistakes. You explore helpful discoveries. Your outlook, despite your condition, becomes more confident. That’s healthy. It’s encouraging. And optimism, like the warmth of Spring, brings new life!