Coping with Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can be the result of an injury, illness, or medical condition, or its cause may be unknown. Some people with chronic pain can develop emotional problems or physical limitations that impair their relationships, hamper job performance, and limit their activities.

Effective pain treatments are available, the American Chronic Pain Association says. You can also take steps yourself to ease ongoing discomfort.

Treatment ideas

  • Find a health care provider who understands chronic pain, has experience treating pain similar to yours, is willing to talk and listen to you, and is willing to speak with your family.

  • Work with your health care provider to identify your pain and determine a pain-management plan. Your plan may include medications as well as non-medical treatments, such as exercise and meditation. Keeping a pain diary that includes where the pain is, how bad it is, how often it occurs, and what makes it better or worse can help your doctor find appropriate treatments.

  • Take care of your mental health. If you think you may be depressed because of your pain or are having difficulty with another emotional problem, tell your health care provider.

  • Explore your treatment options. Most treatment plans involve a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Many types of medications are used to treat chronic pain. Some drugs are long-acting to treat pain that’s continuous; others are short-acting to treat pain that comes and goes.

Variety of options

Treatments include:

  • Over-the-counter pain relief medications, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, which also reduce inflammation

  • Steroidal drugs, such as cortisol and prednisone, for more serious inflammatory conditions, such as chronic arthritis

  • Opioid pain medications, such as oxycodone

  • Local anesthetics that are injected around nerve roots—a group of nerves—or into muscles or joints to decrease swelling, irritation, muscle spasms, and abnormal nerve activity

  • Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or exercising

  • Complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, meditation, and other alternative therapies

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