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Chronic Pain

Pain is a common and normal human experience – we all experience pain from time to time.

The pain we experience is usually important. Pain can tell us that something may be wrong, that we may need to be careful not to hurt ourselves further and that it might be a good idea to get some medical help. But while pain usually gets better with time, sometimes it can persist well after our body should normally have healed itself.

Any pain that lasts for more than six months is said to be chronic pain. Such pain is also often referred to as persistent pain.

Causes of chronic pain

Chronic pain can have a variety of causes:

  • Chronic conditions, e.g. fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or migraines
  • After an injury, e.g. spinal cord injury or phantom limb pain
  • After a medical procedure, e.g. after surgery or after chemotherapy
  • As a result of disease, e.g. nerve pain after shingles or pain after stroke

Sometimes, the cause of any particular pain cannot be identified. Other times, even though the cause of pain is known, it is not possible for the pain to be permanently relieved through medical procedures or via medications.

When pain cannot be completely or permanently relieved, it becomes all the more important to learn to manage it and our emotional wellbeing, so that we can maintain a good quality of life.

Impact of chronic pain

Chronic pain can affect all areas of a person’s life – their ability to work, to manage simple day-to-day tasks, and to enjoy social activities as they did in the past.

By limiting what people can do, chronic pain can also have a big impact on their emotional wellbeing and overall quality of life. At least 50% of Australian adults with chronic pain experience serious levels of anxiety and depression. Fears of making the pain worse and about living with the pain are common. Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and loss are also common and very understandable.

When we experience chronic pain, we are often affected by three types of symptoms; physical symptomsunhelpful thoughts, and unhelpful behaviours.

Physical symptoms

  • The pain itself
  • Muscle weakness and stiffness
  • Tension and headaches
  • Changes in sleep
  • Low energy levels
  • Symptoms of panic
  • Reduced concentration and memory difficulties

Unhelpful thoughts

  • Thoughts about the nature of the pain and our ability to cope
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless about ourselves and the future
  • Self-criticism, self-doubt and worry

Changes in behaviour

  • Overdoing activities when pain is good
  • Underdoing activities when pain is bad
  • Becoming more irritable
  • Avoiding people and places, including things we used to enjoy doing

If the cause of the pain can be treated, it should be.

It is always important to first see your doctor for a medical assessment of your pain to rule out any malignant or treatable causes for your pain. Maintaining a good ongoing relationship with your doctor is essential to managing all medical conditions, especially chronic conditions such as chronic pain.

Managing chronic pain

Regrettably, some pain cannot be completely or permanently relieved. The good news is that there are practical skills that can be used to manage pain and its impact on our life and emotional wellbeing.

Research shows that people with chronic pain can benefit from learning about chronic pain and several core self-management skills. An effective pain management course, such as the one offered by MindSpot, helps people with chronic pain learn about their symptoms, and learn skills for managing these symptoms and their emotional wellbeing. These skills can help reduce the impact pain has on people’s lives, regardless of the cause or severity of the pain.

For more information about treatment options and assistance for chronic pain:

  • Contact MindSpot or call 1800 61 44 34 to discuss our assessment and treatment options or other services that may help
  • Talk to your GP
  • See a psychologist, psychiatrist, or another mental health professional

Opioid medicine and pain

In addition to a pain management course, pain medication may also be part of your pain management plan.It is always best to work with your GP or pain specialist to develop a pain management plan that is right for you. To learn more about opioids and pain, click the button below.

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