1 in 3 Americans experience some form of chronic pain. Few people like departing from the warmth and comfort of their beds in the morning, but people in pain experience an extra hurdle to this. It may not be possible for people who have not experienced chronic pain to understand the extent to which facing the day can seem an impossible or even futile venture. Sometimes, one of the hardest things for a person with chronic pain to do is to get out of bed.
There are physical and motivational reasons for this. Many types of pain are worse in the morning; muscles and joints are stiff from the night’s immobility. Morning pain is particularly prevalent among those with arthritis. On top of this, it’s natural for the person in pain to occasionally think, “Why bother?” With activity limitations and the constant struggle to merely “get through the day,” maybe it’s best to just stay in bed. Most people recognize that this thought process is a sign of depression, a condition commonly occurring with chronic pain. It’s important to look for ways out of the cycle.
1. Avoid false optimism. When you feel awful, having someone, particularly someone who has no idea what you’re going through, tell you to be positive and put on a smile will likely just increase your frustration, and rightly so. Fighting the urge to give up doesn’t mean pretending to be happy about your situation. Be honest with yourself and others; communicate your need to be honest and your expectation of honesty from those close to you.
2. Research. What if you could spend your time doing something that could lead to reducing your pain? Something, that is, besides taking medication, going to specialists and doing your regular exercises. In 2006, Endo Pharmaceuticals conducted a survey of 303 chronic pain patients for the American Pain Foundation; 51% of respondents said they felt little or no control over their pain. This statistic attests to the fact that chronic pain management and treatment are in a sad state. Conditions like back pain, arthritis and chronic headache are very common, but the medical community isn’t quite sure how to treat or even diagnose them. With the rising rate of diagnosess for umbrella conditions like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, for which no solid treatment protocol has been developed, many with chronic pain are left either undiagnosed or with an unhelpful diagnosis.
There is a wealth of research available online from reputable sites (including http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ and http://myorthoevidence.com) where patients can find the latest research. Information on causes of various conditions, common misdiagnoses and current developments in treatment can be found throughout the internet, but be careful to fact-check. Articles and blogs that contain secondary sources, sensible explanations and links to research can generally be trusted. Through research, you may find an alternative therapy for your condition. Therapies like trigger point massage and myofascial release, for example, are likely beneficial for many different types of pain conditions, yet relatively few people know about these therapies. Educating yourself as much as possible concerning your pain will only empower you.
3. Consider advocacy. Sometimes a good way to transcend the confines of a limiting situation is to find a way to reach beyond yourself and have an impact on something you care about. There are a number of issues affecting people with chronic pain: access to affordable health care, more research into preventative and natural medicine, insurance coverage of complementary and alternative medicine, federal legalization of medical marijuana, worker’s compensation reform, etc. Connect with people in pain in forums and support groups and consider collaborating with them on some organized effort – writing letters to the editor or to your representatives, for example – to get the issues close to you out in the open.
4. A little incentive. Of course, not all your motivation needs to come from lofty desires to change your condition and that of the world. Sometimes, it’s important to have a little something to look forward to. A cup of your favorite coffee, your favorite breakfast, an early phone call with a loved one – these can help give you that little extra boost to start your day.