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St. Clare health! - Summer 2014

What is Chronic Pain?

What is "chronic pain" and is it real pain?

The term "chronic pain" means pain lasting longer than six months. Although it is benign, (it is not life threatening or caused by a fatal illness such as cancer), chronic pain is very real and can be disabling. It is rarely cured by medical treatments such as surgery. It remains a mystery to doctors who treat it because it does not respond normally to medical interventions. As a result, physicians, patients and families may become frustrated. Chronic pain is not "all in your head". It is something you will probably live with for the rest of your life, but there is hope. Chronic pain management programs provide the tools for reclaiming your life in spite of the pain.

How can a Chronic Pain Management program help?

Chronic pain management programs provide "bio-psycho-social" treatment for the person with chronic pain. "Bio" means treating the body, which includes a thorough medical work-up. This work-up determines, to the greatest extent possible, the cause and severity of the specific pain, and rules out all diseases which could contribute to the pain. A realistic appraisal of the person's safe potential activity level is completed before beginning physical treatments to improve strength, endurance, flexibility, mobility, and activity tolerances. The term "psycho" refers to the treatment of the person's emotional adjustment to living with pain and the numerous losses which can follow, such as job, income, family role, self esteem, etc. Depression and anger are very common for people with chronic pain, and counseling can help you deal with these emotions. "Social" refers to treating the person within significant relationships.

Often the important relationships in the life of a person with chronic pain have been strained. Improving communication between family members and teaching how a family member's pain affects all who are concerned can ease this strain. Often chronic pain sufferers isolate themselves from social contact. Although most of us are not in the mood to socialize when in pain, isolation can make the pain seem worse. Increased social involvement, with family, friends and/or peers has been shown to assist in coping with chronic pain

Pain management treatment is a form of rehabilitation where the goal is to learn to function at your best both physically and emotionally, while living with a disability. It is not a cure for the pain, but a way of learning how to live life in spite of the pain. A positive, motivated attitude is key in improving one's quality of life.