Coping with Chronic Pain

A significant minority of headache sufferers experience almost constant pain that does not respond to currently available medications. Patients who suffer chronic pain deserve care and compassion. However, chronic pain does not grant you permission to be obnoxious, abusive, or demanding. Such behavior may result in isolation and loss of support from family, friends, and caregivers.

Unlike the patient in acute pain from a kidney stone or intermittent migraine or cluster headache, the individual suffering from chronic pain may appear normal to family, friends, coworkers, and supervisors. Chronic pain is a personal and private suffering. Even physicians cannot determine whether chronic pain is mild or severe. This isn't "fair," but this is the way it is.

This aspect of chronic pain can lead to discouragement and demoralization. Emotional suffering may exceed the physical suffering of chronic pain. Constant pain drains one's energy and spirits. Physicians trained in "find it and fix it" may blame the victim when their best efforts fail to find a cause and a cure for the chronic pain.

Dr. Richard Sternbach, in his book Mastering Pain, describes a positive twelve-step program for coping with chronic pain:

  1. Accept the fact of having chronic pain
  2. Set specific goals for work, recreation or hobbies, and social activities toward which you will work
  3. Let yourself get angry at your pain if it seems to be getting the best of you
  4. Take your analgesics on a strict time schedule and then taper them down
  5. Get in the best physical shape possible, then keep fit
  6. Learn how to relax, and practice relaxation regularly
  7. Keep yourself busy
  8. Pace your activities
  9. Have your family and friends support only your healthy behavior, not your invalidism
  10. Be open and reasonable with your doctor
  11. Practice effective empathy with others having pain problems
  12. Remain hopeful

This book offers practical and valuable advice for the patient suffering from chronic pain.