When you’re living with chronic pain, you already feel like you have enough to deal with. Pain management, finding the right treatments, and attempting to rehabilitate can all be difficult enough. Unfortunately, however, they aren’t the only problems likely to present themselves on the long journey you might take with chronic pain. There are other serious risks you need to be aware of and to start thinking about now. Otherwise, it can be difficult to notice them until it’s too late.
One of the most immediately obvious consequences of living with chronic pain is that it can throw your sleep cycle out of whack. If you can’t get comfortable at night, you are much less likely to get a full night’s sleep. Beyond feeling unpleasant, sleepless can go on to exacerbate your feelings of pain, increase the feeling of stress, and can even make long-term recovery harder. After all, rest is essential to the healing process. Look at ways to improve sleep even when in pain, such as cooling down your room and exercising half an hour before bed. Try to only go to bed when you’re naturally feeling sleepy, too. Trying to sleep when you’re not tired and stressing out about it will only make matters worse.
You don’t have to be lacking in sleep for chronic pain to make your life a lot more stressful. The emotional health impacts of chronic pain are well established by now. People with chronic pain are more likely to be diagnosed with severe stress, anxiety, and depression. What’s more, stress and anxiety have been shown to make your experience of pain more acute. Especially with back pain, the body seizes, and the muscles tighten, putting more pressure on the back, joints, and so on. While you should look at methods of fighting stress like aromatherapy and meditation, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about not just physical health but mental health worries, too.
With sleeplessness and stress often playing a role, it should be no surprise that people who are treating chronic pain can tend to feel more forgetful or like they aren’t as creative or productive thinkers as they once used to be. If it feels like your thinking is slowed down and like you’re reacting to things through a thick, misty veil, this is known as brain fog. Mindfulness meditation has been shown as a good way to not only help fight your pain but also to start using your mind a little more actively so you can clear away that fog. There’s no denying, of course, that prescription opioids can play a role in slowing your mental processing speed, too.
One of the most worrying turns of events when dealing with chronic pain is when your treatment starts to become less effective as time goes on. If your painkillers don’t work anymore, then many people become inclined to try more dangerous treatment or even to self-medicate. Only, this habituation happens as a result of taking more painkillers than you should in the hopes of making their effects stronger. It might not happen with all medications and all people, but the risk is real. You can offset it by looking at forms of therapy you can use to supplement and occasionally replace your reliance on pain medication. To be clear, this isn’t a recommendation you turn down pain medication, but do know that it’s not a miracle cure. It can become less effective over time.
Prescription medication can be dangerous, too. There are several people whose addiction to painkillers and opioids begins because they were becoming too dependent on prescription medicine, to begin with. If you are regularly using your medication in larger doses or using it in a way not intended by the doctor, i.e. using it out of habit even when your pain isn’t presenting as strongly, you might have reason to get help today. Dependency can be even more unpleasant and much more dangerous than living with chronic pain, and the sooner you learn to recognise the risk and whether you might be in danger, the better.
Even if you don’t get dependent on the medication you’re using, there’s a good chance you are going to face withdrawal at some point down line. If you’re using strong prescription pain medications like codeine, your body starts to rely on it even if you’re not mentally dependent on it to manage your mood and emotional health. When your body gets used to it, suddenly taking it away can lead to some very unpleasant physical sensations. Nausea, fever, sweating, headaches, withdrawal symptoms can come in all shapes and sizes and it can feel like you are very genuinely and seriously ill. Many people dealing with chronic pain find themselves undergoing withdrawal when they decide to stop using pain medication, but it’s not dangerous or life-threatening as it feels by any stretch of the imagination.
One of them problems not as often addressed in those suffering from chronic pain is the real danger that physical inactivity can pose. Of course, when you’re in great pain, then getting active and exercising becomes a lot harder. But in the vast majority of cases, it doesn’t become impossible. Using low impact exercises, you can make sure your body gets the workout that it needs. Becoming physically inactive won’t just increase your chances of developing more chronic health issues down the line. It can sometimes play a contributing factor in your pain levels. Too much inactivity has been shown to exacerbate back pain and injury while gaining weight can also increase joint pain.
We have to be careful of how we manage symptoms related to our chronic pain, not just the pain itself. So, too, should we be wary of our reliance on medication. That’s not to say that you should consider skipping it entirely but look into other forms of pain relief to supplement it to ensure that it does not become a dominating factor in your life.