It may take many attempts, but finding the best way to manage your pain is a priority. As a way of alerting you that something is wrong, acute pain is a good thing. Chronic pain, though, is purely an intruder in your life.
Pain physically impacts your body by tensing muscles, limiting mobility, contributing to fatigue, and robbing you of energy. Pain also has an emotional impact and it can be the catalyst for anger, depression, and fear.
Arthritis is strongly associated with major depression, likely because of functional limitations imposed by the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Up from 16 million in 2002, now 17.4 million American adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis report arthritis-attributable activity limitations.
Living better with arthritis and managing your pain are synchronous goals. The physical and emotional impact of uncontrolled pain can interfere with every aspect of your life. The goal of pain management is to diminish pain as much as possible and improve your quality of life.
People experience and react differently to pain. Tolerance of pain varies between different individuals. Various nerves are involved in receiving and transmitting pain signals. When a pain signal is sent, the body releases chemicals to try to block the pain signal. In chronic pain situations, pain continues even when pain stimuli (e.g., inflammation) are controlled. You must have a pain management plan tailored to your specific condition.
In most cases, medications will play a significant role in pain management. Other pain management options may include: injections (i.e., corticosteroid or epidural), physical or occupational therapy, acupuncture, acupressure, relaxation techniques, massage, chiropractic, TENS or electrical stimulation, and joint surgery.
If your pain is well-managed, you will be able to focus on other actions that will help you protect your joints from further damage and deformity (good posture, exercise, staying active). Pain can exaggerate already poor body mechanics. You may slouch or walk hunched over. You may take smaller steps when walking, or favor one side more than the other. Muscle atrophy and joint deformity can result. With effective pain management, bad habits that contribute to making pain worse can be corrected.
Consult your rheumatologist and discuss your options. You should also consider consulting with a pain medicine specialist. A physical therapist or occupational therapist may also become part of your pain-management team.
Don't be alarmed if you feel frustrated while you are trying to effectively manage your pain. Be prepared for pain to flare up at unexpected times. Even with treatment, many factors will affect your pain level. Besides the aforementioned pain management options, there are positive attributes that will help you manage your pain. Positive attitude, perseverance, and courage will guide you to make right choices that will help you manage your pain. Pain management requires a multidisciplinary approach. A combination of effective treatments and positive actions has a greater chance of successfully managing pain than any single treatment option.