Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Chronic Pain and Happiness

Being happy is a difficult challenge for most of us. It is a state of mind, an intangible state of being. No one other than yourself can say whether or not you are happy. But what about those people who have the added challenge of living with chronic pain? These are people who are not dying from their illness, but rather live a life with some element of ongoing pain.

Working as a health professional I come across many people who experience some sort of chronic pain condition. Arthritis, phantom limb pain, recurrent migraine, chronic back pain, diabetic nerve pain; the list goes on. There are so many people who have these conditions, yet while doctors do everything they can to relieve the ailments, sometimes these conditions cause symptoms that some people just have to learn to live with.

If someone punched you in the stomach, or you stubbed your toe or banged your head; in that moment it is highly unlikely that you will feel happy. While this may hurt for a short while and makes you feel a bit sore, this pain will go away. This is acute, short lived pain. For people with chronic pain, their pain is ongoing and has varying degrees of severity. Being in pain is a miserable experience, so how do people with chronic pain manage to be happy?

Happiness means different things to everyone, as does pain. Experiencing pain, like happiness, can only be described by the person feeling it. No one can measure or record someone else’s pain experience.
Pain management is such a complex issue, and emotional well being has a major effect on how well a person lives with their pain.  Understanding pain, learning coping strategies, taking medication, practising relaxation techniques, exercising as appropriate are all regarded to be essential in the management of chronic pain.

As we all know, happiness is a different state of being for each individual. Living with chronic pain does not make being happy impossible, far from it.  Being able to move freely or perhaps not experiencing any pain one day might be things that elate chronic pain sufferers. 

For pain sufferers, the extent to which each individual manages their pain has a huge effect on their happiness. Chronic pain management is a complex issue, and sufferers should seek help from their doctor or therapist, as there is no need for anyone to face chronic pain alone. 

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