A pain that I’m used to

By: Alison Dunn Sep 07, 2010
A pain that I’m used to

Is it possible to get used to feeling pain?

I believe that it is – because there are many people who live daily with chronic pain. Whether it’s arthritis, sore back, sore knees, fibromyalgia, or some other source of pain, there are many people who wake up every morning in pain, struggle through their daily lives with pain, only to fall into bed at night exhausted from living with that pain. And while we have made some medical advances that have helped some, many others are still seeking relief.

What is the actual definition of chronic pain? According to the Canadian Psychological Association, chronic pain can be pretty broadly defined as pain that lasts longer than three to six months and does not go away. An estimated 10 to 30 per cent of Canadians suffer from chronic pain, and it is estimated to cost our health care system billions of dollars a year.

It costs in other ways too. CPA says chronic pain can make simple movements hurt, disrupt sleep and reduce energy. It can impair work, social, recreational and household activities. People who have been injured in accidents may develop anxiety symptoms in addition to pain. Chronic pain can have a negative impact on financial security and in some cases can contribute to alcohol or drug abuse. It can also disrupt marital and family relationships.

While there are medications that can help, they can’t always cure the source of the pain. That’s why we’re taking a look at chronic pain this month on Primacy Life. It’s one thing to pop a pill when something’s hurting, but for those suffering from chronic pain to truly be free, we need to find better ways to help them cope.

One of the best ways to do that is to just understand. If someone in your life is complaining of chronic pain, don’t think it’s “all in the head.” Those people living with chronic pain aren’t making it up – they are genuinely suffering and even just getting out of bed in the morning is a daily struggle.

What can help? This month, we’re looking at things like acupuncture, yoga, anti-inflammatory foods and a whole host of other things we can do to help ease some of that pain. Some of what we’ve found may surprise you – like discovering that yoga, always touted as a natural pain reliever, can actually make chronic pain worse if it’s not done right. As yogi and “blissologist” Eoin Finn tells us in “Just say ‘om,’” you really have to work with your yoga instructor to find the right class that will help you deal with pain.

Sure, no one has ever actually died of pain itself. But many people live with pain on a regular basis and some even die in pain. A pain-free existence doesn’t have to be a dream. It can be a reality, with the right support.

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.