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Nov-15-2007 05:23printcomments

Combating the Chronic 'Reign of Pain'

In some cases, but not all - modern techniques like acupuncture or chiropractory can help ease the pain level.

Pain sign
Photo courtesy: Columbia University

(SUBLIMITY, Ore.) - Every so often we encounter a client needing pain management. That chronic pain may stem from an auto injury, bone deterioration, or complications from another illness. I'd like to share with peers some strategies gathered during my 30 years in social work, including three in which I consulted on the disabled for a mental health agency:

1. Social Interaction: Often when a person suffers chronic pain, that person can either grow testy and irritable or withdraw socially. Self-image is downgraded, which may in turn lead to dysthymia or low-level depression. You might Google "dysthymia" to compare symptoms.

2. Self Grief Response: I've learned from chronic pain clients that there is an internalized comparison between the more functional self and the less functional version, which almost always triggers grief. Kubler-Ross wrote about death-related grief; there are parallels.

3. Self Esteem Builders: Sometimes but not always one can find hobbies and interests that empower the pain-afflicted person, such as bathing, listening to music, or journaling. Even taking photos or playing with a pet can offer a needed distraction. A starting point might be to have your loved ones do a personal inventory of things they like, that is, positives. Then we can strategically use these as a desirable distraction. It gives life better balance.

In some cases, but not all - modern techniques like acupuncture or chiropractory can help ease the pain level.

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Over-dependence on painkiller medicines can lead to addiction, and must be scrupulously avoided. Both alcohol and illegal drugs have dire consequences for those tempted to cross that threshold.

Finally, support groups for those with chronic pain can counteract emotional pain and isolation. I ran such groups for Polk County Mental Health for several years, and would hope every social agency in Greater Salem would consider a similar approach. There are times when peer support brings better outcomes than using the professional. Searching for a panacea merely beckons ultimate disappointment.

NOTE: Lee Coyne has been a medical social worker since 1975, and currently does mental health screen for the Options program in Sublimity.

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Janet Warren November 16, 2007 9:12 pm (Pacific time)

I agree totally with Mr Feldman. I have had pain for twenty years. I disagree with the article that says not to use pain meds as they are addictive. Wrong. If you have true chronic pain you are dependent on your meds, but you are not necessarily addicted. In fact, if you don't use your pain medicine, because of scare tactics and thoughtless people who pop off without understanding the new thinking, you will suffer needlessly. The stress of unmanaged chronic pain can be harmfull to your whole body.Just work with a good pain Dr and take your meds as prescribed. I agree with the rest of the article.

Neal Feldman November 16, 2007 12:03 am (Pacific time)

Pain is the Rodney Dangerfield of afflictions - we get no respect. Often someone looks at us, sees nothing they can identify as painful ao presume it is 'all in our head'./ At least unlike them we do not have rocks in our head. In my own case I have severe psoriasis, painful and uncomfortable enough, plus psoriatic artritis (swelling type similar in effect though different cause as rheumatopid arthritis as well as gout so bad I often cannot put any weight on my feet or even lift them without agony. Also due to eye issues I get serious eyestrain headaches. Needless to say my chronic pain issues have had me diagnosed with severe clinical depression. So many just say 'suck it up'. My usual thought in response involves their sucking up a running lawnmower up their nose. It is also very depressing to not be able to do the things ypu used to be able to do or to go out and see others doing what you wish yu could do. People's insensitivity also is annoying... like when someone is sitting in the seats reserved for wheelchairs (those of us in wheelchairs cannot use any other seats) and ask like you are srealing their idney when they have to get their butt up and move to another seat. Or the geniuses who use the area for the wheelchair ramp up to the sidewalk as the cart collection spot so that you need to move all the carts out of the way. Or the prince or princess who parks their car such that it is impossible now to use the ramp. Their parents must be proud at what a kind and considerate person their kid grew up to be. The list is endless .... but society needs tio realize those dealing with severe chronic pain suffer enough without getting more crap added on. Next time you see someone in pain and maybe in a funk about it do something nice, hold open a door, show some compassion... sooner or later it mighr be your turn. Ah well...

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