Long term, or chronic pain is defined as any pain with a duration of 3 to 6 months or longer. If it’s three or six seems to depend on who you ask, but the relevant question isn’t really about the duration but rather about the response. The special thing about long term pain is that it results in consequences other than just pain. Except the fact that long term pain can make your brain interpret the pain signals as stronger than before and the pain might spread to cover a bigger area, regardless of if the cause is changed. Same input – more pain.
There are a couple of good quotes from Seneca, one of the great stoics, which I would like to start out with. They feel applicable to how I look at long term pain.
“To bear trials with a calm mind robs misfortune of its strength and burden.“
“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”
The first lesson must be regarding the subject that physical pain and suffering are two different things. They often correlate and might without a doubt affect one another – but it is possible to learn how to differentiate between them and not suffer as a direct result from the pain.
Would you mind if I share just one more anecdote about old stoic men, just to prove the point that pain is not necessarily synonymous with suffering. I’ll quote The Daily Stoic.
“Epicurus’s final letter begins with a rather remarkable sentence: “On this happy day, which is the last day of my life, I write the following words to you.” While the letter briefly touches on the painful symptoms of the disease that would soon kill him, Epicurus doesn’t dwell on that. Instead, he speaks of the joy in his heart—not caused by his impending death, obviously, but by the memories he has accumulated of the friend he is writing to. Then, before concluding the letter and his life, Epicurus gives final instructions on how to care for one of his young pupils that has shown promise.”Ryan Holiday
This from a man slowly, and probably rather painfully, dying from a stone blockage in his urinary tract. They say he was cheerful and working until his dying day 72 years old. We definitely do have things to learn from one another, like the here obvious fact that it’s suffering we suffer from and not pain itself. Easily said, very hard to master.
Long term pain from practically what- and wherever will affect the brain and be a major stressor. Regardless of if the pain may origin from herniated discs, nerve damage, arthritis, fibromyalgia, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, surgeries that went wrong, dysfunctions in muscles or joints with or without trauma, rheumatism, fuzzy lower back pain without explanation or something entirely different.
-The pain turns to stress and a fear of more pain and with that a fear of movement, kinesophobia.
-The stress turns to less energy either the stress or the pain itself might turn into depressive symptoms or exhaustion.
-The disdain of movement leads to inactivity – more pain and a negative spiral.
-The lack of energy turns into a dysfunctional everyday life. Everything gets difficult.
-The pain bothers sleep – giving more stress, less energy, more pain.
…. And on and on it goes.
Hopefully you don’t suffer from all of them. But these are all common consequences from a long term pain problem. Quite often it’s treated with pills and nothing more. People LOVE medication to ease the pain in bad cases. And I like what works. Sometimes that’s good enough. Sometimes people get more pain from the opioids, can’t live a normal life because of the opioids or… worse. Once in a while people actually do some physical therapy as well. Great! Are you guys looking at your entire life situation? That’s what I’d like to do.
All of the issues mentioned earlier are without a doubt possible to influence, change and affect. I’ll be your guide and help you. We’ll start out by mapping out a far bigger picture of life than just the above and then work on pinpointing what’s causing trouble – and change it.