Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chronic Pain

But I am afflicted and in pain; May Your salvation, O God, set me securely on high.
Psalm 69:29 (NASB)

I suspect this group of blog posts will have an avalanche of hits. This is a topic I have long deferred blogging about; chronic pain and Fibromyalgia (that comes next) are two very prominent problems for which people seek counseling.

No one wants to live in pain. Our society spends billions of dollars annually on methods of avoiding pain of all kinds. We refuse to have emotional or physical pain continue for more than an hour if we can help it! At the first sign of a headache many will run for the over the counter pain reliever and expect ingesting 2 or 3 pills to make it stop. When their pain persists for another hour they become cranky and out of sorts and will sometimes take more pain reliever in an attempt to rid themselves of the pain.

When over the counter pain relievers fail or only serve to dull the pain, people turn to their physician for help. They ask for something stronger, longer lasting, or more effective than what they have been taking. If that does not take away the pain they are referred to a Pain Specialist, a doctor who specializes in managing chronic pain of all kinds. Often, a visit to another kind of clinician is also arranged to help the patient "deal with their depression" or other emotional response living this way has brought about.

In short order, many patients become medicated zombies whose lives are ruled by what time the next pill is to be taken, and the management of the multiple side effects of all the medications being ingested. In some cases there seems to be no option except to take many medications to lower the pain to a manageable level for working or functioning in daily life.

While the medical profession is making gains in many areas, the causes of chronic pain are still often elusive. It is not as easy to understand as it looks! There are multiple systems of the body in play when a person has pain. The feelings of pain are realized when the sensory nerves in the various parts of the body send a message to your brain that you are hurt. If I am hit on the hand with a stick, the sensory nerves in my hand would send a message into my spine and my spine would relay that message to my brain. My brain would get the message, "OUCH!" and tell me to move away from the source of the pain.

The realization of pain is not only physical, it is also realized emotionally. You and I could both be hit by the same stick in an identical manner and we would feel it differently; we would respond differently.

There are many things that go into how and why we respond to pain. What was the response of your parents when you were hurt? When my boys were little I didn't gush over their falls and such unless they were broken or bleeding. I wanted them to understand that they should get up, dust off, and go on if possible. Of course, I kissed their owies but I did not make a big deal over them.

In some cultures and families, pain is looked at as a sign of weakness, and children (especially males) are brought up to deny they have pain of any kind.

Your thoughts about pain as well as your personal history of pain will also factor into how you respond and react to it. One person who has lived with pain for a period of time will be emotionally worn down from it, another will view it as a challenge to be overcome. Some will respond with depressive thoughts, and still others will remain upbeat and optimistic throughout.

What is not elusive is the effects of pain on the lives of the people who suffer. That is where we will pick up tomorrow. 

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