What is Involved in Self Managing My Pain? Dr. Jennifer Stevens

self care
It’s very important to stop thinking about very short term fixes and to concentrate on what your life is going to be like in a year or two years. And what are the tools that you need in order to get there.

A big part of the emphasis in managing chronic pain is empowering the person with chronic pain to take charge of their own disease. 

So you may have had a very disappointing time with health professionals if you’ve got chronic pain, you may have been told there’s no particular procedure that can just suddenly fix your pain. There’s no particular medication that can suddenly fix your pain. And that can really set you back and make you feel like you’ve got no options. But in fact, you still have all of these other options. You can take charge of your own nutrition, which we know helps get through chronic pain, you can take charge of your own exercise programme with support from clinics or your GP, you can go see a psychologist or psychiatrist and take charge of your own mental health. So it’s very important that consumers are given the tools to understand what makes chronic pain better in the long term, and what makes it worse in the long term. 

It’s also really important that we change our horizons, and that we teach patients how to change their horizons. So with short term pain, you think, well, if I take this pill or I do this thing, it’s going to have a sudden effect. But with chronic pain, you need to be thinking about what I want to be in six months time or a year’s time? How do I get there? And be given the tools to very gradually make your way to that place. So do I want to maybe be going back to work a few hours a week or part time? Do I want to be able to go and sit down and have coffee with my friends and reengage with them? How do I want to be able to interact with my family? What are the psychological tools I need? What are the physical tools I need to be able to do the things that I really enjoy? 

So that’s very important to stop thinking about very short term fixes and to concentrate on what your life is going to be like in a year or two years. And what are the tools that you need in order to get there.

Dr Jennifer Stevens is a Pain Specialist at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney and Pain Australia

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