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Wisdom from Traveling with Doctors

After weeks of travel, Dr. Laurie looks back at some of the most important messages she noticed from doctors who deal with chronic pain

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to meet with some great doctors. These are physicians who specialize in pain management and have brought their caring and their expertise to some programs on chronic pain, like the kind of pain that accompanies arthritis.

They imparted a lot of wisdom and information and I have distilled some of it to share with you all. None of this will be news, but reminders can be good!

Take an extra nap, drop some activities for a week, get someone else to do some chores and save up. Work on building that stamina by always (and I mean always) putting something to look forward to in your schedule.

While there is no cure  for chronic pain, there are lots of effective ways to treat and manage it.

 This is the good news and the bad news. We don’t yet have a cure, a medicine, or any other way to make chronic pain fully disappear. However, there are many many ways to treat it, and you have options from medication to exercise to mindfulness meditation to acupuncture to hot towels. Your job is to experiment and use as many kinds of therapies that work for you.

The treatments that work for pain are as individual as the people who experience pain.

 There is no one size fits all treatment. What worked for your mother or friend or fellow blogger may not work for you. Experiment. Be flexible in your approach. Stay persistent. There is something, or some things, that will give you relief – you just may not land on it in the first try. Read. Research. Ask. Look for new things. Your treatment plan is YOURS. You and your physician and your support team will work it out.

It takes a team.

Pain relief is changeable, even from day to day. Your team will help you. The doctors suggested that you use your physician, the nurse practitioner, and then others who bring healing. Maybe it’s your gentle yoga instructor, and your massage therapist, and your psychologist and your nutritionist and your best friend and your partner – all of whom add a dose of healing love to your treatment. You need them all. One doctor said, maybe one kind of treatment brings 10% relief, and another adds another percentage – add them all up and you get a space for feeling better. Using an additive approach may bring more relief – and help you feel more in charge than expecting one kind of treatment to do it all.

This is emotional as well as physical work.

You don’t just feel pain in your joints and muscles – you also feel it in your mind and in your heart. You are managing feelings along with physical symptoms, and your thoughts and feelings contribute to your experience of pain. If you are overwhelmed with difficult feelings of fear or anger or sadness, find someone to talk to. Perhaps you can find someone neutral, not a family member or close friend. We are always trying to protect those close to us from the full force of our emotional reactions. You don’t have to protect a counselor or your religious leader, or an online community. But we all need help processing and accepting these tumultuous emotions.  So reach out and build your safety network.

Develop and protect your stamina.

Dealing with a chronic condition, and with pain and fatigue requires an enormous amount of energy and attention. That translates to daily stamina just to do what needs to be done for your illness, along with all your other responsibilities. Don’t minimize this. Look at your energy reserves as you do your bank account. Don’t spend more than you have. If you know there will be a big withdrawal for an event or a work project or a child’s needs, build up some reserves. Take an extra nap, drop some activities for a week, get someone else to do some chores and save up. Work on building that stamina by always (and I mean always) putting something to look forward to in your schedule. This can be as simple as a half an hour with a magazine or as complex as a weekend away. Look at what you enjoy – not just what you “have” to do. This creates energy as well as lifting your spirits!

Ok – that’s my report from my travels with doctors. I look forward to your feedback!

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