One of the reasons we may not be healing from chronic pain, is that we are expecting the ongoing pain we are experiencing now to act like the pains we have suffered in the past.
We expect all pain to become noticeably less painful as time passes, and, eventually to lose its sting. That’s what happens when you stub your toe. That’s what happens when you burn your hand. That’s even what happens when you grieve a loss.
It Won't Ride Off Into The Sunset
If not completely, then enough that we can move on with life and at some point in the future we realize that we don’t hurt any more in that way. The pain fades into the distance, as if it is linked to time as it recedes into the past.
The problem with the way we are thinking about and treating chronic pain is simply that it isn’t the same kind of pain. We tend to treat chronic pain with treatments created for short-term pain, but, for the most part, it refuses to budge.
Of course, chronic pain shows up initially as like all other physical pain. So, naturally, we begin with treating it like any other pain. But there comes a point when we have to recognize that we're dealing with a different beast.
We Need To Take A Different Road
But, despite this re-labeling of our pain to chronic pain, most of the time we don’t change our strategy. We keep going further along the same road of treating all pain the same way. We think that if we do more of the same things, or do them longer, then we're addressing chronic pain.
After a point, however, it becomes clear that there just doesn’t seem to be any obvious healing for us down that road.
In addition, chronic pain comes with other physical ailments that don’t always fall under the category of “pain”, yet are, nevertheless, part of our experience of long-term pain. These include intense fatigue, inability to think clearly, constant flu-like symptoms, and an overall feeling of fogginess and depression, among others.
We begin to tell practitioners about the pain we’re in and they usually stop us once we’ve described what falls into the normal “pain” category. They don’t always want to know about the rest, either because they don’t consider that part of the “pain package” or because they simply don’t know what to do about them, so we are often left feeling misunderstood and unheard.
Understanding That Not All Pain Is The Same
Too often, when medical practitioners feel stymied by chronic pain, they tend to blame the sufferer or disbelieve their reports of continued pain. Instead of blaming the patient, however, this should signal that our treatments, approaches, protocols and attitudes toward chronic pain need to be revamped, updated, and enlightened.
Since chronic pain eludes the efforts of our doctors to end it, we must understand that it therefore requires long-term treatment using a multi-layered approach, perhaps with many different practitioners.
We need to consider modalities, treatments, and approaches that do not just begin where short-term treatments leave off, but which look at, handle, and relate to pain in completely different ways right from the moment we realize our pain is chronic - ways that include the effects of chronic pain not only on the physical body, but on the emotions, psyche, and identity of the sufferer.
We need to understand that chronic pain is intrinsically a unique condition from short-term pain. It is dissimilar in the way it is generated, felt, experienced over time, and healed.
It is altogether a different kind of animal.