Pain Management

Pain Management

Pain can entirely change our lives. Ongoing pain problems can lead to disabilities like not being able to work, drive, or even maintain a home.
Pain in a dominant hand or arm can make it difficult to button a shirt, comb hair, or carry groceries.
Low back pain can make it hard to sit, stand, bend, tie shoelaces, or just about anything else you can imagine.
Intense, recurring headaches, like migraines, can make it difficult to concentrate, listen, read, eat, or even turn the lights on.
This kind of pain – ongoing and significantly interfering with important life activities – is called high-impact chronic pain.
Research done on high-impact chronic pain by groups like the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health have published some important findings:
  • Approximately 10.6 million Americans, or 4.8% of the population, have high-impact chronic pain.
  • Disability is typically more commonly associated with chronic pain than with a number of other chronic conditions, including stroke and kidney failure.
  • Those with high-impact chronic pain reported higher levels of mental health problems and cognitive problems, compared to those with chronic pain without disability.
  • High-impact patients reported greater difficulty performing daily self-care activity and greater healthcare utilization.
If you are struggling with high-impact chronic pain, like millions of other Americans, and you want to regain more function and better engagement with the world around you, here are some tips that may help:
  • Make a list of goals. Create a list of activities you’d like to work on – preparing meals, walking, or carrying the groceries (I’d suggest limiting the list to three as a starting point). Consult with an occupational therapist or physical therapist to help you craft a plan for improvement in these areas.


  • Strengthen your core. A strong foundation is important when performing functional activities, including walking, standing, reaching, lifting, or carrying. Consult with your physician or an exercise specialist to find core-strengthening exercises that are safe and appropriate for your particular condition.


  • Buddy up. Finding a partner or group of friends for emotional support and added motivation is a great way to not only work toward your goals, but to also have fun along the way. Look for group activities that may interest you at places like community centers.


  • Find inner peace. Research has taught us that those living with high-impact chronic pain often experience psychological distress and mood disorders like depression and anxiety. It is hard to function when you feel overwhelmed, so invest in practices that improve your state of mind – meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, enjoying nature, or seeing a counselor all have the potential to help.


  • More pills won’t equal less disability. Avoid the temptation to rely on stronger painkillers to get tasks done. While this may seem to work in the short-run, it will likely set you up for a crash later on, and there is no evidence to suggest that relying on stronger pain medications will improve disability in the long term.


If high-impact chronic pain has gotten in the way of too many important things in your life, consider these tips and speak with your healthcare team to develop a plan to get you back out there!

2019 June 11