Combating the Chronic 'Reign of Pain'

Combating the Chronic 'Reign of Pain'
Nov-15-2007
By Barry-Lee Coyne, LCSW for Salem-News.com

In some cases, but not all - modern techniques like acupuncture or chiropractory can help ease the pain level.

(SUBLIMITY, Ore.) - Every so often we encounter a client needing pain management. That chronic pain may stem from an auto injury, bone deterioration, or complications from another illness. I'd like to share with peers some strategies gathered during my 30 years in social work, including three in which I consulted on the disabled for a mental health agency:

1. Social Interaction: Often when a person suffers chronic pain, that person can either grow testy and irritable or withdraw socially. Self-image is downgraded, which may in turn lead to dysthymia or low-level depression. You might Google "dysthymia" to compare symptoms.

2. Self Grief Response: I've learned from chronic pain clients that there is an internalized comparison between the more functional self and the less functional version, which almost always triggers grief. Kubler-Ross wrote about death-related grief; there are parallels.

3. Self Esteem Builders: Sometimes but not always one can find hobbies and interests that empower the pain-afflicted person, such as bathing, listening to music, or journaling. Even taking photos or playing with a pet can offer a needed distraction. A starting point might be to have your loved ones do a personal inventory of things they like, that is, positives. Then we can strategically use these as a desirable distraction. It gives life better balance.

In some cases, but not all - modern techniques like acupuncture or chiropractory can help ease the pain level.

Over-dependence on painkiller medicines can lead to addiction, and must be scrupulously avoided. Both alcohol and illegal drugs have dire consequences for those tempted to cross that threshold.

Finally, support groups for those with chronic pain can counteract emotional pain and isolation. I ran such groups for Polk County Mental Health for several years, and would hope every social agency in Greater Salem would consider a similar approach. There are times when peer support brings better outcomes than using the professional. Searching for a panacea merely beckons ultimate disappointment.

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NOTE: Lee Coyne has been a medical social worker since 1975, and currently does mental health screen for the Options program in Sublimity.

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