In my first post on the subject of chronic pain, I talked about what it is and why some of us are just unable to get rid of it. People will recommend lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, sleeping) and treatment with pain relief medications.
These are only part of the management for chronic pain.
What we also need are other strategies to address the mechanics of pain, so we can get on with our work camming or creating content and stay as comfortable as possible.
Back to the Three-Legged Stool
For those of us who live with chronic pain, we have probably been through all the biological and social legs of our three-legged stool, which includes treatments, surgeries and lifestyle changes.
The third leg is the psychological one, and it refers to how we think and talk about our pain. This can seem very condescending, but I am not suggesting pain is all in your head. But there is ongoing evidence that the way we respond to and understand our experience of chronic pain can actually improve the impact it has on us.
In order to manage chronic pain better, we not only need treatments for the source of the pain, but we need to build skills in how we think about pain.
Accepting and Understanding
Understanding how and why chronic pain occurs and persists is the first step in managing it, and my first post on this subject was dedicated to that. After understanding the whys of chronic pain, there needs to be an acceptance of the situation. Acceptance can be very difficult, depending on what stage you are at in your health journey, but it underpins most of the classic therapies psychologists use, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
Why is acceptance important?
Simply put, it is about changing your view from “why me?” to “what now?” and this is incredibly powerful.
Lola recently wrote about catastrophising, and with chronic pain, thinking about it in catastrophic terms (“this is the worst thing ever,” “I am never going to feel better”) has been shown to predict a patient’s recovery. Acceptance is a very individual experience but the main component is to change patterns of talking in terms of should; “I should be able to cam for three hours straight” or “I should be able to move my arm/leg in this particular way.” Rephrasing these kinds of thoughts is a powerful step towards managing chronic pain.
Calming and Coping
I previously talked about how those of us with sensitive nervous systems as a result of traumatic events in our lives, can struggle with chronic pain. In learning how to better manage our pain, we need to be able to recognise when our nervous system is becoming overloaded and use relaxation strategies to bring it back into a calmer state. Having a central nervous system firing that there is a threat is going to heighten the pain experience, so being able to bring a relaxation activity (breathing, mindfulness, yoga, whatever is your thing!) to decrease the arousal will help both in the short and long term.
You may be surprised to know that distraction is very helpful for learning to manage chronic pain.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that when people are distracted by another activity, their experience of pain improves significantly. What is also really cool about these strategies (accepting, understanding, calming and coping) is that they all overlap and help to reinforce each other. When we get better at understanding our experience, we can accept where we are at, which makes calming techniques easier and coping strategies more accessible.
In this industry, we all have a very individual experience and there is no one size fits all for success, consistency and managing our bodies and our health. The same goes for chronic pain, but by finding what acceptance, coping and calming strategies work for you is a powerful addition to your toolkit.
Rem Sequence is an Australian adult content creator, blogger and internationally published alt model. She has a background in psychology, philosophy and political science and has worked in health and sex education, youth work and trauma counseling for almost two decades. Contact Rem via email@example.com and visit her on Twitter at @remsequence.