Did you know that September was Pain Awareness Month? This year, the U.S. Pain Foundation’s awareness campaign focused on encouraging people to develop a personalized pain management plan.
With my pulmonary hypertension (PH) and coexisting illnesses, developing my own pain management plan has been somewhat complicated. But I am grateful to be working with my medical team to figure out the best way forward. As with everything, pain management strategies should be flexible.
What is pain?
Nursing school instilled in my head that pain is “whatever the experiencing person says it is.” Margo McCaffery, who coined this definition of pain in 1968, was a pioneer in pain management for nursing. But in the 15 years following my PH diagnosis, I have learned that not all nurses and doctors share this view.
Have you ever felt like medical professionals were giving you a hard time about your pain?
This issue has been a difficult hurdle for me as I learned how much stigma surrounds pain management. Also, in recent years, obtaining prescribed pain medications has become more challenging. Given the stigma associated with pain control in this country, it can quickly become an ongoing battle. I know I’m not alone in dealing with it.
Many do not understand why people with PH suffer from such agony. There are a multitude of reasons why I am affected by chronic pain. Some of my discomfort, particularly in my legs, arms, and joints, is an unfortunate side effect of the PH medications I take daily.
My pain management doctor teaches me about hypoxia-related pain, which stems from many years of having low oxygen. Over time, this can affect all of the cells and the organs within my body. I also tend to have lower back discomfort, a result of chronic kidney disease. Other days, chest tightness and heaviness are the culprits.
Using a multifaceted approach
Today, most doctors take a multifaceted approach to pain management. I have tried over-the-counter creams to help with this challenge. I started seeing a pain management doctor earlier this year. Given my other medications and my kidney disease, the type of medications I can take, as well as how many, are limited.
I first opened up about my chronic pain earlier this year after a hospitalization for intravenous pain management. Before that, I thought dealing with pain was just another part of my “new norm.”
Today, I am grateful to see my medical team working together to address the problem. They have taken the time to think about my complex medical conditions before devising a treatment plan.
Stretching and deep breathing
Most days, my approach is the same as that of my medical professionals. Stretching and deep breathing, as demonstrated by these simple yoga poses, can be helpful.
As I write this, I am on my couch rolled up like a burrito in my heating blanket. I often use heat, either from warm bath soaks or heated blankets and pads, as a tool. Have you used heated seats in a vehicle? That feels so good on my lower back.
Pain medication is only one piece of the puzzle
Pain medication is another approach to keeping my chronic pain under control. Reminding ourselves that these medications are only a small piece of the puzzle is vital. Keeping in mind that it is OK to take these medications is also beneficial.
Yet, at times, I must choose between taking these medications and resting, or doing without. The reasons are that some tend to cause drowsiness and can affect my thinking.
If I am up to it, I will get in the pool and do a bit of water therapy, which I find refreshing and relaxing. I hope to incorporate a bit more exercise soon to see if it helps, too.
My goal is to obtain enough relief by using each of these approaches to offer me the best overall quality of life. By using a combination, I can better enjoy my family.
Chronic pain does not have to steal your joy. Start with a multifaceted approach, and you will garner better relief.
If you or a loved one are dealing with chronic pain, I encourage you to talk to your medical team. They can help you find the best personalized plan for you.
Don’t ignore your pain, because unfortunately, it doesn’t simply go away. And please never allow someone to dismiss your suffering.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.
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