What does chronic pain look like to you?

Could it be that recurring migraine that has plagued you for months? Perhaps an achy joint that only flares up occasionally? What about that tense shoulder that you’ve grown so accustomed to that it has become your new normal?

Pain shows up in a lot of ways and we are amazingly well-adapted at just ignoring it and pushing through. In fact, most of the time, that is what we feel is expected of us. Self-care, as a practice, is often set aside. It shouldn’t be! You know your body better than anyone else. You have the ability to put consistent treatment first and be rid of your chronic pain for good.

We have all experienced injuries, aches, throbs, and ouches in our lifetime. It’s a rite of passage to muscle our way through our first slip on the ice, expensive toothache, or waking up on the wrong side of the bed. We complain to our friends but inevitably, we come out the other side just fine. At least, that’s what we hope for.

Sometimes that sore neck or tense shoulder just won’t go away. The pain fades only to come back stronger than before. We ignore it, take an Advil, and get through the day. But what if you’re doing yourself more harm than good? What if ignoring that pain is affecting your happiness, your ability to fight sickness, your desire to socialize, your capability of focus?

Is my chronic pain making me depressed?

According to the National Institute of Health, chronic pain is any pain that lasts more than 12 weeks. Chronic pain is not always debilitating. In fact, many people will deal with chronic pain for months, even years often never seeking any lasting treatment until it hinders their ability to work.

Chronic pain can take a major toll on not only your physical wellbeing but also your ability to care for yourself mentally. Even when we train ourselves to ignore it, that pain will manifest itself as anxiety. You may find day to day activities stressful. Mundane tasks such as taking out the trash can become overwhelming.

Ignoring pain can lead to something called chronic pain syndrome. Chronic pain syndrome is when our brains manifest pain through mental health issues such as depression, fatigue, drug dependency, and social anxiety. Not seeking treatment for your pain could be disrupting your life in more ways that you initially thought.

Hobbies and responsibilities alike can take a hit from the effects of ignoring chronic pain. If your knee hurts, you’ll naturally want to walk, run, ride, or swim less. Less activity can result in weight gain, depression, or anxiety. This is a snowball effect that continues until the pain is addressed and you can get back to doing what you love.

Why do we ignore chronic pain?

Why do we feel we need to ignore chronic pain symptoms? The answer to that depends on the individual. Women are more likely to report chronic pain symptoms than men; however, men are more likely to ignore them. People from poorer incomes are more likely to prolong treatment than individuals from higher incomes.

It is estimated that up 35% of Americans deal with chronic pain, and up to 50 million Americans are partially or totally disabled due to chronic pain.

The reasons are very personal; however, as a culture we do not provide people with the outlet for self-care.

We are presented with several “gaps” in what self-care looks like. For example, according to Onward, people tend to lack the knowledge, the will, the skill, or the emotional intelligence to participate in self-care.

We either believe we do not need self-care or we do not deserve it.

Kindness and Self-Care

A huge part of our culture believes that chronic pain is simply a part of growing older. Maybe we can change that narrative!

Self-care doesn’t have to be a hushed thing that we do alone. You wouldn’t tell your friend or family member to ignore their chronic pain, so there’s no reason you should do the same to yourself.

Be kind to yourself! You deserve to be pain-free or in the very least, pursue pain management to reduce your mental and emotional burden. Chronic pain deserves consistent care.

Massage as a Chronic Pain Treatment

Massage therapy is an effective chronic pain treatment. Not only can regular massage therapy sessions help reduce certain chronic pain symptoms, it can also help relieve the mental and emotional stress of dealing with chronic pain. This is a two-fold treatment method to helping you recognize and achieve self-care. In other words, treat yourself! You deserve to be healthy! Don’t tell yourself otherwise.