To live with chronic pain, find a ‘new normal’
People who live with chronic pain may need to build a new relationship with their body, rather than try to maintain their regular lifestyle.
Researchers say patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain often struggle with a sense of self and may find it difficult to justify their condition to themselves and to those around them.
For a new study published in the journal Health Services and Delivery Research, scientists compiled the findings of 77 studies of chronic musculoskeletal pain to understand the experiences of patients who suffer from the condition.
Key findings include:
- Patients may struggle with the fundamental relationship with their body and have a sense that it is no longer “the real me.”
- Patients may experience a loss of certainty for the future, and be constantly aware of the restrictions of their body.
- Patients feel lost in the health care system and believe there is no answer to their pain.
- Patients find it impossible to “prove” their pain and worry “if I appear ‘too sick’ or ‘not sick enough’ then no one will believe me.”
“Being able to collate this vast amount of information from patients paints a worrying picture about the experiences they have with chronic non-malignant pain,” says Kate Seers, professor of health research at the University of Warwick Medical School.
“Our goal has to be to use this information to improve our understanding of their condition and, consequently, the quality of care we can provide.
“Having patients feel that they have to legitimize their pain, and the sense that doctors might not believe them, is something that should really concern us as health care professionals.”
To move forward with their lives, researchers say people with chronic pain need to build a new relationship with their body and redefine what is “normal,” rather than try to maintain the same lifestyle. By developing an understanding of what their body is capable of, patients can become confident to make choices that will help them live with the pain.
“This paper shows there can be value in discussing the condition with other people who are going through the same experience and knowing that you are not alone,” says Francine Toye, of Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.
“Of course you can learn about your condition from various sources, but sharing your experience seems to really help people to move forward.”
Source: University of Warwick