Coping with Pain
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Coping with Pain

The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain estimates as many as 18 million Americans suffer from chronic pain on most days. It can be caused by headache, surgery, cancer, trauma, arthritis, nerve damage, and neck or back injury. Sometimes the cause is unknown or continues long after the initial cause of the pain has healed. The pain can go on for months or years and can lead to anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, irritability, and other difficult psychological conditions.

Once you have worked with your primary care provider and specialists to identify and treat the cause of the pain, you can try these options for coping with the pain in any order that makes the best sense to you and your provider.

Medical Approaches

Each of the many medications used to help with pain come with side effects. 

  • Acetaminophen can harm the liver if used excessively or improperly.
  • Ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause kidney damage in certain patients.
  • Muscle relaxers can provide relief in some cases, but they may cause drowsiness, dizziness, headache, and other side effects.
  • It’s best to develop a system that includes these medications when needed.
  • Antidepressants are being prescribed for those with chronic pain. Often, the benefits outweigh the side effects.


A few of the drugs often turned to for pain come with major concerns and should only be used with careful supervision from a medical provider.

  • Opioids come with a great risk of addiction, tolerance, dependence, and a paradoxical increase in pain. This factor alone makes them undesirable for many patients, even for short-term use.
  • Cannabis is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It is associated with acute adverse effects including anxiety, nausea, panic, disorientation, impaired attention, short-term memory, and driving performance.

Physical and occupational therapy can be a great drug-free way to cope with chronic pain. Movement can help restore strength and confidence. Often, the symptoms of chronic pain are reduced. Therapy is a safe, even fun, way to navigate pain.

Similarly, mental health counseling can help patients think more positively, process past events, and implement helpful changes. Through talk therapy people often come to understand how unconscious forces contribute to their pain.

Pain Management Programs combine imaging and anesthesiology technologies to target the source of pain and relieve it.  Services offered include joint injections, nerve blocks, spinal cord stimulation, and others.

Do-it-Yourself Ideas

Many people find that concentrating on improving their overall health is a great way to make progress against chronic pain.

Many people find it beneficial to focus on relaxation.

  • Don’t try to do too much. Create a daily schedule that includes a few priorities and time for rest and self-care.
  • Create the conditions for good sleep.
  • Learn stress management techniques that work for you, including deep breathing, yoga, meditation, listening to music, walking in nature, playing with kids or pets, and others.
  • Getting interested in a new hobby can also be beneficial. More than a distraction, hobbies and interests get us thinking positively about the future.
  • Strong relationships help us cope with pain too. Meet up with friends and family or join a pain management support group.

Complementary Medicine

Complementary medicine can be as simple as treating the site of your pain with heat or cold or enjoying a cup of restorative tea. If you are receptive, you can also try massage, reiki, acupuncture, biofeedback, guided imagery, or hypnosis. Each has been shown to be an all-natural method for achieving pain relief.

It is unlikely that any one of the tips above will resolve your pain entirely. A personalized system of pain-management habits you do on a routine basis will be most powerful in helping you live a healthy and fulfilling life.

Joshua Tobe, MD, is an anesthesiologist and interventional pain management specialist at SVMC Anesthesiology, part of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Southwestern Vermont Health Care in Bennington.


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