Along with Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, September is also National Pain Awareness month. During September, pain professionals and activists work hard to raise awareness about chronic pain and the people who it directly impacts.

Understanding more about chronic pain can do so much! Raising awareness for chronic pain can:

  • Help people who experience chronic pain find treatments and therapy.
  • Bring together people who experience pain, so they have more peer support.
  • Educate healthcare professionals who are not chronic pain experts.
  • Improve funding for chronic pain research and treatment.
  • Educate family, friends, and coworkers of people with chronic pain.
  • Raise political awareness for policy makers and politicians.

Quick facts about chronic pain

  • Over 20% of the U.S. adult population experience chronic pain.1
  • Chronic pain is the number one cause of adult disability in the U.S.2
  • 45% of people with chronic pain say that it has a negative impact on their relationships.2
  • 51% of people with chronic pain say it has a negative impact on their employment.2
  • 61% of people with chronic pain say it has a negative impact on their daily routine.2
  • Men and women have equal frequency of chronic pain.2
  • Chronic pain costs American society more than $600 billion per year.3
  • At least 10% of all suicide cases in the U.S. involve chronic pain.3
  • Minority groups and other marginalized populations are at risk of receiving suboptimal pain management.3
  • The National Institute of Health dedicates only 2% of its funding to pain research.3

Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts longer than six months and impacts how a person lives their daily lives. Understandably, chronic pain is physically and mentally stressful and exhausting. It can lead to anger, frustration, depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness. Chronic pain by its very definition interrupts a person’s life! It can make working, engaging with friends harder, taking care of oneself, and enjoying hobbies harder.

Tips for chronic pain management

If you or a loved one are struggling with chronic pain, see your primary care doctor and discuss your concerns. They might want to consider options that might help first before they refer you to a pain specialist. There are multiple options for improving chronic pain: over-the-counter medication, prescription medication, physical therapy, relaxation therapy, lifestyle changes, and even surgery (depending on the type of chronic pain).

Seeing your primary healthcare provider and working with them directly on chronic pain is important. Chronic pain is serious.

There are some additional tips that the American Psychological Association4 recommends that can help you with chronic pain management and coping psychologically as well.

Stress management: High physical pain and persistent pain can lead to increased stress. And stress can then lead to additional negative impacts on your physical health. Learning how to manage and reduce your stress levels can help your health overall. Stress management techniques can include: a strict sleep schedule, muscle relaxation practices, breathing exercises, self-care routines, and CBT-based courses.

Positive Thinking: You can’t talk your way out of having chronic pain, and positive thinking doesn’t mean ignoring life’s unpleasant situations. But positive thinking (also known as constructive self-talk) is powerful and can be useful. Studies have shown positive thinking can increase life span, lower rates of depression, provide greater resistance to illness, and improve various aspects of physical health. To increase positive thinking, you can work on identifying negative thinking. After you can identify negative thinking, you can create common skills to reframe those thoughts. You can also integrate a daily intentional positive thought routine.

Actively Engage with Your Life: Pain makes many people want to withdraw from activities and isolate oneself. As hard as it can be, it’s critical for physiological health that we find ways to keep actively engaged with our life. However, it might mean we have to shift those activities. If you used to run for self-care, then you might have to consider less physically demanding hobbies during pain flares like low impact swimming, tai chi, or painting. If going out dancing and drinking with friends is no longer possible, then invite friends over to you house to make cocktails or mocktails together.

Find Support: Probably the most important aspect of chronic pain lifestyle management is finding support that works for you. This could mean starting coaching or counseling with a trained professional, or it could mean finding a support group or a religious mentor. Regular meets with friends can also be a meaningful way to find support. Reach out to people and ask for support, and hopefully people will also reach out to you too.

Learn more about how EAP can help

Learn more EAP counseling, work-life support, and how Uprise Health can help.