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Before those of you who are in pain fill our inbox with comments, let me explain. Pain exists to warn us of danger. Full stop. However, danger is not always present when we are in pain. This is the problem. If you break your tibia and try to walk on it, you are at risk of falling and harming yourself further. Pain tells us the bone is not ready to load and to get off of it. When the leg heals in a month or two and it can support your body weight again, the pain usually disappears. Take some meds, get off the leg. No big deal.

The big deal happens when the pain doesn’t disappear. Pain that doesn’t disappear will start to affect our mood, our interactions with others, can reduce our sleep, can reduce our ability to do things that used to make us feel good (hard to go for a run if your leg hurts every time you do it), or limit our ability to do our jobs. People that experience these changes begin to worry that they will never do those things again. “What if because of my pain I can never work again?”. This is a pretty big deal.

I can save you reading hundreds of pages of research by saying we don’t yet have all the answers of how to get rid of all types of pain. That isn’t the point of this blog. The point is, we need to understand that for some people pain does exist and can for a loooong time, maybe indefinitely. Our acknowledgement of this can go a long way in helping those people that live with it to cope with it. A little empathy can go a long way. Nobody wants to complain all the time but being heard is a very important human need. Offering support, recognizing the fatigue that being in pain can cause, and at times, lowering expectations of those in pain are some ways that you can help.

The good news is that in my experience people with ongoing pain will usually experience it differently over time. A person would not survive if they were in 10/10 pain constantly. Eventually, the brain will reprogram itself and it will make that 10/10 a 9/10 or an 8/10 and hopefully lower over time. It’s a clever survival strategy to keep us able to focus on other things in our lives. Pacing yourself, challenging yourself to stay active and engaged with others are important ways to cope. Physiotherapy is one discipline that can help you identify movement impairments that can be corrected to change your pain experience. Occupational therapy can help find ways to change your environment to help live/work while minimizing your pain. Physical activity can mobilize your body’s own stores of endorphins (endogenous morphine) to help ease the perceived pain. Psychology, massage, orthotists, acupuncturists, etc. I won’t even begin to get into medication. It has a role, but long term usually isn’t a cure and can create some unwanted side effects.

I can’t believe I tried to tackle this topic and I certainly haven’t given you the magic formula to get rid of all pain. My point is that sometimes you have to exist with pain. And it is a big deal. But realize you are not alone. There are people in your life and professionals that can help improve the experience. And if you are fortunate enough to not suffer ongoing pain, try not to judge those that are. Instead, empathize and offer help. Remember, nobody chooses to be in pain. We just haven’t yet figured out how to remove it from everyone.

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