How to deal with chronic pain

How to deal with chronic pain

Some aches and pains are a part of life for most people, especially as you age. But for some, that pain can persist beyond what is normal.

“Chronic pain is pain that persists or recurs for more than three months,” says Dr. David Sliwoski, interventional pain management and anesthesiology specialist at Aurora Health Care. “When pain is present for a long period of time, the way our body processes and deals with the pain signals starts to change.”

Chronic pain can have serious impacts on your overall health and well-being. Suffering with chronic pain can affect your mood, sleep quality, activity levels, relationships and even your general sense of how you are doing. Addressing the root of the problem is important.

“At times, chronic pain means that the underlying cause of the pain has not been adequately diagnosed or addressed,” says Dr. Sliwoski. “The reality is that people living with chronic pain often have not gotten a thorough evaluation by a trained expert and are living with diagnoses that have not been clearly nailed down.”

By listening to a patient carefully, examining them and reviewing their medical records, pain management specialists like Dr. Sliwoski are often able to determine a specific diagnosis. Figuring that out can allow him to recommend very specific treatment options that can, at times, rapidly and completely eliminate the cause of someone’s chronic pain.

“We carefully examine each patient and their chart in order to ensure that they receive the correct diagnosis, and that no underlying cause of their pain has been overlooked,” he says. “My goal is to be an expert detective of painful conditions.”

At times, an exact diagnosis or completely effective treatment is elusive.

“In situations where the underlying cause doesn’t have a quick or easy fix, we shift the focus towards helping the patient cope and live with their chronic pain,” says Dr. Sliwoski.

Treating chronic pain can pose several challenges. Many of the treatments for acute pain are not safe or effective for chronic pain.

“Fortunately, there are many tools that can help,” says Dr. Sliwoski. “As medical technology rapidly advances, significant progress continues to be made in treating chronic pain.”

Treatments can include individually tailored physical therapy, medication, braces, injections, surgeries, implanted devices and nerve destruction procedures that can be done with the tip of a needle. These treatments can help increase your ability to cope and function with residual pain that can’t be eliminated. Staying active is also very important.

“Sometimes, people with chronic pain are hesitant to exercise for fear of making their pain worse,” says Dr. Sliwoski. “But it’s important to find an exercise that works for you. Physical activity and good conditioning of our muscles are critical in helping to keep chronic pain under control.”

If you are experiencing chronic pain and the current treatments you are receiving aren’t effective, it may help to have an evaluation and consultation with a physician who is a pain management specialist.

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  1. I’ve had to open-heart surgeries for aortic valve replacement. In between that I had sepsis and endocarditis. I’ve had chronic severe right upper quadrant pain for the past more than a year. I recently went to a different G.I. doctor and he did a celiac plexus nerve block. Living with chronic pain is so debilitating. It also doesn’t help that we’re living during the period of Covid and people need to isolate. They tell you after you have open heart surgery that you should not like isolate and then Covid comes along and then they tell you to isolate. I’ve been suffering from anxiety and depression from the chronic pain. I wish there was some magic potion that you could give me that would make me feel better. Let me know if you have any suggestions. I’m open for anything.

  2. Susan, what about talking to your doctor about anxiety medication. I know that sometimes something to take the edge off can go a long way.

  3. Can you tell me how I can find a doctor who deals with chronic pain care. My family doctor wants X-rays and if nothing comes up we are one and done. Thank you Mary

  4. I’ve suffered with chronic pain since 2009. I’ve had 7 shoulder surgeries and a nerve transplant that never worked. The damage of the nerves have gone into the left side of back and now right. New mri shows stenosis, disc compression on nerve and radiopathy . Pain management dr was treating me but after 11 years problems started. I detox from all medications and 1 year later he refused to have me back. Im in severe pain. No quality of life at all and can’t even dress myself. Numerous epidural and injections but nothing has helped. 57 years old with teenage son 2 grandchildren and all this pain. Any advice besides surgeries again.

  5. Susan, I too have chronic pain that I’ve been dealing with for years. There is no shame in taking anxiety medication if that helps. Find a hobby that you enjoy. Before Covid I taught a free art class and many of my students were amazed how they would get lost in their art projects for hours at a time. Anyone can learn to create art and it’s not only for those who have a natural ability because art is a learned skill. Thus is just one suggestion to help deal with your pain.
    I do believe that the first thing to do is to talk with your physician and a friend or loved one. Sometimes just having someone listen to you can help and they have suggestions that you may not of thought of through the fog of chronic pain that you find yourself in. I hope thus helps.

  6. Naomi Allison-William November 27, 2021 at 11:23 am · Reply

    I have Interstitial Cystitis. Ive had nonstop bladder pain since age 15 and I am 42 now. It is so overwhelming when it flares. I have tried every modality of treatment except bladder removal. Im really leaning towards that due to how much interference my bladder has on every aspect of my life. It affects sleep, sex and basically everything else I do. It always feels like a uti and tremendous be pressure sitting on it but I have difficulty emptying fully despite the feeling of urgency.

  7. Berton Braverman, Ph.D. November 27, 2021 at 3:16 pm · Reply

    I have worked in pain clinics over the years and was always disappointed at how little we had to treat chronic (>2 yrs) pain. I am retired now but have been following the work with PTSD, chronic pain, and a variety of ailments using psychedelic drugs. There is an anesthesiologist in the Chicago area who treats patients with ketamine, a known psychedelic and dissociative drug with what appears to be amazing results. Other studies have used psychedelic mushrooms as was reported on “60 Minutes.” I feel these patients will have more treatments available in the near future.

  8. What do you do when all the doctors won’t do anything for you to fix the problem? Methadone was the only medication that made my pain level go from over a 10 to a 4 and now because of the government I can’t get that anymore. I’m in an electric wheelchair and have had JRA since I was 5 so for 32 years and
    severe Scoliosis plus other problems that happened that doctors either didn’t do anything about or messed me up. I have to rely on someone for help with basically everything because of my limited upper & lower mobility.

  9. I disagree with this article. Some are truly unable to exercise due to pain.

    I have STAGE IV Deeply Infiltrating Endometriosis, adenomyosis, osteoarthritis in my hands. I am post op almost two years for endometriosis. Unfortunately, COVID kicked my behind and attacked my pelvic floor among other things.

    I REFUSE to have nerve blocks or any injections in my spine. I have had them and they do not work.

    I am sick and tired of chronic pain patients being blamed for the opioid epidemic. We are not the ones overdosing or becoming addicted. This has been proven. Please treat us accordingly.

  10. roberta b Rodgers November 28, 2021 at 8:15 am · Reply

    I have crps no hope for me

  11. I have had fibromyalgia for 31 years since a bad car accident. I have learned to live with the fact I will always be in chronic pain until the day I die. I feel so bad because I know how active I was when I was pain free! I was the life of the party! When I was out I never wanted it to end! Now I hardly go out because it is so stressful! I miss my oils selve!

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About the Author

Ben Hoekstra
Ben Hoekstra

Ben Hoekstra is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. He previously worked in marketing and PR for various Milwaukee nonprofits and received his master’s degree in Corporate Communications from Marquette University. He enjoys the outdoors, cooking, and all things Milwaukee.