Monday, July 08, 2024

Managing Chronic Pain as a Writer


Pain serves a purpose. Without it you are in danger. What you cannot feel you cannot take care of. 

Rebecca Solnit

Many people suffer with chronic pain, writers included.  Treatment is normally administered by way of a prescription.  Many prescribed drugs usually lead to a dismally low success rate.

Thankfully there is a more holistic approach to treatment that can be tailored to the person to help deal with their chronic pain.

The Medication Route

The most obvious way to handle chronic pain is for your doctor to prescribe pain killers.  Unfortunately that way of handling pain leads to a never ending supply of prescription drugs that eventually become weaker over time, as the body becomes accustomed to the drug.

It also comes with a whole raft of side effects.  The most common type of medication is usually an opioid which can actually make the pain worse the longer they're taken.

Even before this starts to happen there are other avenues that can be explored, and don't require any medication that some chronic pain sufferers have proven to help cope with the pain.

Let's take a look at ways of managing chronic pain without the use of medication:

Pain Neuroscience Education (PNE)

PNE is having the ability to understand the pain that you're feeling, and how your body is creating it.  Once you understand it you can start to train your brain away from pain.

Using Psychological Therapies

These can be accessed through your doctor or a pain clinic.


This involves the patient talking about their own thoughts and feelings.  A therapist will gently guide and help you tackle any problems you may be having, and also help you reduce your stress levels.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

This form of therapy connects your thoughts with your body.  This kind of therapy focuses on any negativity that may be making the pain worse.   CBT helps you recognise your thought patterns and teaches you how to change them.

Graded Exposure Therapy

Graded Exposure introduces you to the situations and activities you fear the most, and helps you retrain your brain to not fear them.

Graded Motor Imagery (GMI)

Using visualised movements to harness the power of the brain's neuroplasticity, which basically retrains the brain away from pain.

Reducing Chronic Pain Through Exercise

Exercise is probably the last thing you think of when you're trying to deal with chronic pain.  There are benefits to exercising.  

Let's take a look:

  • Reduces inflammation
  • Reduces pain sensitivity
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Helps build muscle and flexibility

According to

Exercise can change how the brain responds to pain by normalizing the pain signal process and promoting the release of analgesics — [hormones and other compounds that act] as natural pain relievers — that turn off pain signals, Joseph Lipsky, DPT, CSCS, physical therapist at Reload Physical Therapy & Fitness and certified strength and conditioning specialist, tells

According to the NIH (National Library of Medicine)

A number of exercises have been studied as a treatment for chronic pain.  

These include:

  • Aerobic Exercise
  • Strength Training
  • Flexibility Training

Other Non-Pharmacological Pain Management Techniques

  • Companionship
  • Heat/cold
  • Massage Therapy
  • Music, Art or Drama Therapy
  • Aquatherapy
  • Acupuncture

Along with physical exercise, therapies such as CBT were both found to be consistently beneficial.  Sitting down and being inactive for hours on end in a day will weaken the body.  However,  exercise builds strength, increases mobility and will help manage chronic pain symptoms.

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