By Barby Ingle, Columnist
When it comes to living the best life you can, everyone has choices. There are even more choices for those who face a chronic illness. The patient can either let the disease run them or they can sort through the system and take control of their disease.
Coping with a chronic condition takes hope and self-awareness. You can make it through the toughest of situations. I know because if I can do it, anyone can.
Your first goal should be getting a correct diagnosis. If you need to go to multiple providers, take the time to do it to help prevent your health from deteriorating. Each provider has their specialty as well as treatment options with which they are comfortable. But that does not always mean they have the right plan for you or that another option won’t work. If you are not comfortable with the ones offered by your current provider, find a doctor who you trust to try different treatment options.
Getting organized is very important. It will take work in the beginning, but it gets easier as you go. You will save yourself from more pain by being organized in your approach to treating your chronic medical issue.
It can be very aggravating to deal with a kidney stone or torn ligament, but at least there is an end in sight. You can get back to a “normal life” once the stone passes or the bone break heals. Other conditions such as heart failure, diabetes, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), arthritis, osteoporosis, and neuropathy can be more of a challenge and usually last a lifetime.
Take charge of your disease instead of letting it rule you. Some doctors, friends, and even family may say, “Just live with it” or “Get used to it.” But you are the one who lives with this chronic condition. You can learn to manage life around the symptoms and problems, without losing yourself.
For the person in pain there is usually a loss in quality of life. This can be due to financial burdens, loss of social support and depression. Being depressed can result in isolation, loss of self-esteem, and self-worth.
It is important to recognize that we need support as patients. We need positive attitudes and must recognize there will be life changes. Some will be easier, such as changing your diet or beginning a physical therapy routine. Others will be more difficult, such as having to sever ties to a family member or friend who is hindering your recovery. We also need support from our healthcare providers.
Most of all, we need to recognize that we are responsible for ourselves and that successful treatment may result in necessary lifestyle changes that only we can provide to ourselves.
We all deserve to have our pain taken seriously. To have the pain managed instead of under-treated, untreated, or over-treated is an important aspect of successful outcomes. Pain must be managed effectively and in a timely manner. The underlying condition needs to be addressed while the pain is being managed.
Remember, every patient is different and doctors only know what they have been exposed to in their schooling and continuing education classes. For example, if they are a regular attendee at a pain education conference they may skip the class on multiple sclerosis or Lyme disease because they have a greater interest in migraines. As a patient it is up to you to become the chief of staff of your medical team. Develop a strong team willing to help, learn, and treat you.
Chronic pain is a disease in itself. Our medical system needs to recognize this and change its practices to prevention, instead of just treating the person after they’ve become ill. For example, we should teach children about good posture and body alignment, and have them practice it. This can help them keep the habit throughout adulthood, cutting down on back issues and conditions that lead to the need for chronic care.
We must be mindful to get the proper healthcare professionals on our team. The goal is to receive effective relief, and be able to organize and manage all aspects of life. Finding good healthcare and support systems will lower the number of hospital visits, the amount of time spent in the hospital, unnecessary trips to the emergency room, repeated tests, and inadequate treatments. All of which contribute to the high costs of healthcare.
Barby Ingle suffers from RSD and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the Power of Pain Foundation. She is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics.
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.