Chronic Pain

How the skills and attitudes of resilience can help manage chronic pain.

Blue-eyed man looks at his reflection in a broken mirror.


Attitude alone cannot cure chronic illness or chronic pain. Positive attitude and certain self-management skills can make it much easier to live with. In previous blogs, we have discussed chronic pain and its relationship to the opioid epidemic. In the next couple of blog posts, we are going to be discussing situations that people find themselves frequently when they experience chronic pain. And we will discuss the ways in which the skills and attitudes of resilience can help you manage the pain.

There is a great deal of research that shows that the experience of pain can be modified by circumstances, beliefs, mood, and the attention we pay to the pain symptoms. For example with arthritis of the knee, how depressed the person is better predicts how disabled, limited and uncomfortable they will be. What goes on in a person’s mind is often more important than what is going on in their body.

Here is the first situation I would like for you to look at and respond to.

Since the car accident, your neck pain persists. All of your other injuries have healed, but you are left with some imbalance and mobility issues that make fieldwork no longer an option for you. Working at a desk all day seems to aggravate your neck pain. To take medication as prescribed, you get fuzzy and cannot focus. If you don’t take the medication, the pain drives you to distraction. How would you manage the neck pain? What skills and attitudes of resilience would you utilize? Give some thought to this. Discuss it with others and then respond.

First of all, we would encourage you to talk with others. Connect and communicate. Complain about the pain, but do more than that. You’re going to have to learn to manage the strong feelings that come up when you experience the pain. Discharging these feelings is important. You can discharge them by crying, swearing and maybe pounding on something (not another person, though). And don’t hurt yourself. You have enough problems.

Take care of yourself. People say this all the time, but many of us do not do a very good job of doing it. Relax. Really relax. Do the breathing exercises that you may have learned. This may not eliminate all the pain, but it may make it less intense. Focus on something else. Distract yourself. If you just focus on the pain it will usually only make it worse.

See the big picture. You have been through a lot with the car accident. But your body has healed itself to a large degree. Maybe this process will continue. Being optimistic is not going to hurt. What do you have to lose?

And last, be self-confident. Trust your thinking. You have gotten through difficult times in the past. You can do it again.

You may have other ideas about skills that you might use. Flexibility might be one of those. Yes, your life has changed. You may not be able to do some of the things you used to do. There are probably other options for you. Look for them. Problem solve.

Discuss your responses with your friends and family and see how they have dealt with similar situations in their lives. You can always learn from others.

We will talk more about situations in the next few posts that have to do with chronic pain and how people have adapted to it. You can learn to live well with chronic pain and disease.

Photo pf Ron Breazeale, Ph,D.
Ron Breazeale, Ph.D.