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  • Jenn Jones

Living with Chronic Pain in Recovery: Coping Strategies and Resources

Updated: Nov 27, 2023


Living with chronic pain can be a challenging journey, especially for individuals in recovery from substance use or those who have had a chaotic relationship with substances in the past. In this blog post, we will explore accessible, low-barrier ways to cope with chronic pain, sharing examples and resources tailored for individuals in recovery.


Mutual Aid Groups and Peer Support:

In the journey of facing chronic pain, finding solace and strength through shared experiences becomes invaluable. Chronic Pain Anonymous (CPA), an online support group, stands as a beacon for individuals navigating the complexities of living with chronic pain. This peer support community, available in various meeting formats—online, video, phone,

and face-to-face gatherings—offers a platform

for connecting with others who truly understand the struggles.


Another invaluable resource is Pain Connection. As a program of the U.S. Pain Foundation, Pain Connection is dedicated to empowering individuals with chronic pain to improve their quality of life, diminish their sense of isolation, and take a more active role in their treatment. They offer State-based support groups, National support groups, and Specialized support groups for LGBTQ+, BIPOC, Veterans, and also have a teen group.


Pain Coaching:

Consider working with a pain coach who specializes in non-pharmacological pain management techniques. These coaches can provide personalized guidance and support tailored to your specific needs.


Pacing:

Learning how to pace yourself is crucial in managing chronic pain. Break tasks into smaller, manageable chunks, and listen to your body's signals. Avoid overexertion, which can exacerbate pain, and practice self-compassion.


Yoga and Gentle Movement:

Engage in gentle forms of exercise such as yoga, tai chi, or qigong. These practices improve flexibility, balance, and strength while promoting relaxation. Numerous online platforms offer accessible yoga classes, making it easier to participate from the comfort of your home.


Mindfulness and Meditation:

Mindfulness practices, including meditation and deep breathing exercises, can help you manage pain by fostering relaxation and reducing stress. Mindfulness apps like Headspace, Insight Timer and Calm offer guided sessions designed to alleviate pain-related symptoms.


Somatic Movement:

Somatic movement therapy focuses on body awareness and movement reeducation. Practicing somatic movements can help release muscle tension, improve posture, and increase body awareness, leading to pain relief.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

CBT is an evidence-based therapeutic approach that can be effective in managing chronic pain. Therapists specializing in CBT can help you identify and change negative thought patterns related to pain, leading to improved pain coping strategies.


Support for Mental Health:

Chronic pain often coexists with conditions like depression, anxiety, and grief. Seeking coaching or counseling to address these mental health challenges is crucial. Therapists and coaches trained in trauma-informed care can help you navigate the emotional aspects of living with chronic pain.


Navigating Your Day with the Spoon Theory:

Living with chronic pain means not just adopting coping strategies but also managing your energy effectively throughout the day. One incredibly helpful concept in this journey is the Spoon Theory, a metaphor crafted by Christine Miserandino.


Understanding the Spoon Theory:

Imagine starting each day with a handful of "spoons," each representing a unit of energy. Every task, no matter how small, requires the use of a spoon. As you go about your day, you spend these spoons until they're all used up. When that happens, you might need to take a break or find yourself dealing with increased pain and fatigue.


Applying the Spoon Theory to Your Life:

Mindful Energy Management: The Spoon Theory becomes your guide, helping you consciously allocate your spoons to different tasks. This approach allows you to prioritize activities, steer clear of overexertion, and minimize the risk of worsening your pain.


A Simple Communication Tool: Beyond just energy management, the Spoon Theory is a powerful communication tool. It provides a straightforward and visual way to express your energy levels to those around you. For instance, if you share that you only have a few spoons left for the day, it's a signal that you might need support or that certain plans may need to be adjusted.


Seeing the Spoon Theory in Action:

Let's say you've made plans with a friend for an evening outing. By sharing that you've used up quite a few spoons throughout the day handling chores and managing pain, you're offering a glimpse into your current energy levels. Politely suggesting that you might need to keep the outing shorter or reschedule for a day with more spoons showcases the real impact of chronic pain on your daily life.


Incorporating the Spoon Theory into your coping strategies goes beyond managing your day effectively; it creates understanding and support from those closest to you.

 

In the midst of your unique journey, remember that exploring various coping strategies and seeking support are essential steps toward healing and recovery. Surround yourself with a nurturing community, embrace different approaches, and always be open to trying new methods. Don't hesitate to reach out for help when you need it, as navigating the challenges of chronic pain is a collective effort.


As a person in recovery who lives with chronic pain, I understand firsthand the complexities that come with it. If you're looking for personalized guidance and support tailored to your individual needs, I invite you to schedule a discovery call with me here. Together, we can explore the pathways to healing, resilience, and a life filled with possibilities. Remember, you don't have to face this journey alone—support and relief are within reach.


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