By Betty Russell, Pure Matters

Chronic pain, whether it comes and goes or is constant, makes it impossible to do your normal activities without discomfort. Chronic pain can be the result of an injury, illness or medical condition, or its cause may be unknown. Yet, most people with chronic pain can lessen it to tolerable levels, regardless of the cause, according to the American Chronic Pain Association.

These are common types of chronic pain:

  • Headache
  • Low back pain
  • Cancer pain
  • Arthritis pain
  • Pain from nerve damage
  • Pain from sickle cell disease

Pain and inflammation may actually change the nervous system. Because of this, pain may linger long after the physical injury that caused it has healed.

Living with chronic pain can lure you into feeling helpless about your condition. It can cause emotional problems or physical limitations that threaten your relationships, hamper your job performance and limit your activities. Anxiety, depression, anger, hopelessness or desperation about the pain can make it seem worse. This can, in turn, alter your personality and disrupt family and work relationships. Chronic pain can interfere with sleep, leaving you tired and less able to cope with the pain.

No single pain treatment works for everyone, and it's easy to feel like giving up if you've tried several treatments that haven't worked. You may have to wade through a lot of hype and controversy that leave you scratching your head and wondering: What's effective? What's safe? What's my best strategy?

Here are steps you can take to manage your pain and feel more in control:

  • Learn all you can about your condition.
  • Keep a pain diary that includes where the pain is, how bad it is, how often it occurs and what makes the pain better or worse.
  • Find a health care provider who understands chronic pain, has experience treating pain similar to yours, is willing to talk and listen to you, and is willing to talk to your family. Not all doctors have been trained to treat pain. Sometimes, a team of health care professionals may need to be involved.
  • With your health care provider, identify the pain and figure out a pain management plan. This plan may include medications, as well as non-medical treatments such as exercise and meditation.
  • Take care of your mental health. If you think you may be depressed or are having difficulty with another mental or emotional problem, tell your health care provider. It's important to work closely with your provider to adjust your pain management plan as needed.

Many options for treatment

Most treatments will not get rid of all the pain, but they can reduce the amount of pain you have and how frequently you have it. Treatment can increase your ability to move and remain independent. Most treatment plans involve a combination of medication, therapy and lifestyle changes.