How to Cope With Chronic Pain

Stopping Pain Anxiety in its Tracks

If you have chronic pain, it may be hard to imagine life without anxiety. Constantly being in pain is stressful, and can lead to feelings of fear, helplessness and despair. Feeling bleak about the future of your chronic pain condition? Then keep reading, because there is hope. There are ways to learn to cope with chronic pain.

Learning to Cope

Effective coping strategies can impact your pain. Coping strategies give you a sense of control over your pain, even when it is intense.

Anxiety can intensify feelings of pain and disability, so it important to come to terms with your condition. Regaining control of your situation can help lower your stress. Learning to cope with your chronic pain can reduce your anxiety, putting you back in the driver’s seat.

While coping strategies won’t necessarily take your pain away, they can help you get it to a level that you can deal with. At the very least, they help keep your pain from getting worse due to pain anxiety. Some potentially effective coping strategies include acceptance, mindfulness and value-based actions.

Accepting Pain - Accepting Your Diagnosis

You have a chronic pain condition. You may be in pain for a long time. It could last for the rest of your life. How could this not cause anxiety? The bigger question is, can you find a way to live with your chronic pain?

Accepting pain is not easy. It may even feel like giving in.

Learning to accept your chronic pain condition may take a long time, especially if you are still in the grieving stage. However, acceptance is the first step in letting your anxieties go. Here are a few ways to get started.

  • Keep a pain journal. The written word is powerful. Sometimes writing about how you feel, including your anxieties, gives you a greater sense of control over your pain condition. No matter what goes through your head, write it down and get it out of your system.
  • Talk about your pain. When you have chronic pain, one of the worst things you can do is pretend you aren’t in pain. Don’t worry about what other people will think: Be honest about your chronic pain. This includes not only being honest with others, but being honest with yourself.
  • Get your grief out. Grieving is a natural part of being diagnosed with chronic pain. Do what you need to do to get it out. Cry. Get angry. Hit a pillow. Feel sad. Once you are done, however, you need to move on. Yes, you have chronic pain. Yes, it stinks. No, it isn’t fair. But getting stuck in the grief stage will not help your pain, and can cause even more anxiety.

Being Mindful of Pain - What Helps and What Hurts?

What times of day do you hurt the most? What activities cause you more pain? How do you feel when you eat certain foods, or sit in certain positions? Does your pain change when you feel sad or stressed?

You can answer most of these questions by reading your pain journal. Now that you have it documented, start looking for patterns.

Being mindful of what causes your pain, and what doesn’t, helps put you back in charge.

Taking Value-Based Actions - Make an Action Plan

Being aware of your pain triggers and relievers helps you make better, more informed decisions about your behaviors. These are called value-based actions: You determine what, when and how you do something based on how you think it will affect you.

You know what worsens your pain. You know what makes it better. Use this as a guideline to structure your days, weeks and months. Planning efficiently helps you gain control of your pain condition. Of course, you will still have pain. But hopefully after all of this, your pain anxieties will be under better control.

When you are coping with your pain, everything seems to run more smoothly. However, you may have setbacks along the way. Try not to get discouraged. Remember, it's not like you will be starting at square one: You may just need to remind yourself to get back on track. Repeat the steps as often as needed.


National Pain Foundation. Tips For Dealing With Your Pain. Accessed 4/23/09.

McCracken, Lance M and Keogh, Edmund. Acceptance, Mindfulness, and Values-Based Action May Counteract Fear and Avoidance of Emotions in Chronic Pain: An Analysis of Anxiety Sensitivity. Journal of Pain. Volume 10, Issue 4, Pages 408-415.

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