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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 4, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 45
Managing pain and living well with chronic pain
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Managing pain and living well with chronic pain

by Sonja Braasch OTR/L
Occupational Therapist
Swedish Pain Services -
Structured Functional Restoration Program
Swedish Medical Center
Special to the SGN

A Typical Day for someone with Chronic Pain...

Early Morning. You start to wake up and feel groggy and fatigue already, you have a headache and your body aches in all your joints. You tell yourself that you need to get out of bed, but all you want to do is hide under the covers. You slowly move your body and it takes 15 minutes to get out of bed. You tried several times to stand up and then you do and you convince yourself that a shower will help the pain.

Morning. You are up, start to get dressed and struggle to get your socks and shoes on which takes you 20 minutes, you walk slowly into the kitchen to make breakfast which ends up being a cup of tea because that will calm your stomach.

Mid-Morning. You need to run errands today because you haven't been out of the house in 2 weeks, you get into the car, and head off, you run into traffic and wonder why people are not at work by this time. You wish you were at work, but haven't worked in 10 years. You start having excruciating stabbing pain and spasms in your lower back and don't know if you will make it home or take yourself to the emergency department.

Noon. You are exhausted, you hurt, you are waiting for your medications to kick-in, you skip lunch and go to bed.

Early Evening. Day is almost over for most, but you have slept for six hours and still feel fatigue. Some of your pain has gone, you decide to make yourself some dinner and watch TV, your legs and back are burning now and your toes are tingling, but you try to distract yourself with the TV.

Evening. You find some energy to call your son, but he doesn't seem interested to hear about your non-productive day.

Night. You get ready for bed, and for a second wish things to be different and start to cry; and right now you realize you have felt the best all day and dred going to sleep and having to repeat this all over.

This gives you an idea, what a typical day is for a person who suffers from chronic pain disorders.

September is recognized as 'Pain Awareness Month,' but our patients experience pain every day.

In acute pain, pain lets you know that you may be injured or have a problem you need to take care of. It goes away. Chronic pain is different.

Chronic pain is defined as persistent pain that lasts weeks, months, or even years usually after normal healing or recovery should have occurred. The original cause may have been an infection or injury or there may be an ongoing cause of pain, such as cancer or arthritis. But in some cases there is no clear cause.

Chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.

Chronic pain is multi-factorial, complex issue that creates physical and psychological problems that affect whether a person can engage in meaningful, purposeful activities each day like your ability to work, to be active with family and friends and to pursue leisure activities. Pain can decrease a person's coordination, strength, endurance, and independence in addition to causing stress that may lead to depression, anxiety, fear, and hopelessness.

For many people, pain is a way of life. Living an active life however may seem impossible, but there is hope!

Here at Swedish Pain Services Functional Restoration Center, we use an interdisciplinary 'team' approach to better understand the factors contributing to your chronic pain. Our goal is to better help you understand and manage your pain by using medication and non-medication approaches, including exercise, physical and occupational therapy, psychological counseling, relaxation training and nursing education.

How the program works is that an initial assessment will include a comprehensive evaluation by our pain psychologist and pain medicine specialist. During the visit, you and your provider will develop a treatment plan. The initial visit takes place over two to three hours. Your pain management treatment plan may include a range of services based on your needs. Here at Swedish Pain Services, we have a comprehensive program such as our Structured Functional Restoration Program (SFRP).

SFRPs involve the coordination of care by a number of pain specialists and providers. Our interdisciplinary 'team' model involves patients participating in four to five hour-long sessions, two to three times per week. During each session, patients visit with multiple pain providers and educators, sometimes individually and other times in groups. The program focuses on the self-management approach, helping patients acquire new skills, improve function, tolerances, psychosocial status, and reduce pain. The overall goal is to achieve decreasing sensitization of the nervous system with pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic interventions. There is a strong emphasis on patient education and helping patients take a more active role in their care.

No one stands alone - each discipline is needed to add to their part of the puzzle. As an Occupational Therapist, the job is to assist you with self-management of pain so you can improve your activity engagement and participation in all areas of self-care, work and leisure. Patients are encouraged to practice their newly acquired skills learned in the program and apply them to their daily activities so they can gain control and balance in their lives and engage in meaningful, purposeful activities.

Chronic pain for many is a 'tough nut to crack.' Chronic pain alters brain functioning, leading to changes in normal processing of pain signals. It can cause sleep problems, depression, anxiety, and other unhelpful behavioral responses that can lead to ongoing suffering. Dr Steven Stanos, medical director of Swedish Pain Services, states that 'pain' is not just a number on an 11-point scale. 'The state of the art for comprehensive management includes medications, injections therapies, and multidisciplinary therapy based approaches balancing medications with physical and occupational therapy, psychological counseling, relaxation training, exercise, and pain education. Our interdisciplinary team model takes a multidisciplinary approach a step further, integrating all of the important disciplines to treat pain under one roof, with structured team-based programs. We learn more about our patients, and they learn more from us in gaining life changing skills that help them better manage pain, understand the unique attributes of their pain experience, and how to take a more active role in their recovery.

To learn more, talk to your medical provider to get a referral or contact the Swedish Pain Services Functional Restoration Center directly at 206-386-6229, 1-800-SWEDISH (1-800-793-3474), www.swedish.org.

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