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Owning Your Pain

Over the last 6 years, I have observed an interesting phenomenon in some of my chronic pain patients. It seems that there comes a point in time when patients accept the fact that they are going to have pain and "own it". They come to realize that they can be in charge and their pain is not going to dictate everything in their life. It is truly awesome to see when this happens. The transformation is not only psychological but physical as well. Frequently, the patient will come in and while we are reviewing their medications, they will say, "I'm not taking this and I feel better". Often times, they want to wean down their opioids as well. I have had patients tell me that they are doing more because they are not having the side effects of fatigue or dizziness. Not having the side effects of constipation and dry mouth is another bonus of decreasing medications. They enjoy not having to watch the clock for their next dose or having to worry about if they will be in town to pick up their scripts. They still have pain but are able to deal with it differently. By managing their own pain, I believe it empowers them and makes them feel good about themselves.

This brings to mind a young woman that I have seen in this practice for the last 6 years. She has weaned down several of her medications and looked so much better when I saw her at the last visit. She was much more animated and seemed to be getting her zest for life back. When I asked her how she came to this change, her reply was "I want to live my life. I know I will always have pain but I don't want my pain to run my life." I often wonder what we can do to help our patients arrive at this juncture, or if they must get there on their own. What I do know is that when patients are able to own their pain, they find their lives much more fulfilling.

Karen M. Cleveland, RN, ANP