While acute pain is short lasting, such as the pain from an appendicitis or a broken leg, chronic pain is pain that is ongoing. Fibromyalgia, low back pain, pain from an old injury are some examples of chronic pain. Most people recover from acute pain, often using short-term pain medications. More problematic, however, is how to cope with chronic pain. I have it, so I’ve been working on this myself.

Accept That Chronic Pain May Inevitable But Suffering Is Optional 

Everyone has pain but not everyone responds to pain in the same manner. If you have chronic pain you know it is going to be there but how you deal with this pain is the difference. If you choose to moan, complain, and focus on suffering, then you will get just that – suffering.

Learn What Ails You

Learn about your pain condition for education is power. More importantly, learn coping skills specific for pain and learn how others cope.

Follow Healthy Living Basics Every Day

This means getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising as suggested by your physician/s, not using drugs and alcohol to cope, and taking care of your hygiene.

Distract Yourself

Distraction skills help you to get your mind away from the pain; these are our healthy coping skills. Immerse yourself in a good book, go for a walk with the kids or dog, play with the cat, play music, sing and dance, write in a journal, write poetry, color or draw, do a household task, call a friend, go out to lunch, meditate, attend a book club, and any other activities that help you go beyond the pain.

Talk To Others/Find Support

Recognize that you are not alone. Be social because pain may increase with isolation as you focus on the pain. Talk to your family and friends but be careful not to overburden them with your stories of pain. Have them help you distract yourself by talking about anything other than your pain. Find a pain support group. Listen to others’ to see how they cope. Talk to your spiritual leader. Find a therapist that specializes in pain management so you can deal with the emotions of pain.

Spend Time Alone

Being social and talking to others does not mean that you shouldn’t be alone. Spending time alone can help 1. process your pain, 2. to let go of your suffering, and 3. find individual things you can do to feel better. This is the time to meditate, read a good book, read about ways to heal, listen to books on tape, watch a good movie, soak in the tub, sing in the shower, or take a class or go back to school.

Find A Spiritual Practice

This may be new for you, or encompass different approaches. For some, spiritual practice is attending a religious service. For others, it may be a spiritual group, meditating, doing creative activities, praying, playing, being in nature, writing in a journal, learning about others’ beliefs, and learning how past and present mystics have coped with their own pain through spiritual or religious practices.

Focus On Gratitude

Whether this is part of a spiritual practice or not, focusing on gratitude for what you have and not what you want can be healing for this helps in the acceptance of what you are going through. No, you may not be grateful for the pain, (although for many people, going through struggles and coming out on the other side with more compassion and love is valuable), but you can examine the other things that are going well in your life.

Learn How To Let Go

This is similar to #1, but learning to not be defined by your pain is a tremendous value. In this manner, the refrain is: “I have pain but I am not my pain.”

If You Need Medications, Find Pain Doctor To Work With You

For some, the use of narcotics is needed. If so, learn to work with the medication and with the medical provider to help you cope with the severity of the pain, and thereby, freeing up ways to use other healthy coping skills.


If you need help with chronic pain, check out Recovery Guidance for a free resource to find treatment professionals near you.


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Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience in the fields of mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Her other specialties include grief and trauma, women’s issues, chronic pain management, holistic healing, GLBTQ concerns, and spirituality and transpersonal psychology. Dr. Anderson has been educated and trained in the fields of education, social work, and spirituality, and she holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (non-denominational/interfaith) specializing in spirituality.

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