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Managing Chronic Pain When You're Stuck at Home

woman holding her neck in pain
Peter Abaci, MD - Blogs
By Peter Abaci, MDBoard-certified anesthesiologist and pain specialistApril 08, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, patients with chronic diseases can find that stay-at-home orders pose added challenges. In many areas, medical care has been pared down to mostly urgent doctor visits, procedures, surgeries, and diagnostic tests. Many pain patients may find access to medical care or treatment more limited than ever. And stay-at-home orders can also mean spending more time around spouses, family members, or roommates, which can add even more stress to what is already a very high-anxiety situation.

If you are finding that being sequestered at home seems to be making your pain management all the more difficult, here is some food for thought to help you work through this time period:

  • Telemedicine and telehealth are part of the new normal right now. Physicians are relying on telemedicine more than ever during this pandemic, and there seems to be a rise in other virtual health and wellness services being offered. Besides having your typical doctor visit handled on-line or by telephone, you can also look for other complementary virtual resources from physical therapists, psychological counselors and therapists, life-coaches, yoga instructors, Pilates trainers, and nutritionists. For more social bonding, consider joining an on-line support group. Finding the right telemedicine and telehealth resources for your particular situation can be tricky, and it is always a good idea to talk to your physician first before starting something new.
  • Staying at home can easily break down the normal structure and boundaries that we are typically accustomed to. Not leaving home to go to work or run the usual errands can mean more idle time at home. Try to combat this by creating a schedule and some structure around your day that jives with others who are home with you. For example, schedule time to do things together, like perhaps preparing meals, cleaning the house, and watching a movie, while carving out room for everyone to have some time for themselves. Now might be harder than ever to find the time and space for self-care activities like meditation or exercise, so consider working out a plan with your house-mates that allows you to have important time for you.
  • There are some medical treatments that need to be put on hold right now. For example, most experts are recommending postponing routine pain procedures like epidural cortisone injections. In addition to the added risk of being at a medical facility during this time, there is also hypothetical risk that exposing the body to added cortisone could diminish its immune response. If there are medical treatments or procedures that have been put on hold that you typically rely on for pain relief, then this can be a trying time for you. But letting your angst get the best of you during this time period will only make your pain that much harder to control, so consider adding specific stress management techniques and relaxation tools to your routine at home.
  • Stepping outside of your usual routine can also be a chance to explore new ideas or treatments that you may have not otherwise considered. Never talked to a pain management psychologist before? Perhaps this is a time to give it a try. Research done on telemedicine counseling has looked pretty good so far. There might be a list of things that you have always wanted to look into but never had the time. This might be the opportunity for growth, development, and exploration that you’ve been waiting for.

While staying at home is what is needed right now, this can be a really challenging time for those with chronic pain. Consider re-calibrating your pain management strategies so you can get back on track.

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About the Author
Peter Abaci, MD

Peter Abaci, MD, is one of the world’s leading experts on pain and integrative medicine and serves as the co-founder and Medical Director for the Bay Area Pain & Wellness Center. He is a dedicated healer, author, and radio celebrity. To learn more about Dr. Abaci, visit his website.

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