The Key to Successful Chronic Pain Management
Living with chronic pain is a daily struggle. It has an effect on everything you do, from your comfort in sitting to your ability to exercise. And while it’s possible that your chronic pain may never go away completely, there are things you can do to make it more manageable.
The Pain Management Program at Sierra Tucson takes a holistic approach to treating chronic pain that aims to restore function and improve a resident’s quality of life. By focusing on the mind, body, and spirit, residents with chronic pain can learn to accept their pain and find fulfillment in life again.
“They may still experience pain every day, but it doesn’t have to ruin their lives,” said Jami Parrish, a unit therapist in Sierra Tucson’s Pain Management Program. Sierra Tucson runs the only inpatient pain program in Arizona that is accredited by the American Academy of Pain Management.
Improving movement is another key component to pain management. Rest is helpful for acute pain, but rest is not best for chronic pain. Even increasing exercise by a few minutes a day leads to lasting improvements in functionality and pain issues.
Residents are enrolled in process groups that can help them work through issues that may be impacting their level of pain. These include groups for anxiety, depression, chemical dependency, grief, trauma, and abuse. By working through their underlying issues, many residents feel immediate relief from their pain.
“If it doesn’t change their pain, it helps them better manage it,” Parrish said.
Sierra Tucson also uses integrative therapies that work to ease pain and increase relaxation levels. Residents enrolled at the facility can participate in meditation, movement and aquatic therapy, biofeedback, acupuncture, massage, and yoga, as well as meet with nutritionists and herbal medicine specialists.
Sleep restoration is also a big part of treating chronic pain at Sierra Tucson, as studies have shown that the more sleep a person gets, the less pain they’ll experience.
Helping Residents Restore Functions
Helping residents restore function and improve their quality of life also includes the following:
- Helping them return to normal daily activities and resume the most functional, independent, productive lifestyle possible
- Increasing physical strength, stamina and flexibility
- Reducing or eliminating the use of pain medications
- Minimizing pain behaviors
- Learning stress management techniques
- Returning to work, as applicable
- Resuming recreational activities
- Improving interpersonal relationships
- Reducing reliance on healthcare professionals, with improved ability to self-manage chronic pain
- Individualized Treatment for Chronic Pain
Individualized Treatment is Needed
Because each resident experiences pain differently and has symptoms that are unique to them, chronic pain must be treated using an individualized treatment plan.
“We tailor treatment to the person and what the person defines as pain,” Parrish said.
Residents are asked to rate their pain on a scale of zero to ten. The treatment team attempts to help residents reduce their pain level to as close to a zero as possible.
“It’s not always realistic to get to zero,” Parrish explained. “Sometimes part of treatment is about residents learning to accept their pain.”
Residents are typically enrolled in the Pain Management Program at Sierra Tucson for 45 days. As part of treatment, they receive an aftercare plan that allows them to continue with the pain-relieving methods they discovered work best for them. Aftercare plans often include meditation or prayer, taking medications, and being active.
“Life is not working for residents when they come into treatment,” Parrish said. “We are helping them find themselves again.”
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