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Chronic Pain: Living with a Persistent and Painful Shadow…


Chronic Pain is more than just an annoyance.


It’s a constant, unwelcome companion that can drain energy, disrupt sleep, and leave someone feeling like an imposter camped uncomfortably in their own body.

But what if this unwelcome guest wasn’t always alone? What if chronic pain needs an accomplice to survive?

No smoke without fire after all.

So often chronic pain sufferers either live with the pain or focus on localised relief such as creams and ointments, or pharmaceuticals for the pain itself. And this can help. But too often the effects of these efforts subside and the pain remains.


If you can begin to quash the fire, could the smoke begin to dissipate too? Could the pain ease, if the stress of the pain didn’t weigh so heavily on the body and the mind?


Well, as it turns out, the answer is a resounding YES!

So, the fire…

The original cause, the current cause… What is it, why does it persist, and how do we begin to make moves towards a time with no persistent pain experience at all?


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Stress, that familiar foe, can often be the unwelcome sidekick that worsens chronic pain and eventually keeps it alive, creating a vicious and seemingly endless cycle.

Let’s delve into the ways chronic pain manifests, how stress fuels the fire, and explore methods to break free from chronic pain’s grip.


Chronic Pain’s Symphony of Discomfort

Chronic pain is no one-note tune.

It can manifest in a variety of ways, each with its own special way of causing discomfort:

  • Aching and Throbbing: This constant dull pain can settle in your muscles, joints, or anywhere really, making even simple movements feel like a chore.
  • Sharp Shooting: Imagine tiny lightning bolts dancing under your skin – that’s the unwelcome gift of sharp, stabbing, and relentless pain.
  • Burning and Stinging: This fiery sensation on the skin can make everyday activities like showering feel like torture.
  • Numbness and Tingling: That pins and needles feeling of numbness or tingling can be unsettling and can, over time, begin to disrupt your sense of touch.


The Downward Spiral: How Stress Worsens Chronic Pain

Imagine you’re having a bad pain day.

Now add to this already uncomfortable day, a situation like your boss breathing down your neck about a looming deadline, some terrible news appearing about the health of an ailing parent, or an unexpected tax bill due to arrive through the door in the months to come.

Yep – Stress! That grim thing that can turn up unannounced in a range of different costumes poking you in the gut at every turn.

This surge of stress hormones can heighten your pain perception, actively and unwantedly making it feel worse. It can also lead to muscle tension; tightness often in the jaw, the shoulders, or the lower back, which can further intensify discomfort.

The pain causes further stress.

The stress amplifies the pain.

Over time, this stress-pain loop can become ingrained, making it even harder to manage both.


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10 Ways Chronic Pain Can Steal Your Joy

Living with chronic pain can affect every aspect of your life:

  1. Sleepless Nights: Pain can disrupt sleep – perhaps making it hard to get to sleep, or pain can wake you in the night – this in turn can leave you exhausted and even more vulnerable to further bouts of pain.
  2. Limited Mobility: Simple tasks become daunting when pain makes movement difficult.
  3. Social Withdrawal: You might avoid activities you love to do with friends or family due to the pain you’re feeling, leading to isolation, and low mood.
  4. Strained Relationships: Chronic pain can turn a tolerant person into a tyrant, and this ever-increasing lack of patience can take a toll on your relationships with loved ones.
  5. Work Struggles: Focus and concentration required at your place of work can be difficult when you’re constantly battling chronic pain, sometimes leading to extended time off of work.
  6. Financial Burden: Managing chronic pain can be expensive; medication, physiotherapy, supports and topical creams can seriously start adding up over time.
  7. Frustration and Anger: Constant pain can lead to feelings of irritability, frustration and full-blown red-mist anger.
  8. Anxiety and Depression: Chronic pain can significantly increase your risk of anxiety and depression, causing concern that the pain might arrive at any time, and negatively impacting mood by draining motivation and enthusiasm with once-enjoyed activities.
  9. Loss of Identity: You might feel like you’ve lost your old self due to the limitations caused by pain, tempting you to retreat, or perhaps to over-compensate, sometimes trying too hard to be the person you once were.
  10. Reduced Sense of Hope: The constant struggle can make it difficult to feel optimistic about the future and hope can be lost that life can return to ‘normal’, and pain-free.


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Acute vs. Chronic: Understanding the Recovery Timeline

Firstly, it’s important to understand the difference between chronic and acute pain.

Acute pain, like a sprained ankle, usually heals within a few weeks. And strange as it might seem, acute pain is your friend, alerting you to pay attention to something that may have dire consequences if you ignore it.

“I’M DOWN HERE!!!” your ankle screams to your brain, not letting you forget about the need to tend to this immediate concern of high importance.

But that signal from body to mind to body can begin to ‘hard-wire’, and whilst the ankle may mend, the screaming often stays, habitually screaming its pain signals, a bit like an over-zealous but helpful friend constantly doing things ‘just in case’ and eventually outstaying their welcome.

Problem is, you don’t have the energy to ask them to leave.

So the pain signal continues. Even though the affected area has resumed normal operation.

Now clear, logical, considered thinking would interrupt this signal, weakening its hold and eventually everything returns to a relatively comfortable status quo.



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In strolls Stress, our old faithful and complex companion interrupting our logical and considered thinking, telling us to focus our worrying mind somewhere else more important at this very moment (such as that ailing parent or that looming tax bill), and the pain signal hammers in its tent pegs, flips the burgers and settles in for sing-song around the campfire.





Acute. Becomes. Chronic.


Chronic pain is deemed as pain that persists for longer than three months, and recovery more often than not becomes a long-term journey. There’s no set timeline for recovery from chronic pain as it depends on a host of individual factors.

It depends on whether a stressful life surrounds you from moment to moment.

It depends on how willing you are to wage a personal war on the pain you are unknowingly inflicting upon yourself.

It depends on… Belief.


Knowing (and therefore, Believing), that chronic pain is in the brain can take a while to register. Some, never do.

But just because the pain is in the brain does not mean it is not real.

The feeling of pain is 100% REAL – you Are in pain. But…

as Dr Howard Schubiner, a leading expert on chronic pain states “Pain is NOT in your mind, you actually feel the pain. But it IS in the brain”


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Change: Interrupting the signal

Chronic pain sufferers often feel down, depressed, and a little lacking in hope that the pain will ever cease.

And understandably so.

How someone deals with stress in their life is said to have a significant impact on whether the chronic pain cycle keeps smacking them in the face like a rubber ball on a line of elastic, or begins to wane.

It’s draining. Exhausting. It’s downright miserable.

Something needs to be done, but the mental and physical energy needed to complete the actions required to change life is as low as can go, and the will and the want to tap into any potential reserves continues to ebb away, adding to the woes, potentially elevating the pain senses further, and deepening the negative feedback loop.


Its a hateful and debilitating cycle, and no manner of pain relief, physio, stretching, or creams or braces or arch supports or whatever is going to help in a long-term way.

YES, these symptom support systems are important – do the creams, do the physio, do the ‘all the other things’. The DOING sends a signal that self-care is being made, and gains can be had from these efforts.


But for the longer term…

The pain signal needs to be interrupted.

Life needs to change.

The war on pain needs to be something in your recent past – it needs to have, begun.


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Signs of Hope: What to Expect When Symptoms Improve

There is hope!

Here are some positive signs to look out for as your chronic pain improves:

  • Increased mobility and ability to perform daily activities
  • Improved sleep quality – duration and quality
  • Extended days and weeks of pain free time
  • Enhanced mood and overall well-being
  • Renewed sense of control over your life
  • Better, more fluid communication with friends and relatives
  • Closer, more rewarding and fulfilling personal relationships

In the meantime, whilst energies are low and that will and want aren’t quite in the spot to fuel motivation to make those bigger changes, a little self care can go a very long way.

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Self-Care: Your Toolkit for Managing Chronic Pain

Self-care is a solid first defence in the fight against pain

Apart from being FREE (yes, that zero cost!), and immediately available, self care sends that signal to yourself that your Intention is good.

Here are some ways to address different pain symptoms:

  • Aching and Throbbing: Apply heat or ice packs, and practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation. Rest. Even if it’s not sleep, because active resting regularly can ease the constant and relentless march of painful episodes.
  • Sharp Shooting: Gentle stretching and yoga can help improve flexibility and reduce pain.  Remember: DO, but don’t OVERDO. Some is good, but less is more. More-or-less.
  • Burning and Stinging: Topical pain relievers or capsaicin cream may offer some temporary relief with sensitive skin sensations
  • Numbness and Tingling: Physical therapy exercises can help improve nerve function and reduce numbness. Seek out professional advice, or friends who have experienced similar things who can help.


Top 4 Self-Care Practices for Chronic Pain:

Yep, the old standard toolkit

Self care practices can seriously have a positive impact on someone’s physical AND emotional states, and The Big Four below can help make great strides towards that point where energy goes up, motivation increases, and efforts towards longer-term solutions can begin to be considered:

  1. Regular Exercise: We’re not talking HiiT sessions here. Far from it. Gentle, regular movement can improve pain, mood, and sleep (note the bold on regular!)
  2. Healthy Diet: Eating nutritious foods can provide your body with the building blocks it needs to heal. But again – try not to load expectation onto yourself here – just look to improve, ideally. Be slow and steady, and try to maintain.
  3. Stress Management Techniques: Relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation can help reduce stress and pain. An old favourite is too watch the world go by. Look out of the window, switch off for a time. But deeper levels of meditation are worth working towards.
  4. Quality Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Not always easy, but again, bite-sized chunks. Give yourself an extra 15 minutes in bed to set the possibility of improvement in this area.


Chronic pain can be stubborn, but maintaining self-care can be a solid secret weapon towards relief.

For some though, maintaining a self-care routine can feel daunting and overwhelming.

If you’re struggling, consider seeking professional help.


Seeking Guidance

Help is at hand…

Therapists can provide support, guidance, and additional tools to manage and move on from chronic pain.

One approach that can be particularly helpful is solution-focused hypnotherapy.

Unlike traditional portrayals of hypnosis, solution-focused hypnotherapy doesn’t involve mind control or repressed memories. Instead, it focuses on:

  • Intense Absorption: Guiding you into a state of deep relaxation and focused attention
  • Cognitive Flexibility: Helping you reframe negative thoughts and develop more positive coping mechanisms and hopeful outcomes
  • Dissociation: In this context, dissociation refers to a natural process of temporarily detaching from negative emotions or pain sensations. Hypnotherapy helps to create that mental and emotional distance and allows you to realise that pain can be controlled.

Through these techniques, hypnotherapy can help your brain become more receptive to positive and lasting adaptations in thoughts and behaviours and can promote improved feelings and emotions.

The process is natural and calming and can help reduce the fight-or-flight response that often exacerbates chronic pain.


In summary:

Remember, chronic pain isn’t a life sentence.

With self-care strategies and professional support, you can begin to manage your pain and dissolve its relentless hold on your mind and body.

With less focus on these negative pain signals you can start to reclaim the life you had, or perhaps begin the life you want, on your own terms.




🌐 Sources

NHS UK – Stress – Every Mind Matters:

NHS inform – Chronic pain self-help guide:

Tims – Chronic or Persistent Musculoskeletal Pain:

Gosh NHS – Chronic pain:

NHS UK – Chronic pain and low back pain pathway at Sheffield …:



Reducing the prevalence of low‐back pain by reducing the prevalence of psychological distress: –



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