OT Clinical Services

Pain as a Symptom of Chronic Health Conditions

Pain, a symptom that often accompanies chronic health conditions, can turn your world upside down. On one hand, you may find yourself becoming more inactive to keep the pain from getting worse. On the other hand, you may overexert yourself to prove that you can still complete desired activities. No matter what, the changes in control and life quality can leave you feeling depressed, angry, dependent and socially isolated.

Pain can have many causes, including disease process, tense muscles, muscle deconditioning, poor quality sleep, stress, strong emotions, effects of medications and drug interactions. Often, these symptoms can cause a vicious cycle that make it hard to determine which came first.

To inform your conversations, create a pain diary to establish a baseline and to better understand any triggers. Make sure to record activity and pain levels at least 3 times per day, noting the date, time, what you are doing, pain rating on a scale of 0 to 10, a description of the pain sensation and location, any emotion you feel and what you did to help the pain. Share if the remedy worked. This process should be ongoing.

While medications are often the first line of defense, consider the following tools:

  • Exercise and physical activity, both land and water-based
  • Acupuncture
  • Mindfulness activities / Positive thinking to get through short activities and increase mood
  • Hot/cold Packs
  • E-stim, TENS units
  • Paraffin
  • Splints
  • Changes in positioning or ways to complete activities
  • Self-management education
  • Massage
  • Addressing sleep disorders, such as apnea
  • Surgery

Washington University Occupational Therapy is available to help you on the journey to managing your pain. Contact us today at (314) 286 – 1669 to set up an appointment.

Learn more about our OT Clinical Services related to pain management…