There are enough challenges in life to let minor – or even moderate – aches and pains interfere with your plans. Pain might be an unavoidable part of life, but that doesn’t mean you have to simply put up with it.
This September, in honor of Pain Awareness Month, we want to help you take control of your pain management. Whether you need acute pain management tips for isolated incidents or ongoing self-care and pain management recommendations, we’ve got your back.
What is Pain Awareness Month – and why does it matter?
Pain Awareness Month is an initiative promoted by the International Association for the Study of Pain to “raise public awareness around pain, pain management, and the great work pain professionals do.”
When you think about pain, your mind might linger on images of someone stubbing their toe, bumping into a wall, or falling and scraping their knee, or you might think of some other acute source of pain. However, there are also many people – about 50 million U.S. adults (meaning one in five, or 20%) – who experience chronic, or ongoing/recurrent, pain.
Chronic pain can take many forms:
- Back and neck pain
- Hip, knee, and foot pain
- Arthritis, diabetes, or cancer-related pain
- Old injuries that never go away or flare up consistently
- Nerve damage
Dealing with pain regularly takes its toll, and not just on the person physically suffering.
Individual and economic impact of chronic pain
Not only is chronic pain a, well, pain, but it also has a significant impact on individual lives and society as a whole.
It’s not a stretch to imagine the implications chronic pain can have on a person's quality of life. If you’re battling physical discomfort, you might struggle to focus on work, enjoy your social life, manage your home, and take care of others. You may also develop other symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, or insomnia, which exacerbate the problem. Multiply any level of these individual factors by 50 million, and the effect is significant.
The economic impact in particular is profound. The 2019 National Health Interview Survey from the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that lost productivity caused by chronic pain costs the U.S. nearly $300 billion annually. Researchers say adults with chronic pain miss more work (an average of 10 days a year) than those without (fewer than three days), and affected Americans suffer $80 billion in lost wages each year.
Suffice it to say, pain – and its treatment – is worth talking about.
Whether you’re one of the millions of people experiencing regular pain, are accident prone, or simply like to be prepared for the inevitable, there’s a lot you can do to feel more comfortable anytime you’re aching.
Self-care and pain management tips
Managing your pain depends on what kind of pain you’re experiencing and how it interferes with your day-to-day life. Options vary widely, especially since, “pain medicine is relatively young as a field,” according to the director of Brigham and Women's Hospital’s pain management center, Dr. Robert Jason Yong.
Many of those experiencing chronic pain turn to treatments such as physical therapy, massage, medication, acupuncture, or surgery, but oftentimes, your best course of action is self-care and home pain management. Self-care practices such as going for easy walks, meditating, and taking time to rest can help soothe ongoing pain problems.
When self-care and prevention aren’t enough, arming yourself with the tools that offer the best relief can greatly improve your quality of life and allow you to do more of the things you need – and want! – to do.
Let’s stock your first aid kit with pain management tools to meet your unique needs and those situations anyone can expect to encounter:
- Every first aid kit should be equipped with bandages and supplies for cleaning wounds.
- If you have arthritis, you might consider storing your medications in an easy-to-open push button pill organizer for easy, pain-free access.
- For aches and pains associated with sports injuries, limb injuries or overuse, or plantar fasciitis, compression wraps and support straps can stabilize and soothe for better mobility and overall comfort.
- Do you regularly battle tension headaches? Applying hot or cold therapy through an eye mask can offer relief.
- A pair of tweezers can come in handy for splinters. Be sure to clean them between uses!
- Keeping pain medication handy can help ease symptoms while you’re out and about. Consider a locking pill container or one you can keep on your keys to avoid allowing children access or losing them.
- Ice is regularly used for injuries and general aches, but a solid or sticky ice pack can be inconvenient. A cloth ice bag protects your skin and allows more flexibility than many ice options available.
- When ice doesn’t help, sometimes heat can. Keep a hot water bottle on hand for cramps and muscle aches. Note that some water bottles (like this one from Flents) can be used to apply both heat and cold.
- Plantar fasciitis cramping your style? A night splint to help stretch when you’re resting and arch brace to offer comfort and support while standing and walking can make a world of difference.
- If you’re prone to finger injuries, the Acu-Life finger injury system can help you treat, protect, and support your digits.
- A thermometer is a good idea to keep in your first aid kit, even if it’s typically used more often in cases of illness than with injuries. Keeping track of your temperature can help alert you to any changes that could indicate an infection or other underlying issue.
Pain is inevitable, but there are steps you can take to ease your discomfort. Whether you’re tending to a scrape on your knee or managing a daily ache in your back, Flents is here to offer relief so you can get back to the more important things in life.
International Association for the Study of Pain: Pain Awareness Month
Science Daily: One in five American adults experience chronic pain
The Washington Post: The Big Number: 50.2 million people live with chronic pain in the U.S.
Cleveland Clinic: Chronic Pain
Healthline: Chronic Pain: The Impact on the 50 Million Americans Who Have It