Acceptance

You have pain – it doesn’t have you

“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it” – Michael J Fox

Accepting that you have persistent pain – or the sort of pain that looks like it’s here to stay – is an important step to managing it more effectively. Acknowledging your pain and how it affects you from day to day means you can find practical ways to deal with it. 

Acceptance doesn’t mean ‘thinking positive’. It means understanding that you have pain, but pain doesn’t define who you are. 

By accepting you have pain, you take control. You’re using your energy to manage and control your pain.

Consider this example:

Tomorrow you’re going on a trip with friends and you’ll be a passenger in a car for a few hours. You feel anxious about the trip and start to think about not going. All of your thoughts are focused on your pain – how the trip will make it worse and how you’re sure you won’t be able to enjoy yourself. 

By accepting your pain and taking control you can actively work on ways to manage it and still do the things you want to do. In this example, proactively managing your pain may include allowing extra travel time so you can stop for stretch breaks, using supports (e.g. cushions) in the car to ease your pain, taking pain medication before you set off or distracting yourself from your pain by chatting with your friends. Or it may be a combination of all of these things. 

Whatever you choose to do, the end result is that you can enjoy the trip and have a great time with your friends. Your pain will still be there, but you’ve planned and used strategies to help control it.

This all sounds so easy, right? Well, not really. It can be challenging to accept your pain is a constant in your life. It can be frustrating and it may be a struggle sometimes. You may also go through periods where your pain does dominate your thinking, and may make you anxious and sad. 

That’s okay. Accept that this can happen. It’s completely normal when living with persistent pain to have these ups and downs. 

Speaking with someone – a friend or family member, your GP, a pain specialist, a mental health therapist (e.g. psychiatrist, psychologist) – can help you work through this so you can get back on track. 

Writing it all down in a journal or pain diary is another option. The important thing is to keep working on it.

Don’t forget you can also call our MSK Help Line on 1800 263 265 and speak with a nurse for practical information and advice on living with persistent pain.

Personal perspectives

Chronic pain gives opportunities for the self to grow: as we cultivate awareness and compassion for our own pain, we grow in awareness and compassion for others’ pain – and we do all live with pain, physical or otherwise. – Matthew

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Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

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