9 Ways Chronic Pain Impacts Quality of Life

Minimize the emotional problems and physical discomfort caused by chronic pain.

Medically reviewed in January 2022

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Improve Quality of Life with a Pain-Management Plan

Chronic pain doesn't just hurt your body; it hurts your emotions, too. It can impact your mood, your memory, your relationships, and your overall quality of life—if you let it. Don't let it. Negative emotions will only make pain worse and, in turn, cause depression and other emotional problems. To avoid this vicious cycle, tailor a comprehensive pain-management plan that minimizes both the physical and emotional impacts of chronic pain. 

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Pain, Depression and Mood

Constant aches and pains can understandably cause frustration, anger, anxiety, and depression. Occasional bouts of such emotions may not be a big deal, but if they persist, it's important to take action. Distract yourself from constant pain and brighten your mood by doing activities you love. Explore new stress-reduction techniques, work with a cognitive behavioral therapist, or join a pain support group. Talking to others about your chronic musculoskeletal pain can help ease the pain symptoms.

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Pain and Your Self-Esteem

Pain can diminish job performance, lower motivation to exercise, and prevent you from completing daily tasks. Such limitations cause some pain sufferers to get down on themselves or to view their chronic pain as a sign of weakness or a personal defect. Don't go down that road. Seek the aid of a therapist or pain support group if constant pain is eroding your self-esteem. Talk therapy can help you squash negative thinking, believe in yourself and connect with others.

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Pain Can Make You Feel Lonely

When you're in constant pain, the last thing you want to do is attend the company party, the neighbor's backyard barbecue, or even small gatherings with your closest friends and family. Don't let pain drive you into social isolation and make you feel lonely. To stay sociallly connected, focus on the quality, not quantity, of friendships. Nurture ties with a handful of close, supportive friends versus a vast network of more superficial acquaintances.

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Chronic Pain and Relationships

When you hurt all the time, it's tough to complete household chores, take care of the kids, contribute financially, or fully participate in normal family activities. Sexuality and intimacy can also take a hit from chronic pain. Frustration, resentment, and communication breakdowns can occur—especially when a spouse doesn't understand or sympathize with your condition. Solution: Seek guidance from a marriage counselor to help rebuild your relationship.

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Chronic Pain and Fatigue

Pain is exhausting. A sore back, achy hip, or bad knee can steal your sleep, send your stress levels skyrocketing, and drain your motivation to exercise. Reduce fatigue by integrating the right self-care measures into your pain management plan. Eat a healthy diet, kick your bad habits, get more sleep, and exercise every day. You'll feel more energized and cope better with your pain.

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Chronic Pain and Work

It's hard to stay on your game at work when you're in constant pain. Chronic pain can diminish concentration, memory, critical thinking abilities, and productivity. Solution: Talk to your doctor about daytime pain medications that won't sedate you, and get the sleep and exercise you need to keep your brain humming. Short, daytime naps may also help. Don't overcompensate by becoming a workaholic. Taking time off can reduce stress and help with pain management.

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Pain and Your Home Life

It's hard to manage a household when you have chronic pain. Running errands, managing finances, and taking care of the kids, the pets, and a spouse can feel overwhelming. Remember to pace yourself, simplify, and let go of perfection. It's also okay to ask family members for help. Your home should be your sanctuary from pain, not something that aggravates it. Try techniques such as deep-breathing meditation to let your mind shelter you from chronic pain.

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Pain and Your Doctor

Does your doctor take your chronic pain seriously or do you get the impression he or she thinks it's "all in your head?" Treating chronic pain, especially without a clear underlying cause, can be tricky, and some doctors are better-equipped than others to help you manage pain. Bottom line: Pain is a real condition that can be effectively treated. If you're not getting pain relief from your doctor, it's time to find a new one. Manage your pain proactively by building a better doctor-patient relationship.

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Fight Pain With Positive Thinking

Chronic pain can bring loss—loss of your physical function, your athletic abilities, a favorite hobby, a career, and even close relationships. While it's healthy to grieve, don't let pain make you a victim. Take back your power. To start, try to accept that chronic pain is a part of your life, but does not control who you are or your ability to improve, cope, and thrive. Pain relief is more likely when you and your doctor maintain an optimistic attitude.

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