My coping strategies for breakthrough pain

Contributed by: Vivian
Reviewed by: Evelyn Corsini, MSW, January 2011

Vivian lives in Memphis, TN.  She is 55 and worked as a registered nurse for 35 years. She has multiple medical problems causing chronic pain, including diabetic polyneuraphy, postherpetic neuralgia, L3 disc herniation with radiculopathy, and osteoarthritis. In her story Vivian describes coping strategies she uses.


I have been a chronic pain patient since 2003. After two failed nerve blocks and an adverse response to pregabalin, (I do use slow release morphine and gabapentin with moderate success),  I Iearned that my coping strategies would have to be diverted to a more psychological slant rather than medical if I was to avoid the darkness of depression.

Severe pain causes me to regress to some childlike behaviors, probably because I feel I lack power and control. The coping strategies I describe help with breakthrough pain (minimizing use of additional opiates) and uplift my mood which, in turn, decreases the negative perception of my chronic pain condition.

I remember play and social activities that brought me comfort when I was ill as a child. Coloring books were a favorite pastime. It has become a treasure hunt to find high quality, detailed books. But I did. I use all types of art tools: chalk, pencils, pens, crayons paints, markers. The results are frameable masterpieces and provide a few hours of relaxation and distraction.

I rediscovered reading through audiobooks since meds blur my vision. I started to meditate and use imagery to get me through really bad times. The breathing exercises are phenomenal. Lastly, I stopped talking with my family who are clueless and now talk to other women who are rediscovering themselves because of chronic pain.  It is great when “someone gets me “. I changed my focus from obsession and shackles to distraction and freedom.  I still have really bad days but the good days are more frequent.

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