Pain Management for Veterans

Pain is a common symptom of mesothelioma. The treatments that veterans often endure can put the body under a lot of stress. That said, talking with a doctor or caregiver can help in the aid of pain management.

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What is Pain Management?

Veterans in later stages of mesothelioma or other cancers usually experience chronic pain. This pain can happen anywhere in the body and can last months or years after treatment has ended. This is one of the most common symptoms of cancers. Pain management involves medications, treatments, or therapies that help mitigate this pain. This is also called palliative care.

Types of Chronic Pain Management

Doctors may choose to administer medications or varying therapies based on the patient’s stage in cancer, site of tumors, general health, and treatment history among other variables.

Treatments

If the doctor deems it appropriate, they may prescribe pain medications to the patient. This can help dull the sensation or sedate the veteran so they can sleep, or otherwise manage the symptoms. Sometimes doctors may prescribe medications and therapies together.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Chronic Pain (CBT-CP)

Researchers have discovered CBT-CP a successful treatment option for pain in some veterans. This method teaches skills that help veterans change or manage their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. While these things may seem unrelated to physical pain, they will completely change how the patient experiences it.

Self-care

This is the most commonly underrated or forgotten method for pain management. The most important factor in managing pain is the role of the veteran/patient. Self-management is one of the best ways to boost activity levels and mobility while keeping pain at bay. When people practice self-care, they can end up feeling empowered and have a positive outlook to drive them to complete activities. Self-care can encompass having a healthy:

  • Hygiene
  • Diet
  • Sleep schedule
  • Support
  • Coping and stress techniques
  • Stretching or physical therapy

If you are considering self-care but don’t know where to start, consider:

Taking breaks

You don’t have to do everything at once. Take breaks. Pace yourself. If you know that pain is going to start, work on building yourself up and thinking positive thoughts. If situations that cause pain are broken up into chunks, they are usually easier to handle. Additionally, you can motivate yourself more when you know a break is much closer on the horizon.

Practicing relaxation

Taking a moment to relax can sometimes be hard to do. You can use grounding techniques to maintain your composure and balance your body and mind. Steady your breath, try to push out negative thoughts and focus on other things. Even something as simple as playing calming music or getting a breath of fresh air can help someone relax. Everyone’s path to relaxation is different.

Exercising and physical therapy

Talk to your doctor about what they recommend for exercise and physical therapy. Veterans who have later stage mesothelioma may have trouble doing a lot of this, but your doctor can give you a good idea of less aggressive exercise, stretching, or physical therapy that would work for your condition. Even simple stretches once a day would have a large impact on pain for veterans.

Finding fun things to do

It can be hard to find enjoyment in previously cherished activities when someone has a debilitating illness. Even if the veteran still would enjoy the activity, maybe it is too painful to do. It’s important for patients to take time for themselves to find things within their realm that is enjoyable. Maybe going for a run is too painful, but a walk outside might do the trick. Even just taking the time out to get some sunshine or watch a favorite tv show can help with taking the veteran’s mind off of the pain for a little while.

Communicating

At first, it may seem like no one understands. And they may not. But family members and loved ones always want to be there. They can listen. While venting about fears and concerns may seem inconsequential, sometimes purging something that is concerning your mind can help give you the strength needed to overcome or manage physical pain. If someone is bottling up emotions inside, it may make the pain seem worse.

Amending the daily routine

Making changes to the veteran’s daily routine is a good way to mitigate activities that cause unnecessary pain. Move hard to reach items to one, easy, spot. Add extra pillows to lounging areas. It’s okay to do less.

Chronic pain can make daily life difficult and frustrating. Especially in veterans who have late-stage mesothelioma or other cancers and are managing multiple symptoms at once. If veterans maintain self-care, they may be able to reduce instances of pain and severity. Talk to your doctor or local VA health facility for more support and resources about chronic pain management.