How COVID-19 Is Impacting People With Chronic Pain
artwork by The Chronically Honest
During the past couple of months, the COVID-19 Health Pandemic has impacted people in so many ways. Changes in the way we work, learn, connect, and share has shifted our lives dramatically.
This is especially true for people dealing with chronic pain. Living with ongoing pain makes life sometimes unbearable. Add to this the current state of quarantine and shut-downs and people are suffering. Individuals are reporting higher rates of pain intensity and frequency and increased feelings of depression and anxiety.
In this article, we will look at some of the ways people dealing with chronic pain are being impacted by the virus and what they can do about it.
Are People with Chronic Pain at a Higher Risk?
There are some health experts that are cautioning that people who are currently living with chronic pain might actually be at a higher risk of contracting the virus. There are many potential hypotheses as to why this could be the cause but there are a two clear correlations that anyone with chronic pain should be made aware.
First, those who are being treated for their pain with opioids or other medication are considered immunosuppressed. This simply means that if you are treated with one of these medications, a potential side-effect is a less functional immune system. Because the virus is thought to hit those with a compromised immune function hardest, this could be problematic.
The second piece of the puzzle is that many with ongoing pain are in places where potential exposure to the virus may be higher. Pain flares that land you in an emergency department or other medical facility mean the possibility of being exposed to the virus.
This leaves many people juggling their increasing pain level with whether or not to seek treatment. Dealing with the daily struggle of chronic pain is difficult enough without having to make such difficult decisions about your treatment.
A Heightened Sense of Invisibility
Even for those who are not being treated with medication that impacts their immune system, there are still implications for your overall health and pain level during this time. One is an even greater sense of being invisible.
Anyone who has dealt with chronic pain understands the feeling of invisibility all too well. Living with an invisible illness can leave people feeling unseen themselves. During this time of quarantine and social isolation, this is worse than ever before for many people. A lack of social support is something many people are struggling with. One important way to manage this is to stay connected with those around you. Spending half an hour connecting with a friend or family member on the phone or video chat is very important in staying visible.
Lessened Access to Healthcare
Another impact that has a far reaching effect is a lack of access to healthcare. Many medical practices are encouraging people to stay home unless their medical need is “urgent.” Unfortunately, your doctor’s definition of urgent isn’t always the same as yours. While a doctor might feel that a visit to talk about your increased pain level warrants an office visit, you might not agree.
This is leading to people feeling like they have less access to their healthcare provider. In many cases, people struggle with access during normal times. The current health crisis is making it an even more difficult battle. Now more than ever before you have to act as your own advocate. Be specific with your health provider about what you need. They might not be able to treat you in the same way as before the virus, but with some flexibility, they can work with you to get you what you need.
How to Manage the Current Health Crisis
Like every aspect of chronic pain, there is no simple solution on how to best adjust. Control the things you can and advocate for yourself and your needs. While medical providers might not ben clamoring to invite patients into their offices, be open about your needs.
For those who may be immune-compromised, it is critical to follow all of the safety measures and protocols to protect yourself from the virus. While the COVID-19 Crisis has had a profound impact on chronic pain sufferers worldwide, they continue to fight.
To help get through this difficult time there are steps you can take at home. Download the Flowly app in the App Store and you can take an important step towards managing your pain while you weather this storm.