Caregivers and Warriors Working Together to Battle Chronic Pain

Pain is one of the most frequently reported symptoms by service members returning from military deployment. Understanding and managing the physical and psychological pain of your wounded warrior can play an important role in his or her rehabilitation and reintegration process.

Chronic pain is pain that continues beyond an expected healing period of an injury and has the potential to significantly affect your warrior during the recovery phase. Chronic pain can come from just normal wear and tear on the body or from aging. During military operations, however, chronic pain may come from combat-related injuries or day-to-day military activities. Many service members that sustain less traumatic wounds return home with back problems, joint immobility, or other ailments.

Working Together to Battle Pain

While coping with chronic pain may seem overwhelming at times, service members and their caregivers can learn ways to manage chronic pain and restore their lives to a more productive and meaningful life. Learn how you and your service member can work together to get through the treatment process by following the tips below.

Warrior: Develop a comprehensive treatment plan with your doctor or nurse case manager.
Caregiver: Keep a folder of your family member’s medical information. Bring it to each visit.

Warrior: Speak up to your healthcare provider; describe your pain and any activities that lessen or increase your pain.
Caregiver: Report any major change you observe in your family member’s symptoms, mood, abilities, or daily activities.

Warrior: Participate in the treatment process early on.
Caregiver: Communicate between the two of you. Talk about issues and concerns as they arise.

Warrior: Talk to your doctor or nurse care manager about support groups for warriors in similar chronic pain situations.
Caregiver: Join a support group for caregivers in similar wounded warrior situations.

Warrior: Write down any questions or concerns you may have before each appointment.
Caregiver: Make sure to attend medical visits with your wounded warrior.

Warrior: Track your pain episodes. Write down how long the pain lasts, the severity of the pain and activities that may have brought about pain.
Caregiver: Believe in your warrior’s report of pain (validation).

Warrior: Set realistic goals with your healthcare provider concerning treatment plan.
Caregiver: Talk about hopes you each have for the future.

Warrior: Know your limitations when it comes to overexertion.
Caregiver: Acknowledge the difficulty your wounded warrior may have in accepting new limitations.

Warrior: Keep up with regular sleep schedules.
Caregiver: Talk to your service member’s doctor or nurse case manager if his or her pain begins to disrupt their sleep.

Warrior: Eat healthy and exercise regularly.
Caregiver: Take care of your own health.

Warrior: Realize that there will be good and bad days.
Caregiver: Be patient. Understand when to help and when to encourage self-help.

Warrior: Learn to relax. Relaxation exercises are one way of reclaiming control over the body.
Caregiver: Learn about and introduce relaxation techniques to your warrior, for example: meditation, muscle relaxation and breathing techniques.

Warrior: Find ways to distract from the pain such as listening to music, reading, etc.
Caregiver: Look for humor in caregiving moments. It’s important to be able to laugh, even when moments can be heartbreaking.

With these simple tips wounded warriors and their family caregivers will be better able to handle the daily tasks of managing pain. We forget that often times the simplest tasks can make the largest impact in our daily lives.

For more information regarding chronic pain and service members, visit the American Pain Foundation. The site features specific information regarding the military and veterans faced with this condition. Also, learn ways that your service member can successfully manage his or her chronic pain by going to the Real Warriors website.

 

Author: Rachel Brauner

This article is part of a series of Military Family Caregiving articles published on the Military Families Leaning Network blog.

 

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