The Importance of Optimism When Trying New Chronic Pain Treatments


Dictionary.com defines “chronic” as “persisting for a long time; constantly recurring.” This definition of chronic applies to our chronic pain, it lasts for a long time, meaning: months, years, decades and can be constantly recurring from remission to disease, and the cycle repeats. Despite this disheartening diagnosis that many of us have received, it hasn’t stopped many of us from constantly trying new treatments or therapies.

I, like many of you, have tried almost everything imaginable to get some relief from this chronic, unrelenting pain, from medications to acupuncture, essential oils to homeopathic remedies. There have been a few things that make my day go a bit better, make my headaches a bit less intense or things that I just really like the idea of, but of course I have found nothing to “cure” or at least give me a bit of relief from my chronic pain. So, why do we keep trying new regimens?

Our implacable desire for some sort of relief from this terrible curse we’ve been given is evidence of the power of optimism and hope. Hope is a strong force that has helped many people perform the impossible, it is the ceaseless praying of family members, the support of friends, and the friendships formed internationally from one tragic thing that unites us all, pain. We have a blessing in this day-in-age of the internet that allows us to find refuge and resources for when our hope has worn thin, and we need encouragement from other people who are fighting the insurmountable fight alongside us of finding some reprieve from pain.

Optimism isn’t smiling through the pain in order to fake feeling “normal” so we don’t have to explain our problems to other people. It isn’t saying, “Oh well, I’ll just live with it,” with a smile on our faces so that our family members don’t feel worse than they already do. It is maintaining the hope that the next treatment, the next therapy or this new supplement will give us the outcome we have desired for so long. Optimism is going into that infusion therapy session with our minds set that this treatment will work, not doubting the efficacy of the treatment, but believing that it will produce desirable results. The placebo effect is something that can happen, but the reverse is also true – if you believe that something isn’t going to work, it may not.

This type of optimism, of entering a new treatment despite having been disappointed numerous times in the past, isn’t silly or naïve. It is courageous and brave. I can’t count the number of times that I have gone into a new therapy preparing myself for the therapy not to work because I couldn’t bear to think about get my hopes up just to have them crushed again and again. That vulnerability is what makes us susceptible to changes from therapies or treatments, it is that vulnerability that opens us up to the possibility of a new and pain-free future. As Helen Keller once said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

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