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The Good and Bad Effects of the Presidential Election on My Chronic Pain

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A presidential election will always cause social tensions to run high — this year more so than ever. Everywhere you turn you are faced with opinions from friends, news reports and comments from strangers about the upcoming election — some you agree with and some you definitely do not.

Stress and emotions affect pain.

For those of us with chronic illness, emotions and stress can greatly impact our health. With this election both of these are definitely running high.

Just like things such as weather and emotional trauma can cause an increase in pain, so can a rise in stress.

My chronic pain from arachnoiditis and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome gets worse in stressful times — the pain is taxing enough on a regular basis that any rise in my stress can wreak havoc.

Maybe you have a condition like colitis or high blood pressure, which can be affected by stress as well. During many news reports or debates my husband has said, “I am going to turn this off, it is going to shoot your blood pressure through the roof!”

I have many non-disabled friends who are getting stress headaches during this election — so how might a person with migraines be handling the chaos?

To people who don’t have a chronic illness or pain this probably sounds absurd, but for those of us who do, even a slight increase in pain can send us over the edge, so stress reduction in our lives is very important.

On the other hand, stress and emotions can distract from pain.

The day of the second presidential debate I was having a very bad pain day, but for two hours I was so wrapped up in the drama that I was able to leave my body for a while. Yes, the stress probably affected my pain afterwards, but as anyone with chronic pain knows, we will do anything that will give us any period of time with relief.

But most importantly, as a person with chronic pain, the decisions made in this election will greatly impact my life.

Why, as chronic pain patients, do we need to be concerned with the outcome?

It isn’t just because there is major controversy on both sides and that both of the presidential candidates may be two of the most unpopular in history. It is because our rights hang in the balance.

Chronic pain patients are already dealing with declining access to the medications that increase our quality of life. Pain management doctors are reducing doses of opioids (if they are prescribing them at all) and regulations seem to be getting more stringent very quickly. It will be crucial to have the support of local legislators to help us continue the fight to access for the relief we deserve. If we can have the support of the president, even better.

Many chronic pain warriors rely on Medicare for insurance or Social Security for disability payments. Our government can make or break these programs, potentially having devastating effects on so many lives. We need to advocate for our access to these services.

Above all, regardless of political preferences, we need to fight to maintain and expand our rights as patients in chronic pain. And as stressful as the political process is, we need politicians on our side.

Originally published: October 17, 2016
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