Accepting persistent pain as part of your everyday life is a huge help. Rather than struggling to avoid or reduce your pain, you can learn to observe, understand and accept it.
This is not easy – it can be hard to accept that you are not the person you were. However, as you accept things have changed, you can switch your energy and focus to living well.
Why is acceptance important in managing persistent pain?
Many people with persistent pain spend years looking for a medical explanation and for someone to fix their pain.
It can lead to feeling frustrated and stressed.
It is normal to feel this, because our human brains tend to focus on trying to fix a problem rather than looking for ways to live with it.
Sadly most persistent pain can’t be cured or fixed. We now understand a lot more about pain, and that to remove persistent pain permanently is an impossible task.
In fact often people find that when they focus on trying to solve their pain, their pain systems actually become more sensitive – the pain becomes worse.
This does not mean that things can’t change or improve, however.
Many people have found by trial and error, that the way forward is to be more accepting of their pain.
This is not easy and it is certainly not about giving in or resigning yourself to pain.
It can be hard to accept you are not the person you once were and that your life is different now. However if you can accept that things have changed, then it’s easier to switch your focus and energy towards living well.
Your day to day life will then be led by your plans and ideas of what is possible, not by the pain.
Pain and Me – a story of acceptance
‘This video is my personal interpretation of my research on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for chronic pain. It took me a long time to understand that acceptance was not the same as giving up or losing hope, but instead I’ve come to see it as a conscious decision to completely engage with life, including pain.’
Professor Tamar Pincus
with thanks to the Royal Holloway University of London, Psychology Department
Learning the skills of acceptance
Acceptance is not the same as ‘giving up’ or ‘putting your head in the sand’. It is an ongoing journey of change in which people with chronic pain recognise that their real-life situation is difficult. It may not be what they would have chosen, but they can begin to look at themselves, their own thoughts and feelings, and the future in a different, more helpful way.
To help you explore this further and learn some skills, we have put together some activities that can help you on your ‘journney towards acceptance’:
Tame the Beast
Leading neuroscientist Lorimer Moseley and his colleagues have created an amazing little animation that explains the journey to acceptance and living well with pain.
Your journey with pain
Try self-completing this booklet. It uses the metaphor of a bus journey and is a great way to start on your journey of acceptance and where you want to focus your life despite the pain.
✔ Acceptance is an ongoing journey of change, that takes time
✔ People who accept their persistent pain find that it has less impact on their day to day lives
✔ Acceptance is not about giving in, but changing your focus towards what you want to do with your life
✔ Many people use mindfulness to manage their pain more successfully