Pain

Take charge of your health.

Taking an active role in your health can help you feel better — and become better equipped to deal with life’s ups and downs. Learn different strategies to manage your pain and improve your ability to function.

What’s the difference between acute and chronic pain?

Pain usually starts when nerves send signals to your brain, telling it you have an injury or illness.

Acute pain doesn’t last long. It may result from an injury or illness.

With chronic pain, your body might heal but your brain keeps getting “pain signals.” The pain becomes persistent. Chronic pain is often “invisible.” You might look healthy to others, while still suffering from extreme pain.

Watch this video about the brain-pain connection, and how to tackle chronic pain.

hqdefault

Learn about the symptoms and causes of chronic pain.

What happens when you feel pain?

Pain signals from the body do not go to a single location in the brain. Instead, they go to several different networks of brain cells. The networks work together to determine how you experience the pain.

pain page brain graphic

  • Attention: Controls how much attention you direct toward and away from pain.
  • Sensory: Processes the location and intensity of pain and whether pain is sharp, dull, or burning.
  • Action: allows you to respond to pain with your behavior.
  • Feelings/motivation: Influences how unpleasant and threatening pain is by processing related thoughts, feelings (fear, anger, depression), and stress responses.
  • Pain control: Takes messages from the other brain networks and controls your experience of pain by producing natural painkillers called endorphins. This network sends signals from the brain down into the spinal cord and out to the body.

How can I help myself?

You can help yourself with chronic pain. Start by listening to your body!

A few things to try include:

Kaiser Permanente members can participate in free online programs to:

Kaiser Permanente Northwest members can use myStrength. It’s a digital personalized program that includes interactive activities, in-the-moment coping tools, inspirational resources, and community support. You can track preferences and goals, current emotional states, and ongoing life events to improve your awareness and change behaviors.

Stop and breathe

Whenever you feel like you need to catch your breath, do this 30-second breathing exercise for instant relaxation.

hqdefault

Activity-rest cycle

Being active is important. It can be an effective way to manage pain. One thing that is even more important is how you balance activity with rest. Check out these two models that describe what this can look like.

pain page activity cycle

You might sometimes find yourself overdoing activities to “catch up” after periods of restricted activity. This can result in severe pain, which then may force you to rest for even longer periods, creating a pain overactivity cycle.

 

.

The activity-rest cycle is a better way to increase the amount of activity you can do over time.

 

pain page rest cycle

To use this cycle, first identify an activity you tend to overdo. Then decide how long you can do the activity before you need to stop, rest, relax, and restart.

Common chronic pain conditions

While the cause of chronic pain can vary, there are some common pain conditions. Learn more about each:

Check out these videos on symptoms, treatment, and prevention of:

Could a health coach help me?

Sometimes, we all need a little help as we’re dealing with health conditions. As you work to manage chronic pain, a health coach can help you work towards your goals, find new coping strategies, and keep on track.

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente’s health coaching sessions.

 

Your total health

Remember, your well-being is affected by both your mind and your body. It’s important to take good care of both to have complete health.

Learn how to care for the whole you.

Can pain cause depression?

Chronic pain sufferers often feel isolated by their conditions, which can lead to depression. Learn more about the chronic pain-depression cycle.

 

 

Should I use alternative pain management solutions?

Sometimes chronic pain sufferers try alternative methods to relieve symptoms.

These methods, like acupuncture or massage, can help. Talk with your doctor for a comprehensive treatment plan.

Watch the video on alternative pain therapies and speaking with your doctor.

Looking for more?

If you’re a Kaiser Permanente Northwest member, you can discuss treatment needs or set up an appointment by calling the Kaiser Permanente Mental Health Department, 503-249-3434 or 1-855-632-8280.