Tips for Dealing with Chronic Pain

Man talking with doctor

Chronic pain does not have to rule your life. Find out how to manage it instead.

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is pain that generally lasts longer than three months, or longer than the expected time for healing to occur. Chronic pain is pain that is not alleviated after multiple therapeutic interventions—like medication and physical therapy.

Some people who experience a disabling injury suffer from chronic pain long after the physical injury has healed. Chronic pain can interfere with your recovery from an injury and your ability to resume daily routines—at work and in life.

It takes time to fully recover from an injury or illness, and there are times when you may not return to your previous comfort level.

Learn more about chronic pain


Pain Medications

Medications are often used to manage chronic pain. Pain medications generally work best if they are paired with other treatments, like physical therapy; cognitive-behavioral therapy; or complementary therapies like biofeedback, massage, and yoga.

If your doctor prescribes medication for your condition, be sure you understand what you are taking and what other effects the medication(s) may have.

The role of opioids, or narcotic medications, in treating chronic pain is complex and sometimes controversial. Often, the long-term use of opioids does little to relieve chronic pain, and may cause debilitating side effects that limit one’s functioning and mobility even more.1 When an opiate is used every day for a long period, you can develop a tolerance for it, and it may lose its effectiveness.

But stopping opioids abruptly after prolonged continuous use can result in withdrawal symptoms. It is important to consult your doctor before you change or stop your medication.

Discover more about medications

Considering complementary approaches to pain management


Questions to Ask Your Doctor

When you are sitting in the doctor’s office, it can be hard to remember the questions you have had since your last appointment. You can prepare for your doctor’s visit ahead of time by keeping a notebook to jot down questions you have about your health condition, about managing your pain, about your projected recovery time, about the medications you are taking, etc.

Your relationship with your physician should be open, honest, and collaborative in nature. The best results occur when you are educated about your condition and your treatments.

If you are taking a narcotic and need to be off it before you return to work, you may want to ask your doctor some of the following questions about taking a different medication, alternative treatments, or pain management resources in your area:

  • What type of medication are you prescribing for me? (For example, is it a narcotic or an anti-inflammatory?)
  • What are the potential side effects of this medication? How might they impact my lifestyle and my ability to return to work?
  • How long should I expect to be on this medication?
  • Could another medication be a less expensive, yet effective, option? Could another medication have fewer side-effects?
  • Are there other therapies that I can be utilizing to help recover? Such as:
  • Chiropractic care
  • Acupuncture
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Should I consider going to a pain-management specialist?


Pain Medication and Returning to Work

Are you on a medication that is preventing you from performing your job? If you are, have you talked with your employer about what that means for your return-to-work opportunities? You may be able to return to work in a temporary or modified-duty position until you are ready to resume your regular duties.

If you are a New York Life Group Benefit Solutions customer and feel you need some help returning to work, NYL GBS may be able to assist you. Contact your disability claims manager for additional information.


1Long-Term Effects of Opiates, July 2020.

This is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or services. You should consult your doctor for medical advice or services. Neither New York Life nor any subsidiaries assumes any responsibility for any circumstances arising out of the use, misuse, interpretation or application of any information supplied in this material.

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