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Waiting in pain

We know the longer we are in pain the more our bodies become used to generating pain. This is a difficult concept to understand for both patients and clinicians alike. We refer to this as chronic or persistent pain. Many of us suffer with this type of pain and frequently no medical underlying condition or cause can be found. In this circumstance our focus turns to understanding and managing the pain.

If you find yourself waiting for a medical assessment or procedure then hopefully there may be a more definitive outcome thereafter, but inevitably, through no fault of your own, some of the chronic pain processes may be developing in the background. It may be helpful therefore to consider this whilst waiting and adopting some of the pain management strategies that is about reducing the sensitivity and turning down the pain ‘volume’.

The following can help you manage this pain while you wait for your appointment:

  1. Learning about your pain
  2. Living a healthier lifestyle
  3. Doing the things that matter to you
  4. Taking care of your emotional wellbeing

Learning about your pain:

Learning about your condition that causes your pain, triggers that make it worse, what helps to relieve the pain or activities you can do that take your mind off it can help you to create self-management strategies that you may be able to adopt whilst living with your pain. Everyone’s pain experience is different, and everyone has different goals they would like to work towards. Therefore, having knowledge around your condition can help increase your confidence when making decisions around what to change and how to take back control of your life. If you use the internet to research your condition we would urge you to visit trusted British websites, eg, Government website (, NHS websites (, University websites ( and trusted charity websites ( Your local GP practice website is also a good source of information, these will have on their URL.

Living a healthier lifestyle:

Having a healthier lifestyle can increase your energy and function, that will give you a better chance of managing chronic pain. For example, pain can often disrupt sleep patterns, leaving you feeling more fatigued and irritable than you might already be. Lack of sleep impacts emotional state, psychological wellbeing and physical performance, all of which contribute to an increase in pain. By learning about sleep and trying different tools to improve sleep, such as relaxation, activity, position and medications, you may be able to improve your sleep patterns and in turn give you a better chance of managing your pain.

Doing the things that matter to you:

If you live with chronic pain, it’s only natural that you find it hard to continue to do the things that matter to you in your life. It is often the pain that stops people doing the things they value, not forgetting the added stressors that pain can cause such as fatigue, stress, anxiety, depression, fear and low self-confidence.

It is really important that you try to continue to do the things (or some of the things) that you enjoy, despite the pain, to help improve your quality of life. This may seem impossible at first, which is where goal setting can be useful. Small and achievable short-term goals can allow you to work towards realistic long-term goals. Achievable goals can also help to improve your confidence and sense of self-worth.

Taking care of your emotional wellbeing:

As you may be aware, pain can affect the way you think, feel and behave. This can also have an impact on your pain – which is why you should look at ways to manage your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The added stressors of life that pain can cause include fatigue, muscle tension, sleep problems, stress, anxiety, depression, fear, guilt, low mood, feeling unworthy and low self-confidence – all of which are not helpful to anyone as they can ‘wind up’ our pain system. If we can use resources to catch negative thoughts or learn how to communicate your needs, for example, you may be able to start to reserve energy to use in a positive way.