Thursday, November 29, 2018

Dealing with Pain in Others

A lot of prepper articles are written about first aid because injuries tend to happen with any situation that rises to the level of an emergency. First aid generally means treating injuries when professional medical help is not available to stop further damage and prevent loss of life, with the goal being to get the patient to better care as soon and as safely as possible. The patient is going to experience pain both before and after seeing a physician, and the field of treating pain is complicated and controversial, but there are secondary issues that we should all be ready to address.

I'm learning to deal with chronic (long-term, unending) pain in someone I know. The day-to-day stress of having pain that won't go away has emotional and mental effects that drugs don't treat. Acute pain (short-term, may go away eventually) is normally the result of injuries and tends to be more unsettling to the patient because it is out of their normal experience. Both types of pain cause changes in the person suffering them that will affect how they deal with the world and people around them. Don't expect a person dealing with pain to act or react normally; you may have known them for years, but they can turn into a completely different person once they're in pain.

Physical Effects of Pain
  • Loss of appetite and weight. Plan your meals accordingly and do what you can to make sure they get the calories and nutrients that their bodies need, especially if they're healing.
  • Fatigue and sleeplessness. Pain will interrupt their normal sleep cycles, which will prevent deep, restful sleep. This will eventually cause fatigue and the other effects of sleep deprivation.
  • Decreased movement. The risks of pneumonia and blood clots rise with the lack of mobility caused by injury and pain. Internal movements will also be slowed down, so watch for constipation and fluid retention if they aren't eliminating wastes as they should. Diuretics and laxatives are a subject for a separate article.
  • Weakened immune system. Dealing with the source of the pain will focus the body's attention away from general immune response, so watch for infections in areas that weren't injured.

Mental/Emotional Effects of Pain
  • Stress. Pain causes a lot of different stresses on the body and mind, so expect anyone who is not a hard-core stoic to show signs of stress. Dealing with stress varies from person to person, so investigate the patient normally deals with stress and find ways for them to do it.
  • Depression/anxiety/panic/fear. Chronic or acute, pain tends to kick us out of our comfort zones. From what I've experienced, the severity of the pain is less of a factor than the personality of the patient. Drugs can help with these effects, but they tend to cause problems of their own that you then have to deal with. A calm environment and slow, quiet movements may help reduce these effects by eliminating any new emotional stresses.
  • Anger/resentment. This one I know well. Pain, especially chronic pain, tends to cause outbursts of anger and resentment over little things, and big things lead to full tirades and melt-downs. Patience, prayer, and a thick skin are your only defenses. Being able to take a break and letting someone else handle the person in pain will help with your mental state.
  • Disconnection from other people. Pain centers the mind on itself, leading to a loss of concern for others and difficulty relating to them. This means more conflict and less enjoyment for everyone around. This can be really hard on a marriage or other long-term relationship.

Pain is Part of Life
Humans have been dealing with pain longer than we've been able to talk, so it shouldn't be something arcane or mysterious. Our society has tried to ignore or sometimes punish those in pain for several centuries, which is so fundamentally wrong to my mind that I have a hard time grasping the concept. Most of the natural drugs we have stumbled across, even the discovery and development of things like alcohol and narcotics, have been in search of at least a temporary respite from the pains of life. The addictive properties of some of these drugs get blown out of proportion by those who think they know how to live our lives for us, and I'm sure some of that is based on their desire to control as much of the world as they can.

Those of you who are young and healthy should enjoy life as much as you can and give thanks to whichever deity you prefer. As we age, we collect injuries and ailments that cause pain and this impacts our lives and the lives of those around us. Be aware of those impacts and take them into consideration when dealing with others.

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