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Coping with Coronavirus and Chronic Pain

COVID-19 Update: We remain open, providing our continued high-quality care in Indianapolis. However, please call us ahead of upcoming appointments if you are experiencing fever, cough, or breathing difficulties. For your safety, patients may only be accompanied by one guest in the waiting room effective immediately.

At the Indianapolis Center for Pain Management, providing care to our patients is our top priority. In light of the recent outbreak of a new type of coronavirus (recently named COVID-19), our pain psychologist Dr. Amanda Wakefield, has compiled some tips for you to manage virus risk and make sure you have accurate information about the virus. 

While chronic pain itself is not a known risk factor for complications of the COVID-19 illness, we recognize that many of our patients are in age groups (over 60) or have other health conditions that put them at higher risk than the general population. 

Right now, information about this virus is everywhere. As with most topics regarding healthcare, information about this virus varies from accurate and helpful to inaccurate and potentially dangerous. It is important to make sure you are getting accurate information and taking reasonable, appropriate steps to keep your risk of becoming ill as low as possible. It is also important to manage the fears and worries about this virus that many people have. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or CDC; https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/summary.html) and Mayo Clinic (https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/covid-19-what-a-mayo-clinic-expert-says-you-need-to-know-about-the-coronavirus/) have each published information on the details of this illness, what you need to know, and basic ways to decrease your risk of getting sick. 

The CDC recommends some individuals at highest risk take special precautions such as:

  • Making sure you have what you need in case you have to stay home for a time to avoid exposure 
  • Avoiding crowds 
  • Rescheduling non-essential travel
  • Having a plan in case you become ill (CDC, March 9, 2020)

However, for most people the CDC simply recommends the following everyday health behaviors that are a good idea any time illnesses are common (including cold and flu season, which were already in full swing when COVID-19 was discovered):

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Clean your hands thoroughly (at least 20 seconds) and often
  • Use hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol content (despite what the internet says, you cannot use vodka to make your own)
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
  • Clean and disinfect your home, especially frequently touched surfaces

Here at Center for Pain Management, we have put measures in place to ensure you continue to receive appropriate, safe, continuous care during this time. These measures include patient screenings, contingency plans in case either patients or providers are quarantined, and remaining ready to address your concerns about what this virus means for you and your care. 

Because so many people are worried about the impact this virus may have on them, the American Psychological Association published a set of 5 tips to help you manage worry about the virus and keep it in perspective. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/pandemics

These tips are:

  1. Keep things in perspective. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that the number of confirmed infections in the U.S. is extremely low. The fact that there is a great deal of news coverage on this issue does not necessarily mean that it presents any threat to you or your family.
  2. Get the facts. It is helpful to adopt a more clinical and curious approach as you follow news reports about the virus. To that end, you will want to find a credible source you can trust. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a webpage dedicated to information on the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. You may also find useful information from local or state public health agencies or even your family physician.
  3. Communicate with your children. Discuss the news coverage of the coronavirus with honest and age-appropriate information. Parents can also help allay distress by focusing children on routines and schedules. Remember that children will observe your behaviors and emotions for cues on how to manage their own feelings during this time.
  4. Keep connected. Maintaining social networks can foster a sense of normality and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress. Feel free to share useful information you find on governmental websites with your friends and family. It will help them deal with their own anxiety.
  5. Seek additional help. Individuals who feel an overwhelming nervousness, a lingering sadness, or other prolonged reactions that adversely affect their job performance or interpersonal relationships should consult with a trained and experienced mental health professional. Psychologists and other appropriate mental health providers can help people deal with extreme stress. These professionals work with individuals to help them find constructive ways to manage adversity.

While many people are understandably worried about this virus, everyday behaviors to avoid exposure and manage your emotional response to this situation are the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones. We also ask that you avoid unhelpful activities such as stockpiling large amounts of supplies (hand sanitizer, medical masks, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc.) as the resulting shortages are often leaving medical providers and those at highest risk of complications without access to these supplies.

Be well and remember to wash those hands!  

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March 17, 2020
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