Anxiety or depression can contribute to pain intensity and, at the same time, episodes of anxiety and depression can be triggered by persistent pain. While some medications can help with anxiety and depression, many pain management treatments such as mind-body therapies, nutrition and exercise can play a critical role in managing depression and anxiety as well.
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Anxiety and Depression
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Being a Caregiver for Someone with Chronic Pain
It takes strength, patience, and energy to support a person living with pain. It feels hard because it is hard. Your relationship may feel tense, you may not know what they expect, and you may feel overwhelmed. You may feel frustrated with a lack of formal and informal support and may fear it’s more than you can handle. However, you are not alone. These support tools and strategies may help you.
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Caregiving While Living with Pain
Chronic pain can be overwhelming. Caring for someone else while you are in pain adds an extra layer of complexity. Managing care duties while living with pain can be difficult for several reasons including fatigue, managing multiple medical appointments, physical limitations, and stress. Caregivers living with invisible pain may also find it challenging to manage expectations that their loved ones may have of them.
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Chronic Pain and Indigenous Peoples
Indigenous populations experience chronic pain at disproportionate rates in comparison to their non-Indigenous counterparts. However, Indigenous populations are often less likely to obtain and receive care and support for their experiences of pain. This fact sheet includes resources for Indigenous peoples living with pain related to health care, mental health, housing, and more.
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Communication with Family and Friends
When living with a chronic illness, you may have less capacity for stress and your emotions may rise to the surface quickly. It can be particularly stressful when your family and friends have expectations that are not in line with your abilities, energy levels and/or tolerance. The following strategies can help you navigate the relationships in your life.
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Communication with Health Care Providers
Living with chronic pain can often involve meeting with a number of health care providers. It can be useful to know how to communicate effectively with health care providers to ensure you’re getting the best care possible. Here are some strategies that can help.
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Complementary therapies can help with managing pain. These therapies often work by changing how you pay attention to your pain, releasing muscle tension caused by pain and encouraging overall relaxation.
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Emotions and Moods
Living with pain can affect your emotions and mood negatively and can increase your risk of depression, anxiety and fear. The good news is the reverse is true as well. When you are happy and focused on the positive things in life, you’re less likely to notice pain. This can help wind down the nervous system and help to manage pain. Your pain is real and it’s also true that it’s “made by the brain”, so we can exert some control over it with time and practice.
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Finding a Mental Health Counsellor
Experiences of anxiety and/or depression can cause increased intensity of pain, and flare-ups of pain often impact well-being. As well, people living with pain often deal with profound loss and unwanted changes in their lives and may experience these effects in a variety of ways including grief, anger and isolation.
Using self-help materials, receiving support from friends and family, or joining a local support group can help you develop coping skills. However, sometimes we need extra help. Working with a counsellor may give you the additional guidance you need to manage the emotional and psychological impacts of living with pain.
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Finding a Physiotherapist
Physiotherapists help people living with conditions such as chronic pain improve their quality of life, improve physical functioning and support their recovery. A physiotherapist is a health care professional who works from a patient-centered approach and uses knowledge of anatomy, kinesiology and physiology to assess, treat and manage pain, injuries, movement dysfunction and chronic conditions.
These resources may be helpful in finding a physiotherapist near you.
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Flare-ups are periods of increased pain often experienced by people who live with ongoing chronic pain. Sometimes it’s hard to know what triggers a flare-up, especially because there are usually a number of factors involved. Flare-ups usually happen when either our pain increases or there are changes in how well we are dealing with pain.
Grief and Loss
Grief is a natural response to loss and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Often the pain of loss can be as difficult as the chronic pain, and this can be overwhelming at times. Everyone reacts to grief and loss differently. The experience can involve difficult emotions and impact how you feel and interact with yourself and those around you.
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Managing chronic pain is difficult at the best of times so during the holidays it is important to manage your expectations. What we have done in the past may change over time. If you spend a lot of time with family, friends, or other groups during the holidays, discuss your holiday priorities with them so they’re aware of your limitations and needs for help.
If chronic pain limits your ability to work, you may be eligible for provincial or federal income support. These sources of income support may help you.
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Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD)
Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) is a health care service that provides people who are experiencing intolerable suffering due to a grievous and incurable medical condition the option to end their life with the assistance of a doctor or nurse practitioner. This only occurs at the individual’s request. This fact sheet includes information about MAiD.
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There is a lot of misinformation about prescription medication, so it’s not surprising half of all people with prescriptions in Canada don’t take them properly. This can lead to treatment failures. Our fact sheet covers the basics of medication and how to make the most of it.
Sometimes living with pain can be overwhelming. It’s not just the pain that hurts; your mind can start to suffer as you try to find a way to make the pain stop. Mindfulness has been often been defined as the awareness that comes from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.
Movement can be a form of medicine for people with pain. When you use movement as therapy, the number of times in a day and the amount of time spent moving both matter. You don’t have to rely on the same activities every day; trying out new types of movement is encouraged! Whether you’re dancing to the radio while working off stiffness in the morning, cleaning the house or walking the dog, any activity can contribute to improved pain management.
Diet is a critical factor in managing any long-term condition, but until more conclusive research comes out, it can be tough to find specific advice in relation to pain. While there’s no such thing as a cure-all diet for pain, this means we can take an individualized approach to nutrition for pain management and that’s good news! Here are some practical tips for eating well when living with pain.
Pacing and Managing Energy
Pacing means to achieve and maintain a relatively even level of activity energy throughout the day, even though you may naturally want to try and keep up with your family and friends or community. Pacing is not all about stopping the activities you enjoy. With trial and error, pacing will allow you to find out how much activity your body can handle before pain begins to increase.
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Pain BC Advocacy on Access to Opioid Pain Medications
Over the past several years, the rules for prescribing opioid medications in BC have changed. This resource describes why prescribing practices have changed in BC, what Pain BC is doing about it, and what to do if your opioid medications are being decreased without your consent and if the decrease is having a negative effect on your quality of life.
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Pain, Sex and Intimacy
Sex and physical intimacy should be a source of joy and pleasure, but can become difficult or scary if one partner is worried they’ll hurt the other or cause a pain flare-up. This fact sheet shares some ways to support intimacy while living with pain.
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Psychosocial Community Resources
As you know, chronic pain is much more than just an uncomfortable feeling. Living with pain affects our bodies, our thoughts, our emotions, and how we relate to other people and the world around us.
Community resources are available to support you. Helping to manage your stress, mental health, physical health, sleep and practical needs can provide some relief when living with pain. The following free resources may provide you with some support as part of your pain journey.
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Resilience is an important part of managing life with chronic pain. It is the process of adapting when faced with adversity, trauma, threats or significant sources of stress. It grows as we overcome difficult challenges and can actually leave us with more strength than we started with. Here are some tips that can help with building resilience.
Self-advocacy is the ability to speak up for what you need. Self-advocacy also means knowing your rights and about your pain condition so that you can be an “active manager” in your health. With good self-advocacy skills, you can be more confident in taking responsibility and control over your pain management.
Self-Care During COVID-19
It’s normal to experience anxiety and fear, especially during a global pandemic. However, it’s important to recognize triggers that can lead to pain flare-ups and learn how to manage them. Triggers can amplify negative emotions like fear and anxiety, which in turn can worsen the pain. Having a plan in place ahead of time can be helpful if you do experience a pain flare-up.
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Self-compassion is a key component of maintaining a healthy and well-balanced approach to self-care. This fact sheet shares some ways of practicing self-compassion in everyday life.
Since pain and sleep are connected, working on your quality of sleep can have positive impacts on your pain. Here are some practical tips that can help with managing sleep.
Social support means having connections with people in your life who you can turn to during challenging times. Having a good social support system can help you cope better with stress, enhance quality of life and find a sense of belonging.
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Stigma is when someone is judged or experiences discrimination over something that distinguishes them from others – things like culture, gender, race, socioeconomic status, health, and more. People with chronic pain experience stigma from people in in their lives including family, friends, co-workers and perhaps most challengingly, health care providers.
Stress and the Body
Stress is what happens in your brain and your body when something you care about is at stake. Understanding that stress is a natural response and does not automatically mean harm – much like pain sometimes – can help you manage stressful events with a more positive approach. If you learn to notice your stress triggers and what happens for you during a stress response, you can find strategies to address the way it changes your breathing, muscle tension and even mood.
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Living with chronic pain can impact your ability to work or maintain the career path you had prior to developing pain. If you continue in the same role or position, it’s likely you may need to make adjustments. If the work you are doing is no longer feasible, finding other forms of income can be an even bigger adjustment. An important part of transitioning back to work is communicating with co-workers and employers about what you need in order to manage pain successfully.
Youth Who Live with Pain
If you are a youth who lives with pain, you may feel unsure of where or who to turn to for help. Your experience with pain can have physical, psychological, and financial effects. Here are some things you can do and resources you can explore.