Have Chronic Pain? Here Are 10 Ways to Ease Your Way Through College

Health Writer
View as:|
1 of 12
Next
iStock

College is designed for adventure. But if you live with chronic pain from a condition like rheumatoid arthritis, you can make adaptations that will help you get the most out of the experience with the least pain.

iStock

Explore online classes and degree programs

Sitting alone in front of a computer may not be your idea of the perfect college experience. But an online class or two mixed into a busy course load may provide you with flexibility and the physical breaks you need to feel your best.

iStock

Talk to your professors

The time to talk to your professors about your condition is before the semester begins. Be honest with them about your situation. If your condition is unpredictable, explain this. Remain open to their hesitations and do not take them personally. For example, they may discourage you from taking a class if they know a certain course will not lend itself to excessive absenteeism. Listen to their hesitations - they may save you frustration later.

iStock

Take advantage of accommodations offered by your school

The office of disabilities you'll find on most college campuses may be a great resource. Tom Webb, director of the Office of Disability Services at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, put it this way: “Many students with chronic pain can benefit from an accommodation plan developed by the knowledgeable staff of a disability services office. The key is to start the process as early as possible and not wait until you are in over your head with a flare-up during midterm exams.”

iStock

Consider your best time of day

Some people with RA or other causes of chronic pain wake up in the morning already in pain, while others experience pain that builds throughout the day. Knowing your typical pain pattern can help you to schedule your classes - and the long walks between classrooms - when you feel your best.

iStock

Schedule rest

Time management is extremely important in college, but so is making sure you're not overdoing it when you're in pain. Being specific each day about when you will take breaks can help you to stay ahead of the pain.

iStock

Focus on success stories

When you're in pain, it's easy to focus on the negative, such as thinking about people you know with your condition who were unable to attend college. Instead, actively search out others who have accomplished what you are setting out to do.

iStock

Manage your stress

College can be stressful, and chronic stress is known to worsen pain. Therefore, it's extremely important to find ways to avoid stressful situations, such as procrastinating on assignments, whenever possible.

iStock

Eat nutrient-dense food

College life is often associated with foods like pizza and soda, which are high in fat and sugar and low in nutrients. Eating this kind of food can worsen chronic pain. When you need late-night food, reach for a fruit smoothie, chopped veggies and hummus dip, or homemade nachos loaded with tomatoes, peppers, and avocados.

iStock

Have plans in place for a bad day

Most likely there will be days when, as result of over-doing it, you cannot get out of bed. Have a plan for these days. Know who you can count on to take notes for you in each of your classes. Talk to your doctor about having extra medication available if you need it on these days, and email your professors to let them know why you're not in class.

iStock

Pay attention to your patterns

College helps you prepare for your future. Knowing your pain patterns and how you react to certain situations is part of the knowledge that you can gain from the college experience.