Chronic Pain: Don’t Just Manage It, Treat It

by Bridget O’Gara, Communications Consultant, Yavapai Regional Medical Center

Excruciating and relentless — even the celebratory distractions of the holidays are no relief for people suffering from chronic pain. 

“I compare chronic pain to a snowball that grows bigger as it rolls downhill,” says Cheryl Van Demark, PT, C-IAYT,  Physical Rehabilitation Services, Dignity Health – Yavapai Regional Medical Center. “The good news is that snowballs can be melted.” 

Van Demark — the facilitator of YRMC’s Chronic Pain Self-Care Program and a YRMC physical therapist and yoga therapist — says, “Our protective reaction to pain is imbedded in our nervous system. How we respond versus how we react comes from how we have learned to approach adversity throughout a lifetime.” 

Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting three to six months or longer and is present at least 50% of our days. It can be the result of an injury, illness, surgery or nerve damage. It does not always involve tissue damage, as in the case of a phantom limb pain.

Other pain-related factors include: stress, exhaustion, lack of physical activity, rising blood pressure, weight gain (or loss), anger and fear.

YRMC’s chronic pain program focuses on those factors. Van Demark uses the words “pain treatment” or “pain care,” not “pain management.” 

Program Participant

Twenty percent of the general population and two-thirds of older adults live with chronic pain. 

Prescott resident Cassandra Culver is one of the 20%. A 2013 injury triggered a spiral of autoimmune diseases and persistent pain. By 2017, Culver needed a walker. That’s when she began physical therapy through YRMC’s Physical Rehabilitation Services and soon joined the Chronic Pain Self-Care Program. Today, Culver usually walks without an assistive device. 

The program features:

  • 10 hours of instruction
  • Expert speakers from YRMC
  • Support materials with specific self-care practices
  • Ongoing contact to encourage self-care practices
  • Pain Program Empowers

“Part of what Cheryl brought to light with the Chronic Pain Self-Care Program is empowerment and enrichment,” Culver says. “You can find ways to bring activities back into your life that you enjoy; and to learn new things.”

To participate in the YRMC Chronic Pain Self-Care Program, talk to your physician or contact Cheryl Van Demark at 928-771-4747.