Can pets help with chronic pain?

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When you’re living with pain, animal companionship can provide comforting moments. Finding room in your life for a pet can be part of your pain management plan.

Most pet owners will tell you how much their furry or feathered friends enrich their lives. Pets provide companionship, unconditional love, and joy.

For those with chronic pain, pets can give their owners even more. A recent study showed that 34% of fibromyalgia patients reported pain relief, a better mood, and less fatigue, after visiting with a therapy dog for 10-15 minutes. An additional study focused on patients who had undergone joint replacement surgery and found that after visiting a therapy dog daily 28% of patients needed less pain medication than patients who did not visit the therapy dogs.

How Pets Can Help With Pain Management

Having a pet gives you a reason to get up in the morning and thus a sense of purpose or meaning. Loss of purpose that can come with chronic pain can be devastating. Loss of work and the inability to provide for yourself and family can bring about grief and a huge void inside, as well as negative self-judgment and stress. So building a life with meaning alongside the pain becomes a critical task for the chronic pain sufferer.

According to the Delta Society, an organization that promotes human health through the use of animals. The non-profit group says research shows pets decrease feelings of depression, loneliness, and isolation. Pets may also be able to do your heart some good — they are credited with lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

Caring for a Pet When You’re Living With Pain

Pets need to be taken care of, even when you’re in pain. Feeding, bathing, and walking them and getting them to the vet can be challenging and can drain your energy. A few adjustments can make their care easier.

Caressing and interacting with our pets can help to alleviate loneliness. Who doesn’t thrive in the face of the unconditional love our pets provide us? Walking our dogs, even if painful, keeps us active, which is an anti-depressant and can also help with anxiety. Focusing on more than just ourselves can pull some of the attention away from the pain, leading to the perception of less pain. The structure and routine of caring for a pet are also good for the depression often experienced by those with chronic pain.

The Power of Pets

Pet ownership may not be appropriate for everyone living with chronic pain, so ask your medical team if your overall health is good enough to make the commitment. Keep in mind that if pet care becomes too difficult or if you need an occasional break, pet sitters and walkers are available at reasonable rates to help you. The Arthritis Foundation has tips on finding a number of pet care services.

It’s a wise choice if you can handle the responsibility. You cannot underestimate the power of pets when one is in pain. A pet comforts you and at the same time takes you out of yourself as you care for them. A pet is more powerful than any medication when it comes to comforting, soothing, and distracting you when you are experiencing pain.

I think a pet is a wonderful addition to anyone’s life.  I find that being with my dog allows me not to think about being in pain all the time.  I believe it is a good thing to have a pet around, no matter what kind of pet it is.

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