Essential Tips for Dealing with Chronic Pain
While acute pain usually has a defined cause, course of treatment, and specified duration, chronic pain can wax and wane and last for weeks, months, and even years. It’s often difficult to find the exact cause of chronic pain, which makes it all the more difficult to live with.
The most important thing to remember if you suffer from chronic pain is that you must manage your expectations. If you expect that any treatment, medication, or behavioral modification will completely eliminate your pain, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. When it comes to chronic pain, it’s usually more about effective management than a cure.
Having said that, there are proven ways to help mitigate the effects of chronic pain. Here are some essential tips to get you started.
Be mindful of diet and exercise
What you eat and how you use your body both have a massive effect on chronic pain. Foods that cause inflammation are known to exacerbate chronic pain. It may help to avoid foods like nightshade vegetables (tomatoes), dairy, chocolate, red meat, and wheat products. Adding foods like leafy greens and fish high in omega-3s have been proven to reduce inflammation and help with chronic pain. You might want to look into reducing your alcohol intake and smoking cessation, if that applies to you.
Exercise can be a tricky prospect, depending on the level and location of your pain. But gentle exercise is recommended for those suffering from chronic pain. Walking, light jogging, swimming, and even activities like gardening can help. Find your balance. Know how hard to push your body to produce positive effects without causing additional pain.
Practice Meditation and Introduce Holistic Treatments
Activities that bridge the mind-body connection can help in managing chronic pain. This can include meditation and yoga but can be as simple as mindful breathing.
WebMD recommends repetition and deep breathing:
“The soothing power of repetition is at the heart of some forms of meditation. Focusing on the breath, ignoring thoughts, and repeating a word or phrase – a mantra – causes the body to relax. While you can learn meditation on your own, it helps to take a class. Deep breathing is also a relaxation technique. Find a quiet location, a comfortable body position, and block out distracting thoughts. Then, imagine a spot just below your navel. Breathe into that spot, filling your abdomen with air. Let the air fill you from the abdomen up, then let it out, like deflating a balloon.”
In addition, holistic methods that help restore balance and soothe muscles, like reflexology, chiropractic care or massage, can do wonders for chronic pain through a series of treatments. Yoga, another great option for helping with pain management, increases flexibility, strength, and vitality. All good things when fighting chronic pain.
Know the difference between positive and negative medicine
Prescription and over-the-counter anti-inflammation and pain medications can help you deal with chronic pain, but you want to avoid becoming dependent on prescription pain meds to manage your pain. Not only are they addictive, but they have diminishing returns – meaning their efficacy will lessen the more you use them. Talk to your doctor about any and all medications you take for your chronic pain.
Own your pain
If you fail to be realistic about your pain, you could wind up causing yourself more pain. Refusing to acknowledge that ultimately you are in charge of your own pain can throw you into a vicious cycle.
“Too often, we get caught up in existential rumination like why we have this pain or what we did to deserve this. Most often, we expect the health care system to rescue us and, when its fails, we get caught up in blame and anger. The result: tension builds, which leads to – you guessed it – more pain. To stop the cycle, decide that you will be the driver of your pain. Doctors and therapists will be there to help, but you are in charge of your pain,” says Scientific American.
Just remember to keep your expectations in check, and you may find that you are able to find some much-needed relief.