Tips for Managing Chronic Pain
You're in pain—again. When you have chronic pain, you may feel like you're always in pain. Chronic pain, says the American Psychological Association, is pain that lasts more than six months and affects how you live your daily life.
Yes, you can take medical treatments or do physical therapy to help manage your pain, but it's also psychologically stressful. Caring for your emotional and mental health are important to easing the aches.
Here are some tips to help you cope:
Drink less and don't smoke.
When you're in pain, the pain interferes with the quality and length of your sleep. Pain can make you wake often each night. And sleep deprivation can lower your pain threshold. Alcohol only makes sleep problems worse. If you have chronic pain, drink less alcohol or none to improve your daily quality of life. And same goes for smoking. It can worsen any circulation problems and increase your risk of cancer and heart disease.
Work, family, money and, of course, your health condition are common sources of stress. It would be odd if you weren't stressed. Do your best to keep stress in check for the good of your body. Stress can increase your body's sensitivity to pain. Keep your problems in perspective. Consider everything you have and what you're grateful for. Reduce stress with diet and exercise. Try eating these foods to help you de-stress. And find out how to manage common causes of stress.
You may feel alone when you're struggling with pain daily. Consider joining a support group to meet other people who can understand what you're going through. Ask your health care provider about groups in your area or see if your local hospital has one that's right for you. There are also many online options. You may benefit from the wise words of others going through the same situation as you.
Get help from a pro.
Are you so overwhelmed with chronic pain that it's tough to do daily tasks? Or perhaps you're feeling depressed. You may want to meet with a mental health professional such as a psychologist. Counseling can help you learn to cope better with the psychological and physical demands of your condition.
Write about your pain.
Your healthcare provider needs to know how you're feeling between visits to treat your pain most effectively. Keep track of your pain level and activities daily in a handwritten or online log or journal. Bring the notes to your visits with your health care provider. It will give your provider a better understanding of how you're living with your pain.
Being alone and isolating yourself will give you a negative attitude and can increase your perception of your pain. When you focus on pain, it only makes it worse. Find a hobby or activity that you enjoy and that you can do with family, friends or the community. It will distract you from thinking about your pain.
Learn how to relax.
Techniques like deep breathing, meditation and yoga can help your body relax and may ease pain. If you're meditating, focus on breathing. Repeat a word or phrase; repetition can be soothing for the mind and body. Or try deep breathing, which can wake up, energize, balance and relax you. Find out how to de-stress with breathing techniques.
You want to eat foods that are easy to digest and help alleviate inflammation that leads to pain. That means you should opt for leafy greens, low-sugar fruits (cranberries, cherries, pineapple, plums), and foods high in good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, sardines, herring, canned light tuna, trout and other fatty fish). Limit foods and beverages that may cause inflammation like red wine, tea, citrus fruits and chocolate.
Get that heart pumping.
Exercise does the body good physically and mentally. When you break a sweat, you create endorphins that help boost your mood and block pain signals. Plus, exercise strengthens muscles, helping prevent reinjury and further pain. Exercise helps manage your weight, control blood sugar, reduce your heart disease risk and more. Speak with your healthcare provider to find the right exercise routine for you.