If you suffer from chronic pain, you know how it can take a toll on your physical and emotional well-being. Chronic pain is any ongoing pain that results from injury, underlying illness or unknown causes. It affects more people than cancer or heart disease, and it can last for months or years.
In addition to following your healthcare provider's recommendations, you may also find some relief by making these changes.
Here are some ways to manage — and potentially relieve — your chronic pain symptoms.
1. Practice meditation and deep breathing. These techniques help your body loosen up and relax, which can ease pain.
2. Cut down on stress. Negative feelings like anger, depression, anxiety and stress can increase your body's pain sensitivity. Stress can bring on a lot of these emotions, so focus on taking control of them. Try listening to soothing music and creating calming, peaceful images in your mind.
3. Get moving. Pain can be a powerful demotivator when it comes to exercise. However, physical activity produces endorphins, which can improve your mood while blocking pain signals. Strengthening your muscles helps prevent re-injury, and managing your weight can also reduce pain. Talk to your healthcare provider about the types of physical activity that are best for you.
4. Drink less alcohol, and quit smoking. Chronic pain can make sleep difficult, as can drinking alcohol. Drinking less alcohol (or no alcohol at all) can make sleeping easier.
If you're a smoker, quit immediately. Researchers have found that while nicotine may help relieve pain in the short term, it can actually worsen chronic pain in the long run by making it harder for oxygen-rich blood to reach your bones and tissues. Smoking also increases your risk of developing heart disease and cancer.
5. Find a support group. Meeting other people who understand what you're going through can make you feel less alone. It can also provide examples of how others cope with chronic pain.
6. Keep a pain diary. To effectively treat your pain, your healthcare provider needs to know when and how your pain affects you. By keeping track of your pain, you can tie your pain to certain activities or events.
7. Enjoy a well-balanced diet. Getting the right nutrients can aid digestion, reduce your heart disease risk, help you manage your weight and maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Eat a low-fat, low-sodium diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, whole-grain breads and cereals and lean sources of protein. Stay away from inflammatory foods like dairy, chocolate, red meat, wine and processed foods.
If you've made these changes and are still experiencing moderate to severe chronic pain for a period of three or more months, contact your healthcare provider for an consultation. Your provider may refer you to a specialist who can better help you manage your pain.
Whether you’ve been suffering from chronic pain for a few months or many years, Goshen Health can help you control your pain and return to a higher quality of life. For more information about our pain management program, call (574) 537-0423.