Chronic pain affects millions, and the symptoms can be debilitating. Stabbing pains, persistent aches and burning sensations make work and play tough, and it can feel like life is passing you by. The good news is that while most chronic pain can’t be cured, it can be successfully managed. These seven tips will help you get started.
Know What You’re Dealing With
Acute pain is the body’s normal response to injury, but when it persists for more than 12 weeks after the damage has healed, it’s considered chronic, and the treatments for it change. Before reaching for over-the-counter pain relievers, talk to your doctor first.
Make Your Life Easier
Optimizing your environment can decrease the chances of aggravating an old injury and causing pain to flair up. Move heavy objects you reach for daily to lower shelves to mitigate repetitive stress on your shoulders. Store things in a way that minimize twisting and straining back muscles. After a long day, small measures add up.
Ease Pain with Exercise
Bodies were made to move, but pain can slow you down. Rest is important for acute injuries, but for chronic pain, exercise lubricates joints, stretches and strengthens muscles and causes the brain to produce endorphins — natural chemicals that lift your mood and block pain signals.
Consider Complementary Therapies
Research on alternative treatments such as acupuncture, massage and biofeedback are limited, but promising. Learn more about them, and ask your doctor which will best fit your overall management plan.
Give Your Body Quality Fuel
The effects of a nutritious diet on pain are far-reaching. High-quality lean protein and micronutrients from fruits and vegetables give your body the tools it needs for optimal performance while reducing your risk of chronic disease and keeping weight under control.
Stress Makes Everything Worse
Stress amplifies pain and makes you more sensitive to it’s effects. Give yourself permission to do what it takes to reduce the stress in your life. Say no to things when you have to, acknowledge how negative emotions affect your mood and take time for self-care each day. Effective stress-relieving activities may include gentle exercise and engaging in hobbies as well as more focused techniques like guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation.
Don’t Go it Alone
Sharing how chronic pain affects your life with others that share similar symptoms and experiences gives you a sense of perspective and reminds you that you are not alone. Join a chronic pain support group in your area or online.
Having chronic pain doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sidelines. Take control with measures that make symptoms manageable. Your life is waiting.