Chronic pain is generally discomfort that lasts for a month or more beyond what is considered to be the usual recovery period for an injury or illness. It can continue unabated for months or years. Usually, the pain is not constant but the onset of pain tends to get in the way of daily tasks at all levels.
There are several strategies to consider in any plan to live and deal with chronic pain:
- Relieving tension and stress is an excellent place to start. Techniques like deep breathing and meditation are helpful in getting your muscles to relax. Mindful exercise, like some people find through yoga, for example, can help the body relax. Blocking out distracting thoughts and breathing deeply can also aid in the relaxation of your painful muscles.
- The body becomes more sensitive and susceptible to pain when you experience stress, anxiety and depression. Learning how to deal with and relieve stress can go a long way to combating chronic pain. Planting a pleasing mental image in your mind, such as sitting on the shore and watching the waves roll in, can help you relax.
- Exercise is one of the most effective methods for improving your mood by producing brain chemicals called endorphins. In addition, exercise promotes muscle strength, which in turn can prevent any further pain. An exercise routine, created in consultation with a physician, can also help you control your weight, control levels of blood sugar and promote a healthy heart.
- Abstaining from alcohol consumption, or at least limiting its intake, helps promote sound, restful sleep, which in turn is good for your overall mental health.
- Sharing your condition with other people also living with chronic pain, either individually or in a group setting, can provide valuable insight and assurance that you are not suffering alone. Also consider consulting with a mental health professional and realize that seeking help is a sign of strength.
- Quit smoking tobacco. After years of study, there is little doubt that smoking has all sorts of negative impacts on health, including increasing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
- Start keeping track of your pain levels in a log or a journal , using the scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high). A log or journal will enable you to compare daily levels of pain with your activities. For example, increased exercise is likely to lessen your levels of pain. Share the information with your doctor.
- Alleviating back and neck pain with a massage is an excellent way to ease tension and relieve pain.
- A heart-healthy, low-fat, low-salt diet can go a long way to promoting physical and mental health, while also helping to alleviate chronic pain. The list of healthy foods includes fresh fruits and vegetables; cooked dried beans and peas; whole-grain breads and cereals; low-fat cheese, milk, and yogurt; and lean meats (in moderation).
- A constant fixation on your pain will do nothing to reduce it, quite the contrary. An enjoyable activity, whether it is physical exercise or simply reading, can help take your mind off your condition.
Those are merely some possible solutions to living with your chronic pain with some common sense approaches. If chronic pain persists consider accessing the expertise and experience of Dr. Steven Horowitz, MD, at The Center for Musculoskeletal Disorders in NY and NJ. Dr. Horowitz specializes in a variety of non-invasive and conservative tried-and-true pain relief treatments.