If you find your life regularly affected by pain, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, around 1 in every 4 Americans have suffered from pain that lasts for longer than a day, and pain affects more people than cancer, diabetes, and heart disease combined.
Chronic pain (that which is ongoing, for months or years), is actually seen as the most common cause of long-term disability in the country too. If you suffer from chronic pain, you no doubt find that many areas of your life are negatively impacted and that your overall quality of life is diminished.
As such, it is important to continually look for ways that you can better manage things on a daily basis. Read on for some top tips that you can follow today.
Manage Your Stress and Self-Talk
One of the most important things to do when you suffer from chronic pain is to manage your stress levels. Since emotional and physical pain are so interlinked, having to deal with persistent pain often causes sufferers to also have heightened levels of stress.
Conversely, having higher stress levels can make it harder to cope with pain, and even increase pain levels (it can cause muscles to spasm). As a result, it’s necessary to learn how cope with stress in healthy ways so that you don’t end up in a worse state.
Getting enough sleep and finding ways to be proactive about managing your pain can help with keeping stress levels down, as can taking time out to perform deep breathing and/or meditation exercises. These things can also help you to keep a positive mindset and an optimistic outlook, so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
Examine your thoughts, and how you talk to yourself. If you focus on the improvements you’re making over time, the helpful choices you’re making, the good things in your life, and the ways in which you can have power over your body, this will help you to have a higher perceived comfort level and lower rates of stress.
Next, while your pain levels may make you feel like staying in bed or on the couch, try to push yourself to stay active and to continue doing activities you enjoy. There are a few reasons for this counterintuitive move.
For starters, cocooning yourself can lead you to think that you need to protect your body more than you do, and can bring on additional psychosomatic pain. In addition, resting too much can actually reinforce chronic pain, because it leads to your muscles becoming stiff and weak from inactivity. In turn, this can cause your pain to intensify.
Being active is also beneficial psychologically. It not only distracts you from your pain for a time, because you’re engaging in enjoyable activities or otherwise having to concentrate on something, but it also ensures that you don’t end up too isolated, which can lead to a downhill spiral and depression. Getting physical also releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain relievers and mood stabilizers.
Try to find some physical pursuits that you can do that doesn’t cause you too much pain and that you enjoy at the same time. (It helps if the activities connect you with your friends, family members, colleagues, community members, and the like, too.) Think about engaging in things such as walking, swimming, riding a bike, doing a gentle yoga or tai chi class, lifting light weights, and so on.
Furthermore, it pays to set goals for your activities, so that you can see the progress you make; and to break up exercise into shorter chunks so that you don’t overload yourself. For example, depending on your pain, energy, and strength levels, you might want to aim for three 10-minute sessions per day, rather than one longer one. It is best to plan your movement for earlier in the day where possible too, so that you don’t get to the afternoon or evening and feel too tired or unmotivated to train.
Lastly, don’t forget that utilizing support is also a vital component of effectively managing chronic pain. Dealing with this kind of daily struggle is challenging enough, but it’s even harder if you try to do it alone.
Apart from reaching out to your family and friends, it pays to join support groups so that you can share your highs and lows and thoughts and feelings with people who are in the same position and really understand what you’re going through. Just understanding that you’re not alone, and also voicing your struggles, can go a long way to helping you cope.
There are also plenty of professionals you can consult for assistance, from counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists, through to physical therapists, chiropractors, masseuses, acupuncturists, herbalists, and so on.
To get a comprehensive treatment plan that is tailored to you, it is a good idea to contact a Center that specializes in chronic pain, such as this clinic for pain management. Under the one roof you can find out about treatment options such as surgery, injections, and non-invasive therapies.