A little bit of pain is fine. Everyone experiences pain once in a while. It’s part of life.
But what if the pain doesn’t go away? What if it lasts for three months, or six months, or more?
That’s chronic pain, and it can be more than just an annoyance. It can have serious effects on the way you live your life.
Causes of Chronic Pain
We don’t always know the cause of chronic pain, but sometimes it can be traced to an injury or health condition. Common chronic pain conditions include past surgeries, back trouble, headaches, nerve damage, infection, arthritis, and fibromyalgia.
Symptoms ran the gamut from a dull ache to a throbbing, shooting, or burning pain. There can be soreness or stiffness. You can feel tired, lose your appetite, and have difficulty sleeping. You can experience mood changes and have a lack of energy.
Chronic Pain Treatment Options
It can be difficult to treat something when you don’t even know the cause. A visit to your primary care doctor or physical therapist is a good place to start. And as always, be careful about relying too much on medications.
In addition to seeking professional help, there are a number of things you can do on your own. Here are eight tips for managing chronic pain.
Tips for Managing Chronic Pain
- Meditate or Breathe for Relaxation — Even a minute or two of focused breathing can be a great help for calming the mind, relaxing the body, and easing pain. Just sit or lie in a comfortable position and take a deep, slow breath in through your nose. Then exhale slowly out your mouth. Feel your belly expand and contract with each breath. Repeat five to ten times, as often as you need throughout the day.
- Reduce Stress — You might not have the option of sending your kids away to boarding school or changing your job, but stress can be a key factor in chronic pain. Stress relief techniques such as breathing (above) and exercise (below) can be a great help. But there are a wide variety other things you can do, from taking time out for a yoga class, reading a book, or listening to music, to making an effort to better organize your day so that you don’t get overwhelmed by work and chores.
- Exercise — Exercise can have a huge benefit when it comes to chronic pain. Cardiovascular workouts for strong heart and lungs can have a calming, relaxing effect that last for hours (or even a lifetime, if you keep it up!). And strength training can grow your muscles to better support your bones, which can do wonders for many chronic pain issues.
- Reduce Alcohol Intake — Some people think a shot of alcohol at bed time helps them sleep. Well it might knock them out, but it’s not restful sleep. Alcohol actually makes sleep problems worse. Consider a cup of herbal tea instead. And instead of a second drink at dinner or at the bar or while you’re on the couch watching television … maybe take a walk instead. Remember how great exercise is for chronic pain?
- Join a Support Group — If your pain is bad enough and goes on long enough, you’ll want to commiserate with people in the same situation. Find a support group with others dealing with chronic pain. They’ll be a great source of advice to help get you through difficult times. You might also want to talk to a mental health professional if your chronic pain is associated with depression.
- Don’t Smoke — Do we really have to say this again? Don’t smoke. Just don’t. It’s everything bad. You know better. Stop it.
- Get a Massage — Whether from a professional or a friend, nothing beats a massage for taking your mind off the pain. Massage is relaxing but it can also be therapeutic. You can make it even easier (for yourself and the person giving the massage) with a high quality massage cream.
- Balance Your Diet — You can get great bang for your buck with a well-balanced diet. You’ll improve your gut health and your heart health, you’ll control your weight, and you’ll improve your blood sugar levels. Every one of these things, especially weight control, can have a beneficial effect on chronic pain.