Almost every 3 people out of 10 in the United States experience chronic pain. Living with it is a constant uphill battle for most people. All of us have experienced pain from time to time. Short-term pain typically heals fast, while chronic pain can be described as an intense or throbbing pain that lasts longer than the duration of three months. There can be many underlying causes of chronic pain such as arthritis, nerve damage, injuries, and even illnesses. Your brain is responsible for sending pain signals to your receptors. Sometimes, certain people experience pain not due to an injury, but because of the signals being sent from the brain to the body.
With chronic pain come various comorbid disorders such as depression, anxiety, and a ton of stress. People are also burdened with negative thoughts, isolation, and even fear. This interferes with activities of daily living along with a lot of areas of our lives such as social, personal, and occupational. Medications and treatments are effective in dealing with chronic pain, but it is better to try and control the symptoms by changing certain lifestyle habits. This can act as a good supplementary treatment for your main interventions.
Prolonged and increased pain can lead to worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety, which is what makes it such a complex problem. We have curated a list of ways to help you cope with and manage chronic pain so that you can live your life to your fullest potential even with such an issue.
Work on your coping skills
A study conducted in 2019 showed that patients who were positive about their outlook for chronic pain got better faster than the patients who had a negative outlook. Our perception and coping mechanisms can really affect the way we feel pain. Do not focus on the worst-case scenarios, instead, try to make your day better and more positive with small things. There are a lot of people who deal with chronic pain but end up leading really fruitful lives. This is only because they have developed healthy coping skills such as medications, exercise, healthy diets, and much more.
You might be thinking that moving your body while dealing with chronic pain might not be a smart move. This is completely false. Individuals dealing with this issue need to learn smart ways to move their bodies so that their pain does not get overwhelming. If you do not exercise, it can actually lead to more pain. Exercising releases endorphins in the body, which lower stress levels and increase happiness. This in turn also lowers down the intensity of the pain signals coming from our brain. It is important to talk to a physical therapist or your doctors about what kind of exercise program would benefit you. Your diagnosis should be taken into account. You do not have to join a gym in order to exercise. Just walking, swimming, yoga, or even a small home workout is enough to give your body the push it needs. Disuse syndrome can also be prevented through regular exercise. This is a condition in which your muscles can become weak due to inactivity. Move your body to maintain mobility so that your joints and muscles stay flexible and active.
Find the right kind of medication
Not every medicine is good for dealing with chronic pain. Each person has different kinds of medications that work for them. What works for others might not work for you. It is vital that you go to a doctor to determine the best treatment for you. You will need to try a lot of medicines before finding one that suits you. Painkillers are also quite addictive, which can be a worrying factor for a lot of patients. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you are facing such an issue. Suddenly changing or stopping your pain medicine can also have severe and unexpected side effects that will be very dangerous.
Try interventional pain management
If your symptoms do not get any better, it is now time for you to try interventional pain management. There are a lot of pain-blocking techniques out there that can aid you and help restore your quality of life back to normal. This is useful for severe kinds of pain that do not let you complete activities of daily living. There are many methods used in interventional pain management such as electrostimulation, nerve blocks, surgery, infusions, radiofrequency ablation, and even spinal cord stimulation. This multidisciplinary approach is quite helpful since a huge team of healthcare professionals is at your disposal.
Identify your triggers that increase pain
Did you know that stress can lead to more pain sensations in the body? It is important to identify your stress triggers so that your pain level does not increase. Start by observing your thoughts, feelings, and reactions whenever you experience more pain in your body. Is the situation too stressful? Do you think you can handle it better? What would you do differently if given the chance? Being aware of your triggers is the first step in helping you eliminate or eradicate them completely. You can even think of keeping a diary for your anxiety or stress triggers to see how it affects your pain. This can be used as a beneficial monitoring tool to help track your progress.
Learn how to relax
Once you know how to identify your triggers, you need to learn how to relax. Prolonged stress can cause muscle tension which can increase your level of pain. Learning how to relax helps you forego excessive amounts of pain medication. You can use various techniques such as Jacobson’s Progressive Muscle Relaxation, where you tense and then relax each and every single part of your body in a sequence. You can use other techniques and incorporate them into your daily life such as Tai-Chi, yoga, meditation, and even guided imagery.
Living with chronic pain is definitely not easy. There are a variety of steps one needs to take in order to better their quality of life.