As you grow older, you see an increase in responsibilities, work, everyday troubles, deteriorating health, and stress and anxiety. They can exacerbate your chronic pain. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 20.4% of U.S. adults suffer from chronic pain. By definition, chronic pain is pain that persists for more than three months despite treatment or medication. The pain can be anywhere in the body, may remain for a long time or come and go, and can be burning, aching, throbbing, or stinging in nature.
Past illnesses like infections, injuries like fractured bones, or long-lasting illnesses like arthritis or cancer can cause this condition. Sometimes the pain might be due to psychological factors like stress, anxiety, and depression, also known as psychogenic pain.
Living with chronic pain is both physically and psychologically demanding. Its constant discomfort can limit everyday activities and lead to feelings of anger, frustration, anxiety, and depression. Fortunately, there are ways you can deal with your pain and live a fulfilling and productive life. Here are five ways to deal with chronic pain and continue with life.
Manage Stress and Anxiety
Negative feelings like depression, stress, or anxiety make the body more sensitive to pain. You might find some relief in chronic pain by managing your stress levels. You can incorporate several techniques to help you manage these feelings, like deep breathing and meditation. Deep breathing can help you relax by slowing your heartbeat, calming racing thoughts, and reducing rapid shallow breathing.
An easy deep breathing exercise is the 4-7-8 technique, which requires inhaling for four seconds, holding your breath for seven, and exhaling for eight seconds. Meditation exercises also help you relax, eliminate negative thoughts, and reduce anxiety.
Positive and constructive self-talk can also be a powerful tool to deal with these negative feelings. You must focus on the improvements you are making. Remind yourself that though you are uncomfortable, you are working to deal with the pain and live a productive and fulfilling life. Guided meditation exercises with positive affirmations can also help you feel more positive about your circumstances.
Exercise is one of the key factors in managing chronic pain. Lack of exercise and lying down for prolonged periods makes your bones weaker, muscles weak and stiff, and increases pain. Physical activity, as long as it’s not too intense, will help by releasing endorphins, hormones that make you happy, and relieve pain by blocking pain signals.
Try choosing exercises that won't put too much strain on you, like walking, running, swimming, or doing yoga. Incorporate stretching and strengthening exercises in your routine. Stretching will help increase flexibility, loosen stiff and tight muscles, and improve range of motion. Strengthening exercises will help build strong muscles, which helps prevent re-injury.
Try to start slow and be consistent. You will feel some stiffness and pain initially, but exercise every day despite that, and soon your muscles will get used to exercising. Avoid exercising more than you usually do on the good days and less on the bad ones. Also, monitor your pain levels when exercising. If an exercise increases them, stop it or modify it to prevent flare-ups of pain.
If you continue to feel overwhelmed by chronic pain, consider consulting healthcare professionals. Mental health professionals will help you control stress levels which will help with chronic pain and also improve your mental health. Some psychologists do this by using an approach called biofeedback. This approach monitors the body's stress response by measuring heart rate, blood pressure, and brain waves. Using biofeedback, you can find the technique that helps you best manage stress.
If your pain is getting worse, then experts often recommend physical therapy. Therapy will help you move better and relieve your pain through stretching, pain relief, and manipulation exercises. Depending on your condition, you start feeling better after a few sessions.
You can consult a physiotherapist for the job. If your pain began after an accident, you can opt for a chiropractor specializing in post-accident treatment, like this chiropractor Gresham, OR has, to help with your pain by realigning your bones.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Most chronic pain is the result of persistent, chronic inflammation. Proinflammatory foods are toxic to our bodies and can trigger our immune system, causing inflammation. You must limit them in your diet. These foods include refined sugars, saturated fats, red meat, processed meat, fried food, and junk food like soda or chips.
You must incorporate foods in your diet that can help you fight inflammation. For instance, foods rich in a group of antioxidants called polyphenols can have a soothing and anti-inflammatory effect on the body which can help prevent flare-ups of pain. These include whole fruits, grains, berries, legumes, and dark green leafy vegetables. Research suggests that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can also help control inflammation. Examples include olive oil, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, eggs, and flaxseeds.
Studies suggest that deficiencies in various micronutrients like zinc, vitamins A, B, C, and E may also contribute to inflammation by altering the immune system's function, so you need to eat a diet that fulfills our body's needs for these vitamins and minerals. You must also cut back on alcohol. Though alcohol is used as a pain reliever, studies show that long-term alcohol use alters your pain perception and makes you more sensitive to pain over time.
Find Support Groups
Struggling with pain and its consequences can be challenging when you're doing it alone. Consider reaching out to others suffering from your condition by searching your local community or the internet for support groups. You can join most of these support groups online for free. Examples include the NFMCPA, Pain Connection, and The Mighty.
These people will share and understand your situation's highs and lows and feelings and help you feel less alone. You can also learn from people in the group who have been going through the condition longer than you and understand it better. Discuss pain management and coping strategies with them, and learn from their experience.
Chronic pain affects more than just your body. It can add to depression and anxiety, limit your mobility, and make life challenging. However, your lifestyle dramatically impacts how you feel physically and mentally. Living a happy and fulfilling life is still possible. By exercising regularly, eating healthy, and incorporating relaxation techniques, you will notice a difference in the pain level and feel better. Consult professionals whenever required so that you can get treatments, if necessary.