Whether your chronic pain started with a medical condition, an accidental injury, or seemingly out of nowhere, and whether it started years ago or just recently, living with this everyday pain can prevent you from living your life to the fullest. There is reason to be hopeful no matter your condition, however. Many with chronic pain find ways to lead a fulfilling life through pain management and mitigation. Here’s where to start.
Reorganize and declutter your home
Managing your chronic pain starts at the place where you spend the majority of your time — your home. The key is to create an organized home without causing yourself extra pain in the process. The more organized and clutter-free your abode is, the less chance your daily activities will cause you pain. Think about details like having all of your everyday use items on lower, accessible shelves, clearing pathways for easy mobility, etc.
Taking on this task with chronic pain can be tough. Although the end result is helpful, the process can be painful. Some tips to help include taking it slowly (working only minutes at a time), focusing on small trouble areas, and delegating (ask for some help!)
Prioritize exercise and stretching
When moving hurts, the way to help is to get moving. If this sounds counterintuitive, that’s because it kind of is. Exercise can be frightening to chronic pain sufferers, but it’s vital. Exercise helps you feel less fatigued, strengthens your muscles and joints, and creates endorphins (your body’s natural pain medication). Exercise is especially good for people with certain types of arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Just remember to be careful and listen to your body. Try lower-impact exercises like walking, swimming, and yoga. As opposed to high-impact workouts like weightlifting and running, these will help reduce your chances of injury. You want to push your body without pushing it so hard as to cause additional damage. Additionally, every day should involve stretching. Do not skip this. It’s just as important as exercise.
Remember: what you put in your body matters
The root of a lot of chronic pain is inflammation. Nothing you do can better help you control inflammation than altering your diet. To start reducing inflammation, add certain foods with anti-inflammatory properties to your daily diet. These include dark leafy greens, berries, beans and lentils, olives, fatty nuts and fish, and avocados. This also means avoiding processed foods, foods high in sugar, red meat, and refined carbs.
It’s not just about what you eat, though. Think about every single thing you put in your body and how it can exacerbate chronic pain. Limit your caffeine intake. Limit your alcohol intake. Most importantly, nix any and all smoking (or other forms of nicotine intake) from your life — this is critical.
Manage your stress
Living well with chronic pain is a challenge. Studies have shown that the experience of pain can vary widely from patient to patient, for reasons that are not always explainable by the severity of their illness or physical injury. Part of the answer for these differences may come from the emotional distress that chronic pain provokes and the different ways in which each person relates to their condition. Some patients become afraid, some get angry and bitter, many slide into a depression. This emotional pain adds another level of suffering and it may increase the amounts of physical pain.
But there is help! The practice of mindfulness has been shown in numerous research studies to not only reduce the emotional distress associated with living with chronic pain but the actual perception of pain. If you are a novice to the concepts and practices of mindfulness, the amount of literature on the subject and resources may be overwhelming. The best first step and an introduction to mindfulness would be the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) - an eight-week program which helps participants learn to better manage their experience of pain through diverse techniques such as guided meditation, gentle yoga, and breathing exercises. You can find it by doing an on-line search for MBSR in your community.
Some resources to help
If you want some further information on how you can better manage your chronic pain and begin living your life to the fullest, try some of these helpful resources:
Here are some pain management resources from the American Chronic Pain Association.
Here are some additional exercise tips for those dealing with chronic pain (how to get the benefits of exercise safely and without excess pain).
Here is a location-based search tool to find pain support groups.
Here is an in-depth dive into a specific diet designed for those with chronic pain.
Your life may never be free of chronic pain, but your life doesn’t have to be constantly dictated by it. When you learn how to alter your daily lifestyle to better cope with your pain, you can begin to live every day to the fullest, so be optimistic. It’s certainly within your grasp.
Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash