Submitted by Health Educator Brianne Parrish
Around 50 million Americans live with chronic pain, which is roughly 15% of the United States population! This chronic pain can range from mild to severe, intermittent to continuous, and annoying to disabling. And while chronic pain itself can be a lot to handle, it can also affect many other aspects of a person’s life. It can lead to less enjoyment in activities, avoidance of social interactions due to worry, reduced physical activity, and increased risk of anxiety and depression.
However, chronic pain can be managed with a combination of working with your primary care providers and using management strategies. Talking with your doctor can ensure that you are taking the best medication for your condition as well as the right dosage to provide the relief without experiencing any negative side effects. Your doctor can also help to determine if there is a need for additional resources such as medical massage, physical therapy or a medical specialist.
While your doctor can be a valuable asset in the management of chronic pain, you are your best advocate! Here are some things you can do at home to provide some relief from chronic pain:
- Deep breathing – While we can do a lot of things to prevent pain, it cannot always be avoided. Learning how to deep breathe or meditate can be pivotal when it comes to soothing pain and helping your body relax. Next time the pain feels unbearable, try to focus on your breath and tune out all worries and thoughts. A mantra can also aid in turning your focus away, as there is great power in focus and repetition.
- Stress reduction – This probably goes without saying, but stress can intensify the severity and occurrence of pain due to the body’s increased sensitivity. Whether it is creating a more relaxing atmosphere and creating more time for self-care, or removing stress caused by outside influences, reducing the amount of stress in your life can aid in reducing physical pain.
- Exercise – The endorphins released during exercise help improve mood and also block pain signals to the brain. The other pain reducing benefit of exercise is that it strengthens muscles which help prevent injury and increase the body’s ability to move with less strain. Although it might be difficult, exercise is a vital part of chronic pain management. Be sure to discuss exercise with your doctor as you want to avoid any movement that could potentially worsen your pain.
- Track your pain – Keep a journal to track trends in your pain experience. Give your pain a score from 1 to 10 (1 being the least amount of pain and 10 being the most) and write down the activities you did for each day. This can help you find any trends and potentially identify pain triggers, which you can then work to avoid or minimalize. Bring this log with you when you see your doctor as this can help them provide better care as well
- Don’t overdo it – There will be some good days and there will be some bad days. When experiencing a good day, it might be tempting to make up for lost time and get all the tasks accomplished that have been put off. However, this will make the days that follow pretty brutal. Try to maintain balance by spreading out strenuous activities or breaking down long tasks into smaller ones. Always remember to use caution and take your time.