Is pain holding you back in life? Are you avoiding activities you once enjoyed because of pain?
Do you miss gardening, being active with your family, running, or riding a bicycle?
Are you afraid you’ll not be able to enjoy life again, because of your pain?
The good news is that pain can be managed. You can deal positively with pain to get back into the life you love.
Learn to explain your pain.
Everyone experiences pain at various times in their lives. When you can identify the kind of pain you are experiencing, you can understand your pain. Being able to communicate your pain helps you find the right treatments for managing it.
There are three types of pain.
1. Acute pain is sharp and severe. Acute pain typically results from a soft-tissue injury. Injuries like ankle sprains, pulled muscles in the low back, or whiplash cause acute pain.
2. Breakthrough pain is severe pain that erupts when medicated with a long-acting painkiller. Breakthrough pain is usually associated with conditions like cancer, or is experienced post-surgery.
3. Chronic pain is persistent pain that lasts from weeks to years. Chronic may start from an initial injury, such as a back sprain or a car accident. There may be an ongoing cause, such as an illness like arthritis, diabetes, cancer, or fibromyalgia.
Use a pain self-assessment.
A pain self-assessment is a convenient way to talk to your health care provider (HCP) about your pain. Describing your pain’s impact on your life — where, how, and when it hurts — helps your HCP asses your pain better.
Examine how you’re managing your pain.
How much pain medication are you taking on a weekly basis?
Over the counter (OTC) medications are ok for occasional short-term use.
Common OTC medications that you can buy without a prescription include—
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin, Excedrin)
- Naproxen (Aleve)
These are called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They decrease inflammation, which helps relieve pain. They block prostaglandins, which sensitize your nerve endings and enhance pain during inflammation.
Common side effects of OTCs include—
- Upset Stomach
- Blood in the stool/urine
- Increased risk for heart attack and stroke
There are also prescription pain management medications like opioids. Opioid prescriptions have become a big problem. An estimated 130 Americans die every day from opioid overdose. Opioids are extremely addictive and deadly.
At Golden Chiropractic, we advocate for managing pain with as little medication as possible.
Temporary pain medication is often necessary, but making lifestyle changes is the best choice for the long run. Especially when your pain is chronic.
10 Tips for Managing Chronic Pain
1. Meditation for calming your mind.
Deep breathing and meditation helps your body relax. Focus on your breath, imagine a balloon rising and falling deep in your belly. Take 10-20 slow, deep breaths.
It can be helpful to repeat an affirmation, prayer, or mantra. Listen to soothing music or a guided meditation. There are many useful apps like Calm, Headspace and 10% Happier. Practices like belly breathing, slow abdominal breathing, reduce the “fight-or-flight” response.
2. Learn Techniques to Stress Less.
In today’s world, we are bombarded with stress every minute of every day. Stress intensifies chronic pain. Stress comes from physical, emotional and chemical inputs. Negative feelings like depression, anxiety, stress, and anger increase the body’s sensitivity to pain.
3. Exercise to Enhance Endorphins.
Endorphins are brain chemicals that increase mood and decrease pain signals. Endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce our perception of pain. Endorphins act similarly to drugs such as morphine and codeine. Except when endorphins activate the brain’s opiate receptors, they don’t lead to addiction or dependence.
Exercise also strengthens muscles. This helps your body with the activities of daily living. Carrying your kids, lifting a 50lb bag of dog food, and getting in and out of chairs becomes easier with stronger muscles.
4. Get More Sleep.
More sleep means less pain. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. If you wake up feeling stiff and sore, you might want to consider a new mattress.
5. Cut Back on Alcohol.
Pain makes sleep difficult, yes, but alcohol makes sleep problems worse.
6. Find Mental and Emotional Support.
You are not alone. If you are diagnosed with a chronic pain disorder like Fibromyalgia, or you have a lifestyle disease like Diabetes, there is help. There are support groups locally and online.
If you need support getting more active, join a small studio like Curves, or a coached walking program through a local shoe store. Fleet Feet has programs for everyone, from non-walkers to competitive runners.
A mental health professional can help with depression, avoiding negative thoughts, and adopting a healthier attitude. Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.
7. Track Your Pain Levels and Activities.
Keep a journal of your daily ‘pain score’ on a scale of 1-10. Note which activities you did that day. Track your steps. Be proactive by noticing the level of activity when you begin to have pain, then adjust accordingly.
8. Get Bodywork to Relieve Muscle Tension.
Chiropractic care is an amazing way to relieve muscle tension in the body. Chiropractic can help with neck pain, low back pain, and any other pain associated with the musculoskeletal system. Best of all, chiropractic doesn’t involve drugs or risky surgery.
9. Eat a Healthy Diet.
Many foods contribute to inflammation in the body. Find a health care provider who can recommend and support you in dietary changes to reduce inflammatory foods. In general, eat more fruits and vegetables, and increase your water intake. Avoid processed foods.
10. Find Healthy Distractions.
Journaling, meditation, and riding a bicycle are some of the ways you can keep your mind off your pain. If you can’t come up with something, think about what you loved to do when you were a kid. Did you enjoy art? staring at the clouds, roller skating, jumping, climbing? Choose something that keeps your mind engaged in a positive way.
Pain can make you want to give up on life. But it doesn’t have to. Learn to manage your pain, and enjoy life as much as you can.