Chronic pain is a persistent form of pain that tends to last well beyond what is needed for injured tissues to heal. The sufferer experiences pain messages that are often linked to long-term conditions such as back pain.
The pain signals may be attributed to confusion within the nervous system. The condition is often diagnosed when it lasts more than three to six months. It can occur in different parts of the body and to people of all ages.
It can be a debilitating condition that negatively impacts a person’s ability to function normally and enjoy a reasonable quality of life. It can also lead to mental stress and affect personal relationships with family and friends.
Due to the adverse effect that chronic pain can have on the mental and physical condition of a person, and since may not be a cure available, the next best option lies in figuring out how to cope with the pain.
Coping or managing chronic pain is intended to help minimise the negative effects and improve the quality of life of the sufferer. Some options may require the sufferer to take personal initiative, while others may require engagement with health professionals.
The more feelings of stress there are, the worse chronic pain can be. This applies to all forms of negative feelings including depression, anxiety, grief, and anger. These feelings have been found to intensify the sensation of pain.
Finding ways to relieve stress can therefore provide some relief from chronic pain, making it easier to endure and carry out normal routines. There are multiple ways you can go about relieving stress, including engaging in meditation, listening to soothing music, and exercising. Anything that can help you feel more relaxed and distracted from worries will help.
Cultivate better sleep
The more peaceful sleep you can enjoy, the more relief you can gain from chronic pain. Engaging in activities that relieve stress can make for a more peaceful mindset that supports good sleep. Adopting healthier sleeping habits can also make for a better quality of life and a better ability to cope with chronic pain.
This includes ensuring you have a cool, quiet, and dark environment in which to sleep. Removing electronics and their use from your sleep environment, and ensuring you go to bed and wake up at around the same time each day will also help. Also, avoid eating or drinking in the hours leading up to your bedtime, and cut back on alcohol intake.
While it may seem counterintuitive, it is important to remain as active as possible despite the chronic pain. Engaging in physical activity can help to strengthen and tone muscles, preserve flexibility, distract your mind from discomfort, and boost your mood.
Just ensure that whatever physical activity you are engaging in is under the advisement of your doctor or physical therapist. Do not overexert yourself. Activity or exercises that help to strengthen your back and abdominal muscles will be a big help in keeping you independent, reducing the risk of re-injury, and preventing pain from worsening.
Try physical therapy
Physical therapy is often used to help in the management of chronic pain through the application of manual treatments such as soft tissue mobilisation and massages. There are also stretching and pain relief exercises that a patient can be taught to use in relieving their pain symptoms.
Pain specialists like physiotherapists and osteopaths will also often provide advice on how patients can improve on certain aspects of their lifestyle, such as posture and diet to help support the physical therapy they provide. The goal is to equip patients with the knowledge they need to carry out their normal routines more comfortably and function better at work and home.
Track your activities and pain level
A good way of establishing what may be triggering pain episodes would be to keep a diary. Make a note of what activities you took part in during the day and what pain levels were experienced.
This can be especially helpful when having a physical therapy session. Your physiotherapist or osteopath should be able to help figure out what physical motion may be causing your pain to flare up and come up with ways for you to function with less pain.
Engage with others
Engaging with other people is an effective tool in coping with chronic pain. Whether it is by simply having a conversation with a family member or friend, or participating in a support group meeting, this social engagement can help distract you from your pain.
Most people would prefer to function without having to take painkillers, but sometimes the intensity can make it so you become unable to work or otherwise function. It is acceptable to partake in over-the-counter pain medication when the pain flares up.
Always stick to the prescribed dosage and confirm with your doctor that it is safe to take given your health condition. For instance, while ibuprofen is an effective painkiller, it is not ideal for patients that have stomach ulcers or a history of unpleasant reactions to NSAIDs.
There is some evidence that diet can have a strong impact on pain inflammation. Getting the right nutrients and calories can help support your immune system, enabling it to function more correctly and ease episodes and the intensity of persistent inflammation.
Generally, a well-balanced diet with minimal processed and sugary food items is a good idea. Try to ensure that at least half your plate is made up of vegetables, while the other half is split between whole grains and lean protein. Also ensure micronutrients like vitamins A, B, C and E, zinc, iron, folic acid, and omega fatty acids are regularly consumed.