Living with long-term discomfort that lasts 12 weeks or more is called chronic pain. For patients, living in pain can trigger depression, fatigue, and a decreased quality of life. However, today’s research shows that the traditional treatment—usually opioid pain medication—is just one tool patients and providers should consider. When used with other therapies, chronic pain can be managed for a happier, healthier life.
Here are 9 ways you can get a grip on chronic pain:
1) Don’t overlook over-the-counter pain relievers. Researchers say that pain relievers like Tylenol and ibuprofen—both of which are available by prescription in higher doses than what you can get in the drug store—are still good first line treatments for some patients. Of course you would need to talk to your doctor about their use long-term and make other plans as needed, but consider these options before you opt for potentially addictive pain medications. Talk to your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you.
2) Get those natural endorphins pumping. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins—special chemicals that block pain sensations in the body. A brisk walk or swim may be enough to trigger their release and help ease pain for hours afterward.
3) Avoid alcohol. Even though many people with pain are tempted to self medicate with alcohol, do your best to avoid it. Some people also have a “night cap” to help them sleep. The problem is that drinking close to bedtime can actually disrupt your sleep cycle and make your already fitful night’s sleep even more restless.
4) Find others who understand. Chronic pain can cause depression and negative feelings that researchers say trigger more pain. To help, you may consider getting to know others who are living with chronic pain through a support group. Whether in person or online, there are more options than ever in today’s wired world.
5) Seek the help of a professional. If your mental health is not at its best, seek the help of a professional. Psychiatrists, psychologists and even your family doctor are all good places to start. If your pain is becoming physically and mentally overwhelming, it’s important to get the help you need.
6) Get a massage. Therapeutic massage techniques can loosen tight muscles and lower stress—both of which may reduce pain. Massage may be especially helpful for people with back and neck pain but don’t let it stop you from trying it out.
7) Eat healthier. While it’s not proven to reduce pain, eating right will help you feel better and allow your body to run at its best. A proper diet ensures your body’s processes function smoothly, which may affect your response to the pain.
8) Don’t smoke. If your pain is related to circulation issues, smoking may be especially detrimental because of tobacco’s ability to constrict blood vessels. This may make your pain worse so it is best to avoid smoking and even quit smoking all together.
9) Keep track of your pain level and activities. It can be helpful to keep a log of how you’ve been feeling and what you’ve been doing from day-to-day. Share this information with your doctor and work to find any trends that could be triggering your symptoms.
Living with chronic pain means finding a balance between the therapies that work best for your body and pain. You can learn more about how your body will respond to common pain medications at a genetic level as well. That means getting personalized treatment for your body without having to guess. Pathway Genomics is one company that offers this type of testing. Use it to find the most effective medications and then blend it with other treatments and tools to live your best life with less chronic pain.
Medlineplus.gov. Spring 2011. Chronic Pain: Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment. Retrieved July 14, 2016 from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/spring11/articles/spring11pg5-6.html
Lava, Neil MD on November 28, 2015. Webmd.com. Pain Management Health Center. Retrieved July 14, 2016 from http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/11-tips-for-living-with-chronic-pain?page=3
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