8 Tips To Cope With Chronic Pain

If you have chronic pain, like at least 3 in 10 people in the US, you know what a big problem it is.

While short-term pain usually heals, chronic pain lasts more than three months, is painful most of the time, and interferes with daily activities. Chronic pain has many causes, including injury, illness, and persistent physical, emotional, or social stress. The brain decides when you are in pain, but that doesn't mean the pain is in your head. For example, pain is not always caused by a broken or worn part of the body.

Chronic pain can result from the brain reading the signals sent by the body and sending signals back to your body. Oftentimes, the more signals that are sent to the brain, and the more the brain recognizes the signals as pain, the longer the suffering can last.

Every pain is different and there are many causes for the pain to worsen. Stress, depression, anger, fear or anxiety, unhelpful thoughts, isolation, under- and exaggeration can generate more pain signals in the body. Taking control of yourself will help you manage chronic pain better.

This is where chronic pain therapy comes into play.

The goal of chronic pain treatment is to give you the best possible function and quality of life. You and your therapist can create a “pain plan” that puts you in charge.

Join Head Habitat's Course on 'chronic pain' to get the tools necessary to cope

These techniques are proven strategies - when used consistently and together - to help you manage chronic pain:

1. Stretch, practice good posture, and move gently. Try full body stretches, gentle yoga, or tai chi for about 10 to 15 minutes a day.

2. Stay active. An activity routine as recommended by your doctor can strengthen muscles, improve mood, and detract from pain.

3. Reduce stress and practice relaxation techniques. This can include the use of breathing relaxation, progressive or passive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness. Smartphone applications that focus on relaxation and mindfulness can be helpful.

4. Tempo yourself. Doing too much or too little can make the pain worse. Planning a day with a balance between daily tasks, rest, and other responsibilities can help with structuring and routine. Taking breaks before the pain level is too high can reduce the frustration that can arise with a pain flare-up.

5. Treat other conditions that are making the pain worse. Studies have shown that treating anxiety and depression can reduce pain and improve the quality of life. Talk to your doctor if you experience difficulty with anxiety or depression.

6. Maintain a positive attitude by planning pleasant activities. Managing pain often includes opportunities to be positive. Participation in enjoyable activities has been shown to reduce the effects of pain signals in the body.

7. Stay connected with others. Socializing with friends and family, in person or via video chat, can take your mind off the pain.

8. Get the sleep you need. Bad sleep can often make the pain worse. Proper sleep hygiene, relaxation tools, and a steady nighttime routine can improve sleep.

These self-management tools, along with the appropriate use of over-the-counter and prescription drugs, provide a complete treatment plan for managing persistent pain. If you're having difficulty with pain, talk to your doctor about a comprehensive pain management plan that will help you regain control of your life.

Read more about managing back pain, stress, and staying active.