Everyone deals with pain occasionally, but chronic pain is different. Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for 3 or more months. Injuries, nerve damage, migraines, arthritis, and fibromyalgia are just a few of the conditions that can cause chronic pain. Living with chronic pain can have very real effects on your day to day living, your sleep and on your physical and mental health. Activities you once took for granted – getting dressed, cooking, exercising, driving a car, going shopping, working, etc. – are suddenly difficult to do. A restful night sleep may feel like a distant memory. You may encounter secondary health issues such as high blood pressure, depression or weight gain.
The physical and emotional toll can be great. You may feel weary and exhausted all the time. You may find it difficult to focus at work. Your emotions may be taking you on a roller coaster ride ranging from discouraged, frightened, confused, angry, or depressed. You may feel very alone and hopeless.
There are many things you can try to help you live a fuller life despite chronic pain. Depending on the cause of your pain, methods that work for you may be different than for someone else.
- Nutrition – eating nutrient dense food, staying hydrated, and avoiding unhealthy foods, smoking and alcohol can all help reduce pain and improve your ability to relax and to sleep better.
- Relaxation – using deep breathing, getting a massage, taking a bath or doing meditation can help relieve tension in your muscles and help the body to relax, reducing pain.
- Reducing stress – like relaxation techniques, relieving stress in your life can promote relaxation and give relief from pain.
- Movement – when you are in pain, exercise does not sound very appealing, but even small movements have a pain-reducing effect. Arthritis will get worse if you don’t move. Gaining weight will cause more stress on your body and can increase pain. Walking and yoga are just two low impact forms of exercise that you can try.
- Documenting – Keep note of your daily activities and your pain levels. Take this to your doctor at each visit so you can both understand what is going on – what works, what makes it worse, etc.
- Distraction – Find activities that you enjoy that can distract you from focusing only on your pain. Find a companion to do activities with.
- Counseling – See a mental health counselor to help you learn better coping skills and to help avoid or deal with depression.
Two of my favorite coping mechanisms are walking outdoors / enjoying nature and soaking in the tub with a good book. What works for you?
If you are living with chronic pain and need help to improve your coping skills, please call us at 479-268-4142. In this time of social distancing Pinnacle Counseling is offering both TeleHealth and in-office services, following all CDC safety guidelines to protect everyone. We are here to help!