There’s no other way to say it…chronic pain is life-altering. Tasks that once required little to no thought or effort now require a great deal of both in order to complete them with as little pain as possible. If you suffer from chronic pain, you know this all too well. The positive? There are ways to minimize and manage chronic pain so you can live a comfortable life without too many limitations. Here are 10 effective ways to manage chronic pain. [Hint: physical therapy is one of them!]
1. Exercise and Activity
Exercise and physical activity serve multiple purposes. 1) It keeps your mind and body healthy. 2) It can strengthen muscles around your pain areas to provide them with more support–which can result in less pain. 3) It improves your mood with the release of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that make us feel happy–and also block pain signals. 4) It provides a distraction from the pain, taking your mind off things as you work up a sweat.
2. Physical Therapy
We told you it was on the list! Physical therapists–like the pros here at Physical Therapy NOW in Irving–are experts in treating pain as well as the source of the pain. When you visit us to help manage your chronic pain, we’ll give you a thorough evaluation to determine the areas of weakness, stiffness, and pain so we can treat those areas through a routine designed to ease your pain and enhance your mobility. This may be in the form of pain relief exercises, strengthening exercises, heat and/or ice therapy, and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) and/or ultrasound therapy.
3. Reduce Stress and Relax
You’d be surprised how large a part stress plays in chronic pain. Negative feelings, which include stress, depression, anxiety, and anger, actually increase your body’s pain sensitivity levels. So, it’s important to take the stress levels down a level or two. How? Listen to calming music. Meditate. Do yoga regularly. Mental imagery relaxation. Deep breathing techniques are usually quite successful in helping reduce stress. To do so, go to your favorite quiet place, get in a comfortable position, block out distractions, then take a deep breath and hold the air above your abdomen before gently releasing the air. There are many different methods of reducing stress, and when you relax, you’ll most likely find yourself feeling better physically.
Regular stretching–especially full body stretching–helps relieve the tension from your muscles, which lets you relax and minimize stress, which will assist in managing your chronic pain. You can find plenty of good stretching routines with a simple online search, or try out gentle yoga or tai chi. The best part? You only need to spend 20 minutes or less on it every day–but you’ll reap the long-term benefits.
5. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep is our body’s way of resting and recovering from each day’s activities. Without the right amount of sleep, our bodies simply don’t recover as well, which can lead to lingering chronic pain–or even increased pain. That’s why it’s important to get a solid seven hours (preferably more) of sleep each night. Practicing smart sleep habits goes a long way toward making that possible–a calm nighttime routine that does not include caffeine or screens, for instance.
6. Reduce Alcohol Consumption…and Quit Smoking!
Watch TV and you’ll see people easing their pain–both mental and physical–with a cold beer or a stiff drink. The problem is, it doesn’t work. Worse, in fact. Alcohol has been found to intensify chronic pain symptoms in a variety of ways, including its effect on sleep. And, if you read #5 above, you understand how important it is to get a good night’s rest. Smoking? Well, nothing good comes from smoking–but for people with chronic pain, smoking inhibits circulation, which causes even more pain. Not to mention the heart disease and cancer risk factors.
7. Distract Yourself with Fun
We mentioned earlier how exercise is a productive and healthy way to distract yourself from pain. But keeping yourself busy doing activities you truly enjoy can do you a world of good if you suffer from chronic pain. First, it distracts you from the pain. Second, it makes you feel good and happy, which reduces stress levels, which reduces pain levels!
8. Get a Massage
A good massage goes a long way toward relieving and managing chronic pain, especially if it’s concentrated in your back and/or neck. Massages can help relieve tension and reduce stress while promoting relaxation. Conveniently enough, we offer massage therapy here at Physical Therapy NOW in Irving and are happy to provide that service if we feel it will help with your specific chronic pain symptoms.
9. Eat Healthy
A healthy, well-balanced diet is obviously great for your body–it helps reduce the risk of heart disease, it improves blood sugar levels, it helps keep your weight in a healthy range, and it aids in the digestive process. All of those benefits result in less chronic pain for you. Try eating a low-sodium, low-fat diet that is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meats. Your body will thank you.
10. Get Your Mental Health Right
If you’ve been feeling symptoms of anxiety (nervousness, panic, increased heart rate, sweating, fatigue, and rapid breathing, among others) or depression (feelings of worthlessness and helplessness, pessimism, insomnia, extreme fatigue, feelings of not wanting to get out of bed, crankiness, restlessness, loss of interest in things you used to find pleasurable, overeating or appetite loss, sad or empty feelings, suicidal thoughts or tendencies, and many others), get to your doctor right away. You might have undiagnosed anxiety or depression, both of which can be treated with the right medications. And once you start feeling better mentally, your physical well-being will quickly follow suit and help reduce chronic pain symptoms.
How to Manage Chronic Pain
These 10 suggestions should go a long way toward curbing your chronic pain. Especially #2! Come see us at Physical Therapy NOW in Irving. As we mentioned, our experienced physical therapists will perform an evaluation to determine how to best tackle your pain and keep it at a minimum so you can enjoy all the little things in life. We offer a wide range of therapies and programs to help with chronic pain, including exercise therapy, pain management, manual therapy, stretch therapy, laser therapy, pool therapy, and many more. Give us a call at (214) 225-0291 to set up your initial appointment.