Living with Chronic Pain – tools for pain management
Pain is Personal
Each individual with chronic pain will struggle in their own way: emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Pain is identified as chronic when it lasts six months or longer. It may be constant, it may come and go, it may heal, or unfortunately last a lifetime. Your pain may make it hard to perform daily activities, to keep commitments, or work consistently. Your pain may be difficult for friends and family members to understand if they have not suffered from it themselves.
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone.
Chronic pain can be quite distressing and it’s easy to feel defeated.
There is hope. Research shows that getting involved in managing your pain can have a dramatic impact on your quality of life.
Over 80% of people will struggle with chronic low back pain at some point in their lives.
Other chronic pain conditions include:
Pain level factors:
Be careful to manage these factors as they can feed into each other:
What people typically turn to:
Narcotic painkillers (potentially causing addiction or other side effects)
Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Tylenol (often taking more than the recommended dose and self-prescribing long-term use)
Start with Acceptance
Accepting that your pain is chronic isn’t easy but can actually lessen the emotional struggle associated with it.
“Catastrophizing”—telling yourself that your pain is the worst pain imaginable and the situation can’t possibly get any gloomier—has been shown to have a negative effect on treatment outcomes.
Try Massage Therapy
Massage Therapy can break up scar tissue, increase circulation, improve movement, relax the body, and release feel-good hormones like oxytocin.
The level of pressure is adjusted to your comfort level.
If you would like a firmer or gentler treatment, just let your massage therapist know and they will adjust the pressure.
It is their goal to help you heal so please speak up if there is something you need.
Book your massage with a Registered Massage Therapist by calling 613-549-0866.
Deep breathing techniques and meditation will help your body to relax.
It can be challenging to relax during an intense bout of pain, but these techniques will allow your body to physiologically relax (slower heart rate, more oxygen in the bloodstream).
Pain is meant to stimulate the body into action and to avoid danger. This is why it’s known as the “fight or flight” response.
Learning a relaxation technique to calm the body down can combat the stress and be used as a self-management tool.
Find a quiet location, a comfortable body position, and block out distracting thoughts. Then, imagine a spot just below your navel. Breathe into that spot, filling your abdomen with air. Let the air fill you from the abdomen up, then let it out, like deflating a balloon.
Track your pain level and activities every day.
To effectively treat your pain, your doctor needs to know how you’ve been feeling between visits. Keeping a log or journal of your daily “pain score” will help you track your pain. At the end of each day, note your pain level on the 1 to 10 pain scale. Also, note what activities you did that day. Take this log book to every doctor visit — to give your doctor a good understanding of how you’re living with chronic pain and your physical functioning level.
Cut out smoking and alcohol.
These substances are irritants that cause stress on the physical body, although you may think they make you feel soothed or more relaxed – they should be avoided completely. Smoking especially will worsen circulation problems and lead to disrupted sleep.
Your pain or injury may inhibit your ability to exercise but it’s important to find activities that you can do.
Yoga, Walking, Water Aerobics, Dance Classes, etc
Keeping your weight down will reduce the amount of pressure on your joints and exercise will release endorphins that naturally lift your mood and manage pain.
But don’t overdo it!! Activity pacing involves learning not to overdo it on days when your chronic pain seems to have eased.
Break down large projects into smaller tasks and take breaks more than you need to.
Don’t feel selfish when others seem to be doing more than you are, take it at your own pace so that you aren’t fatigued for days.
Use support groups and counselling to manage your emotional wellbeing.
If you are concerned about the cost of a psychologist visit, look for a Social Worker who will be qualified to counsel you but may have lower rates. If you are struggling to find a free support group to attend, find a group on facebook or other pain management platform.
Here is a great list of persistent pain management apps.
Use food as your medicine
You don’t need to research a specific diet or follow any of the latest fads, to eat well you just listen to your body.
How do you feel when you eat vegetables, meats, breads, fruits, dairy ?
If you feel heavy, weighed down, gassy, tired, greasy, or unwell – cut these foods out or reduce them in quantity.
You may notice that your pain is not as severe when you eat a hearty vegetable dinner but it increases after your ice cream dessert.
You may find that your joints are moving well after a collagen-rich bone broth.
If you’re having a particularly bad day, what foods did you eat the day before? Can you reduce them?
Many people are aware of what’s healthy and what is not.
Zuccini vs Potato Chips… Apples vs Candy… Green Tea vs Soda
It’s the habit of listening to your body’s response that must be strengthened.
Knowing which foods fuel and which deplete will help you make a long term meal plan.
Turmeric: Extract or Oil
Use in tea, cook in foods, topically
Natural anti-inflammatory properties that can alleviate pain.
Frankincense: Extract (Boswellia) or Oil
Drops of oil internally or massaged into the skin.
Soothes anxiety caused by chronic pain.
Holy Basil: Herb or Oil
Taken Orally or in tea
Lifts depression caused by chronic pain.
Chili Pepper: Cayenne and Ghost Pepper
Increases circulation for healing, amazing pain reliever.
As a rub, inhalation
Please ask your questions or share your personal chronic pain stories in the comment section below.
The Live Well Centre Team