Pain from an injury is terrible, but sufferers know there is an end in sight.  Those who suffer from chronic pain often feel hopeless, asking “when will my pain end?”. This can often lead to substance abuse, which can quickly spiral into addiction. The pain can last months or years and can be difficult to treat. The American Chronic Pain Association describes chronic pain as pain that’s ongoing for more than three to six months and that adversely affects the person’s well being. The following recommendations address lifestyle modifications, physical activity, and support systems. 

Lifestyle modifications can minimize the everyday pain in chronic illness.  The American Psychological Association says it’s important to manage stress. Persistent pain can increase stress, and high stress can increase pain. Essentially, emotional pain and physical pain feed off of each other. It’s impossible to completely remove stress from your life, but one can reduce the amount of stress. Dealing with stress in healthy ways can help one efficiently manage their chronic pain.

Distracting yourself from the pain is also helpful in improving your life, says the APA. Try engaging in activities (such as attending church and related events) that you enjoy that keep your mind busy and off the pain. Also, don’t isolate yourself. This will only promote a negative attitude and increase the perception of your pain. Find an activity that you enjoy that also involves the participation of family and friends or other people in your community.

The APA also suggests getting a sufficient amount of sleep, maintaining the proper level of physical activity, and eating a healthy and well-balanced diet. You can take it a step further by including foods recognized for their ability to reduce inflammation, a known culprit of chronic pain. Healthline suggests choosing easy-to-digest foods and avoiding processed foods. Foods that may alleviate inflammation include leafy greens, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, low-sugar fruits, and soy products. Likewise, you should avoid foods that exacerbate inflammation, such as nightshade vegetables, dairy, citrus fruits, high-fat red meats, and caffeine.

Exercise has shown to provide tremendous help to those that suffer with chronic pain. The postures, breathing techniques, and meditation used in yoga are all effective in treating both the physical and psychological effects of chronic pain, notes Healthline. Yoga increases strength and flexibility, which combats the physical effects. Yoga also calms the mind and reduces stress, which combats psychological effects. One should also practice good posture techniques throughout the day.

Unfortunately, chronic pain can make exercise uncomfortable or painful. According to Spine-health, water therapy provides a much gentler option than exercising on land, while still offering many of the same benefits. “The physical properties of water make it a highly desirable medium in which to exercise,” states Spine-Health. Thanks to its buoyancy, water counteracts gravity, providing support for the patient’s weight. Water also provides mild resistance that gently strengthens muscles and produces hydrostatic pressure that improves heart and lung function. Additionally, pain may be decreased from other factors associated with water therapy, such as the relaxing sounds and warmth of the water.

 Spine-health also points out that a massage can help alleviate pain; however, if you cannot easily leave your home or you prefer a more private option, a good massage chair can provide similar results of pain relief and relaxation. Massage increases blood flow and lymphatic circulation, decreases tension, and improves flexibility. Furthermore, and arguably the biggest benefit, massage releases endorphins, which relaxes the body, promotes positivity, and relieves pain.

Lastly, chronic pain suffers can benefit from a support system. Try to find a support person or group; you’ll get the most benefits from those who can empathize with you.  Consider speaking with a mental health professional. He or she can assist you in managing the physical and psychological issues associated with chronic pain. Even though it’s not always easy, the APA reminds chronic pain suffers to think positively and to lift themselves up, even for small accomplishments toward improvement.  Article written by- Jackie Waters

Jackie was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in her mid-20s. Afterwards, She began making the lifestyle changes needed in order to minimize the number of medications she would need to take. Jackie states, “As a neat freak, I’ve always been obsessed with a clean home. So, one of the first things I did was throw out harmful cleaning products and re-organize my home so that it would be easier for me to manage my “bad” days. I also made diet and lifestyle changes to minimize, as much as possible, my joint inflammation.  I understand how scary it is to be diagnosed with a chronic illness.” This piece offers her tips and advice on how to rework one’s home life to minimize chronic pain and lifestyle changes to make.” I just want to help others who are living with chronic pain.”

– Jackie Waters