Chronic pain impacts one’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing and can have an impact on your body, thoughts and mood. However, there are many things that you can do to control and manage your pain better. Remember that you are not alone, in fact it is estimated that millions of individuals are also going through a similar experience. I would like to share some tips that have been proven to help with chronic pain. The efficiency of these tips can vary depending on your personality and the type of pain. Here are five effective tips below;
- Keep active!
You might initially think that keeping active and doing exercise will only make the pain worse. Many people with chronic pain tend to stay away from physical activity as they might be concerned that by increasing movement will only increase pain. However, research has continuously shown the benefits that exercise has among individuals experiencing chronic pain (Geneen et al., 2017). Exercising releases the hormone ‘endorphin’, which is a natural pain-reducing effect. Although it is natural to feel pain while we exercise, it’s important to understand that feeling pain is normal and is not a sign of further damage. So even though you might feel pain during exercise, it will in-turn reduce pain. Exercise also strengthens the muscles, helping prevent re-injury and further pain. In fact, physical activity helps calm the overactive nerves that cause chronic pain. Pilates, yoga and swimming are some of the best exercises for people experiencing chronic pain, however it’s important to check with your doctor what type of exercise is best for you.
2. Manage your stress
Persistent pain can lead to increased levels of stress. Learning healthy coping mechanisms to deal with your stress will help you cope with the chronic pain more efficiently. Eight hours of sleep, a healthy balanced diet and physical activity are all effective ways to manage your stress and pain. Breathing exercises are a helpful way to lower stress, calm the body down and effectively lower the pain threshold tolerance (Tomas-Carus et al., 2018). You can try using the 4-7-8 technique to breathe through the pain;
- Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds,
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds,
- Then exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds.
- You can try repeating this technique for a few times.
3. Daily routine
Try not to stay in bed all day even if it’s one of your bad days. Walking a bit around the house can also help. On the other hand, if it’s a good day, try not to overexert yourself, as the pain can crawl back in with greater intensity. Therefore, try plan out your week and stick to it as much as you can. It is also helpful to keep a journal to track your pain level and activities of the day. At the end of each day, record your pain level, for example from 0 (no pain) to 10 (max pain), and note what activities you did that day.
4. Social support
Try reaching out to other people who are also experiencing what you’re going through. You can try searching for social support groups online especially now since we’re spending most of our time indoors. A burden shared is a burden halved.
5. Consult a professional
If you continue to feel overwhelmed and the pain keeps you from performing your daily routine, try talking to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, who can help you learn effective coping mechanisms. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Jasmine Borg is a Health Psychology Practitioner who is currently interning with Willingness. She graduated with a Masters of Science in Health Psychology and a Masters of Science in Sports, Exercise & Performance. Her interests lie in health and exercise promotion.
Geneen, L. J., Moore, R. A., Clarke, C., Martin, D., Colvin, L. A., & Smith, B. H. (2017). Physical activity and exercise for chronic pain in adults: an overview of Cochrane Reviews. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (4).
Tomas-Carus, P., Branco, J. C., Raimundo, A., Parraca, J. A., Batalha, N., & Biehl-Printes, C. (2018). Breathing exercises must be a real and effective intervention to consider in women with fibromyalgia: a pilot randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 24(8), 825-832.