While unpleasant, pain has a purpose–it’s your body’s way of keeping you safe by forcing you to hold back.
But for 20% of Americans who live with chronic pain, it’s a constant deterrent from being able to live your life to the fullest.
The good news is that there are ways to make living with chronic pain easier. Here are a few ideas for you to try at home every day.
When your body is a constant site of discomfort, the last thing you may want is to get centered and aware of it. And when you could take ibuprofen for a fast fix, it’s easy to discard mindfulness and meditation as mumbo-jumbo.
In reality, mindfulness, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and clinical hypnosis have actually been shown to be the most helpful techniques for reducing chronic pain, according to a recent review of more than 60 studies accounting for more than 6,400 participants.
There are many reasons why this is, but foremost among them is the fact that our mental processes can significantly alter sensory phenomena, including pain, which is why soldiers may sustain major injuries and not notice until the battle is over or athletes can continue to play even with debilitating injuries.
Better still? Meditation works even if you’re a beginner.
The simplest form of meditation involves focusing on the breath. You can count slow breaths in and out, inhale for a count of four, hold, and exhale for a count of four, or just set a timer and focus on deep breathing. You can do any of these techniques on your own, but beginners can benefit from meditation classes.
It might seem counterintuitive to move when your body is in pain–after all, pain is typically your body’s way of telling you not to move so it can focus on healing.
However, with chronic pain, a constant state of discomfort can prevent you from being as active as you should be.
When you don’t exercise, your muscles get weaker over time. This means your body is increasingly ill-equipped to perform, which makes it harder to recover and can actually make the pain worse.
Plus, remember that our mental processes significantly alter our sensory perceptions–meaning, your mood can alter your experience of pain, which is why depression and pain have such a strong link. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, chemicals that boost your mood and ease pain.
Even 30 minutes of aerobic exercise is enough to get your muscles working and cause your body to release endorphins. Talk to your physician about a type of aerobic exercise that could work for you. Generally, low-impact exercises (yoga) or non-weight-bearing exercises (swimming) are great places to start.
Finally, make sure to get support–from your loved ones, from others who share your experiences, and from your doctor.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to find a support group for those with chronic pain. Not only will this help you feel less alone, but it will also allow you to benefit from the wisdom of others who have the same experiences.
And don’t forget that your doctor can be your best asset in pursuing options. Always keep an open dialogue with your doctor about your chronic pain and what treatment options are available to you, and if you see options you’re curious about, like this Dr. Starsiak prolotherapy paper, talk to your doctor about them.
More Tips for Living with Chronic Pain
If you’re living with chronic pain, always remember that while there are good days and bad days, you have options. You can beat your pain and live life to the fullest, and we’re here to help you do it.
Make sure to check out our site for more great posts on healthcare in your community, and know that chronic pain doesn’t need to slow you down from the life you want to live.