Living with chronic pain can be a huge mental load to carry. Physical pain that has no apparent cause that isn’t resolved by typical treatments or medications is exhausting and overwhelming. If you have been recently diagnosed with chronic pain, it might feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, especially since previous treatments have failed.
Chronic pain is categorized as pain that carries on for over 12 weeks and isn’t improved by medication or treatment. Chronic pain can be triggered by an illness or injury or have no apparent reason.
Chronic pain can be classed as;
- Primary – when the pain has no underlying cause or anything to attribute the pain too.
- Secondary – when there is a reason for the chronic pain, secondary to another cause or condition.
It is estimated that around 20% of American adults have chronic pain. In the UK, reports suggest around 8 million people are affected by some level of chronic pain that interferes with their day-to-day life.
Managing Chronic Pain
Theories and suggestions can vastly differ depending on your primary care physician and their level of understanding. Indeed even amongst experts in this area, how best to approach chronic pain has been long debated. Recent guidelines by NICE (Nation Institute for Health and Care Excellence) even suggested that doctors take a less medicated approach to chronic pain and prescribe exercise and antidepressants. But far from being a mental condition, chronic pain is genuine despite its apparent failure to respond to treatments. And an impact on mental health is expected as people learn to live their lives in some degree of pain and restrictions on their abilities.
Chronic Pain Medication
Depending on the cause of your chronic pain and other related conditions and medications, your doctor can prescribe a range of different medications to help you manage your pain levels. These can include NSAIDs which are Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are typically used to treat conditions such as arthritis and include the following medications;
- Mefenamic acid
SNRIs can also be used and include; duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor XR, Pristiq), and milnacipran (Fetzima, Savella). Your doctor may also prescribe Acetaminophen and other drugs that are used for the treatment of pain.
There is no guarantee that these will work, and you will likely need to make accommodations within your lifestyle to account for your condition and put measures in place to support you on both your good and bad days.
Living with Chronic Pain
Many different lifestyle choices can impact how you are affected by your chronic pain, and over time, they can even help reduce the severity of your symptoms. It is important not to push your body too hard too much to avoid flaring your pain and making things harder for yourself. It is better to make small, consistent changes than to make drastic ones that you cannot sustain.
Many people with chronic pain find they are unable to do much in the way of exercise; trying to incorporate gentle exercise can support your body and your mind. Exercise releases endorphins which make you happy and boost your mental health. Gently exercises such as swimming, yoga, walking, pilates, or low impact aerobics a few times a week can be beneficial.
Listen to your body and allow yourself to rest when you need to.
Therapies such as acupuncture and chiropractic care can offer people with chronic pain an alternative to traditional approaches. Based on the ancient Chinese practice, acupuncture involves placing fine needles into the skin at pressure points or where you experience pain to relieve symptoms. It may take a few treatments or ongoing treatment to get the maximum benefit. If you cannot afford to visit an acupuncturist, you can purchase at-home acupressure mats that work on the same principles.
Chiropractic care involves practitioners using their hands to manipulate bones, muscles, and tendons to alleviate pain. Again, you may need to keep up with regular appointments to allow your body to fully benefit from any reduction in the pain you may experience after this treatment.
It is widely thought that there is a hierarchy of foods that are good for your body if you have chronic pain.
Ideal foods to fill up on for chronic pain include;
- Coldwater fish
- Tart cherries
- Foods high in vitamin d
- Fruits and vegetables
While foods to avoid are generally food you should limit even if you do not have chronic pain;
- Trans fats
- Saturated fats
- Processed foods
- Nightshade foods – tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes
However, eating a diet high in healthier foods such as beans and pulses that is heavy on fruits and vegetables can help your body support itself and fight the pain as much as possible by improving your health.
Drinking plenty of water, abstaining from alcohol, and avoiding excessive snacking can help you feel healthier and strong regardless of your pain levels.
Sleep is a bone of contention for many people who struggle with chronic pain as sleep is often hard to come by, disturbed, or non-refreshing. Chronic conditions such as Fibromyalgia, ME, Chronic diabetes, arthritis can affect your sleep quality and leave you feeling exhausted all of the time.
Experts recommend putting an effective sleep routine in place. However, the benefits of this for those who get little to no pain relief or experience more pain when resting – Fibromyalgia is known to cause pain and burning in feet and legs of sufferers, which in turn leads to poor sleep, are to be determined although there is no harm in trying.
Use topical treatments and balms to reduce inflammation and soreness before bed. Consider extra support such as a full-body cushion or a cushioned wedge to slip under your legs when lying down to offer some relief, as can using essential oils to help you relax before bed either when bathing or in the air diffuser.
Adding CBD from Simply CBD to your diet can offer many advantages to your health as users report benefits, including a better quality of sleep, lower pain, increased mood, and reduced anxiety, to name a few. CBD products are also great alternatives to medicine and can allow you to find a more natural and sympathetic way to treat your chronic pain.
Deep breathing and meditation are relaxation practices that can help your body relax, assisting relief from discomfort. Tension and stiffness drain from the muscles when they receive a gentle reminder to relax.
Although there are many different techniques to meditate, the soothing impact of repetition lies at the heart of several of them. The body relaxes by focusing on the breath, dismissing thoughts, and repeating a word or phrase – a mantra.
Deep breathing is another approach for relaxing. Find a peaceful place, a comfortable body position, and close your eyes to shut out distracting thoughts. Then envision a point right below your navel. Fill your abdomen with air as you breathe into that region. Allow the air to fill you from the abdomen up, then expel it as if you were deflating a balloon.
Learning to manage your chronic pain is something you will always be working on until you find a combination that works for you. Often, it isn’t just one thing that is a “cure,” so to speak. It will be a combination of different therapies and actions taken by yourself to reduce the pain to a more manageable level. But it can be worth the trial and error, even for just a short time of relief, to allow you some pain-free time.