Previously we wrote about pain self-management. Even though it still requires consultation with a physician, many patients can benefit from this approach.
Regular access to doctors is not always easy, self-care can help you work through tough times and maintain a normal life. Additionally, at least half of all patients manage their discomfort through a primary care physician instead of a board-certified pain specialist. Lack of training in the complexity of chronic pain management is one of the contributing factors to the over-prescription of opioids. If you suffer from chronic issues, self-care can help you avoid narcotic medications.
Your daily life plays a key role in managing pain. In fact, there are several positive lifestyle changes you can make to help manage your comfort. Two starting points are to eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight. A few other everyday activities help:
Pain and stress feed off one another. You can prevent this cycle by recognizing your stress triggers. Write down the things that cause your stress, considering each part of your life, including work, relationships, home, poor health habits, and perfectionism or negative thinking. Then take a hard look at the list and think about ways you can minimize or even eliminate those triggers. Practicing relaxation skills also helps approach your day from a calmer, more balanced and less stressful place.
Stay physically active
Aerobic or “cardio” exercise releases endorphins—the feel-good chemicals that act as your body’s natural painkillers. If you have pain from an injury, recent surgery, a physical disability or a chronic condition such as osteoporosis, it’s best to work with a physical therapist or exercise physiologist to be sure you can exercise safely and avoid hurting yourself.
Get enough sleep
Pain—and even some pain-related medications—might make sleeping difficult. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some pain medications can cause fatigue and make you sleep too much. But proper amount of sleep helps you cope with your pain by boosting your energy levels and your mood. Be strategic about your medications. Talk with your physician about timing so that you’re taking stimulants early in the day and drowsy medication closer to bedtime. It also helps to put more effort into your sleep hygiene and schedule.
Pain affects every aspect of your life. It can challenge or change the activities you choose to do, the thoughts you have and even the sleep you get. By learning to self-manage, you face your pain directly and learn to understand that living well is still a possibility.