Chronic pain is more prevalent among Americans than you think. A recent report states that, in 2019, 20.4% of adults had chronic pain. The same repot also stated that 7.4% of adults had chronic pain that frequently limited life or work activities.
Chronic pain can easily interfere with your daily activities or social life because:
- It can last for weeks, months, or even years.
- It can come from any part of your body.
- It can be persistent or come and go anytime.
- It affects your mental health and attention.
Given its complex nature, you will need more than just pain management medication to ease your pain. Healthy living is one of the effective ways to manage your chronic pain. But before we get into that, let’s first understand what pain management is.
What Is Pain Management?
Simply put, pain management is the medical process of reducing or easing pain. The process often involves an interdisciplinary approach that uses a combination of pain management medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes, among other things.
This approach largely depends on the intensity, history, duration, and complexity of your pain. You will have to consult a pain management specialist who can determine the right course of action after a thorough checkup.
However, leading a healthy lifestyle is a great way to kickstart your pain management journey. Let’s explore a few healthy lifestyle choices that can help you manage or reduce your pain.
1. Practice Meditation
The art of mediation has been around for hundreds of years. It helps you relax your mind and body, which could help in alleviating your chronic pain. It can also help you lower stress and anxiety, two factors that are likely to or worsen your chronic pain.
However, meditation can only help if done correctly. To get the most out of meditation, you need to:
- Find a calm and quiet place to meditate. If possible, use the same spot for meditating every day.
- Decide how you can sit, depending on your physical condition. You can sit in a chair or even cross-legged. But you should be able to stay in this position for a few minutes.
- Set a time limit for your meditation cycle. You could do it as long as you like, but starting small (five or ten minutes) usually helps.
- Make sure to focus on your breathing. Taking deep breaths can help you relax your muscles and mind.
- When ending your medication, gently open your eyes. You need to ease your body and mind back into your surroundings gradually.
Remember, meditation works best when practiced regularly. You can do it every morning before breakfast or every night before going to bed. Make sure to choose a suitable schedule and stick to it.
2. Build Good Sleep Cycle
Lack of sleep often leads to fatigue, irritation, and stress, all of which can worsen your chronic pain. Worse still, pain medication can sometimes affect your sleep. It is a vicious cycle, which is why developing good sleep hygiene is all the more necessary.
- You will need to create a sleep schedule. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
- If the pain management medication is affecting your sleep, talk to your doctor. They can change your medicine schedule to help you sleep better.
- Always use your bed only for sleep and relaxation, and avoid working from your bed. Also, keep your bedroom clean and cool. It can help you fall asleep quickly.
- If you are unable to sleep, try reading or watching TV until you fall asleep again. Don’t force yourself to sleep.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or coffee or smoking before bed, as they can interfere with your sleep.
- Also, avoid heavy meals and fluids before going to bed. It can wake you up, disturbing your sleep throughout the night.
3. Develop Healthy Eating Habits
Speaking of avoiding heavy meals, developing healthy eating habits can also help you alleviate chronic pain. Poor eating habits can lead to obesity or overweight, which are closely associated with chronic pain among older adults.
- Try to eat healthy and home-cooked meals. Avoid eating processed food such as frozen dinners. Processed food is packed with salt, fats, oils, and sugars, making you highly susceptible to constipation, sleeplessness, and obesity.
- Incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet. Eating these in their natural form will provide you with more nutrition.
- Instead of eating processed sugar, try natural sweeteners like honey. Too much sugar intake can lead to other chronic complications like diabetes. It may complicate your pain management.
Most of your diet you can manage on your own. However, if required, don’t hesitate to consult a certified dietician. And yes, don’t forget to check your weight regularly.
4. Stop Smoking and Drinking
Both smoking and drinking can critically damage your body. Smoking can harm your lungs, skin, brain, and heart. However, it can also increase the risk of chronic pain.
Research shows that smokers have close to a three times greater risk of spinal pain than non-smokers, with headaches almost as bad. Most other kinds of pain were around twice as likely to occur in smokers.
If you smoke, quit it as soon as possible. You can try Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), among several other ways to quit smoking. However, do consult your doctor or a certified professional to ensure complete deaddiction.
Alcohol, on the other hand, is often abused as a painkiller. As many as 28% of people experiencing chronic pain turn to alcohol to alleviate their suffering. However, it isn’t one of the medically approved pain management techniques. It is also not a painkiller as it merely suppresses the feeling of pain, not the pain itself.
If anything, drinking can lead to addiction and many other harmful health issues. Moreover, mixing pain management medication and alcohol can be quite dangerous. The bottom line is you need to keep your drinking habits in check. If required, seek professional help.
5. Engage in Physical Activity
You will also need to be physically active. Exercise can boost your strength, flexibility, and stamina, which can help in chronic pain management. It also stimulates the release of endorphins (hormones), which can effectively block pain receptors.
Even a simple physical activity like walking for 20-25 minutes can go a long way in pain management. It is easy to walk as much as possible. For example, you can park farther away and walk a few extra steps to your office, or you can take the stairs to your apartment.
Relaxing physical activities like yoga can also help boost your overall strength and stamina. Swimming, cycling, and running are a few other activities you can try. The point is it doesn’t have to be an intense physical workout.
But, make sure to consult a doctor or a physiotherapist. They can help you choose a suitable exercise routine depending on the intensity and history of your chronic pain.
6. Learn to Control Your Mental Stress
Chronic pain can be psychosomatic. That’s why controlling stress is one of the most effective pain management techniques. Like it or not, stress is a part of everyone’s life. The first step in stress management is to recognize the underlying causes.
Your stress trigger could be anything ranging from poor sleep cycle to negative thinking. Make a list of such triggers and find out the right way to deal with each one. For example, if deadlines add to your stress, you can set priorities and deal with each deadline one by one.
Relaxing pain management techniques like yoga, meditation, and exercise can also help alleviate stress. If you are not into physical activities, developing relaxing hobbies such as painting, reading or music can also help reduce stress to a great extent. Basically, you can try any activity that leads to a more balanced and less stressful life.
Chronic pain can badly affect your everyday life. The best way to deal with chronic pain is to focus on healing instead of the pain. Developing healthy habits is a great way to do so, especially for long-term pain management. By implementing these six healthy habits, you can be on your way to a better life.
At Peak Health and Wellness, we provide our patients with a broad range of pain management options. We pride ourselves on taking a customized and compassionate approach to help our patients. If you or your loved one is suffering from chronic pain, reach out to us immediately.