Chronic pain can be debilitating not only physically,
but psychologically as well.
Before you know it, pain can begin to sneak its way into all aspects of your life. Below are some strategies for managing pain before it manages you:
Have you ever woken up with less pain than usual and thought, “Great! Now I can get everything done today that I’ve put off because I’ve been in pain”. Seems like a reasonable idea; however, doing this often leads to an increase your pain. Yes, you may be able to accomplish a lot on days when your pain is less intense but at what cost? Do you need one or two recovery days because you overdid it?
On the other hand, you may refrain from activity due to fear of experiencing an increase in pain. As such, de-conditioning occurs (like when I “forget” to go to the gym for two months) and you actually end up experiencing more pain when you do move...it can become a vicious cycle.
A more effective way to manage your pain (and your life) is to pace yourself on a daily basis. Figure out how much activity you can handle before you start to experience an increase in pain...once you know, take short break BEFORE you experience that increase. It is much easier to manage pain when it is not at its highest intensity! You will find that you can get more accomplished with pacing than with highly fluctuating activity levels.
Have you ever noticed that our body’s automatic response to pain is to hold the breath and tense the muscles? As you can imagine (or have experienced firsthand), when these responses stick around long-term they do not promote a relaxed body and mind; which can lead to increased pain. Although you may feel relaxed while you are watching television or reading, these activities do not activate the relaxation response in your body. Deep belly breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation...these are all strategies that quiet the typically over-active stress response system that comes with chronic pain.
Practice relaxation strategies on a daily basis to remind yourself what it feels like to be relaxed. These strategies can help relax your mind and your body and allow you to recover from stressful or painful experiences more efficiently.
Our brains can only pay attention to so much at once. If there is only pain to pay attention to…guess what, our brains become very focused on that pain! Utilize the limited multi-tasking abilities of your brain and distract yourself: Physically (e.g. massage), mentally (e.g. guided imagery), and socially (e.g. spend time with people that make you laugh).
These are just a few pain management strategies; there are many more! Incorporate a variety of strategies into your routine to find the best combination for you. You have more power over your pain than you think!