Does chronic pain impact your daily life? Living with chronic pain can be challenging. Chronic pain is pain that persists or recurs for more than three months. For patients, their symptoms can be from back pain or joint pain. Pain can affect your physical body as well as your mental state.
Did you know that lifestyle changes can alleviate chronic pain? By not smoking and limiting your alcohol intake, you are helping your body in many ways. These two habits can make chronic pain worse.
Stress can have a lot of negative impacts on the body. By reducing stress in your life, you can reduce muscle tension. Stress intensifies chronic pain.
You may already know how good exercise is for your body. Exercising can help improve mood, sleep and even pain. By exercising, the body releases natural endorphins which can reduce pain.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Your diet should consist of fruits, vegetables and protein. By eating a balanced diet, your body is able to fight off infections. Unhealthy foods do not nourish the body and can make chronic pain worse.
Track Your Pain Levels
By keeping track of your pain level and activities every day, you may be able to find out what triggers your chronic pain. It is also a great way to share your pain levels with your physician.
Find ways to distract yourself so you can enjoy life more. This could involve reading a book, listening to music or talking to a friend. By continuing to do the things you love, your brain will not constantly think of the pain.
Join a Support Group
It can be easier to get support from others who are going through a similar situation. By sharing your symptoms and day-to-day activities, support groups can be a great way to meet others living with chronic pain.
Relaxation training can focus the attention away from the pain, release tension in the muscles and relieve pain. Relaxation involves concentration, deep breathing and even meditation. There are podcasts and online resources that are available to help you learn these skills.
Try Acupuncture or Massage
Just like exercising, acupuncture and massage therapy have positive benefits for the body. Massages can help remove muscle tension and increase blood flow. Acupuncture can help relieve pain on specific points in the body.
Biofeedback can be used to decrease chronic pain associated with migraines or tension headaches. Biofeedback is taught by a professional who uses special machines to help you learn to control bodily functions, such as heart rate and muscle tension. As you learn to release muscle tension, the machine will indicate success. Once this technique is mastered, it can be practiced without the use of the machine. Individuals need to go to their doctors’ office initially to learn this technique.
Lucy Chen, MD, is a physician researcher in Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. She has been working in the Pain Management Center for more than 15 years. She is also actively involved in clinical research in the Translational Pain Research department at Mass General.
September is Pain Awareness Month, and Maximilian Hsia-Kiung, MD, a physician in the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, shares five things you didn't know about chronic pain.