1. Learn deep breathing or meditation to relax.
Deep breathing and meditation are techniques that help your body relax, which can provide pain relief. Tension and tightness escapes from the muscles when they receive a calm message to relax.
While there are many ways to meditate, the calming power of repetition is at the heart of some forms of meditation. Focusing on the breath, ignoring thoughts, and repeating a word or phrase – a mantra – causes the body to relax. While you can learn meditation on your own, taking a class helps.
Deep breathing is also a relaxation technique. Find a quiet place, a comfortable body position, and block out distracting thoughts. Then imagine a spot just below your belly button. Breathe there, filling your abdomen with air. Let the air fill you in the abdomen, then let it out, as if to deflate a balloon.
2. Reduce the stress in your life. Stress intensifies chronic pain.
Negative feelings like anger, anxiety, depression, and stress can increase the body’s sensitivity to pain. By learning to control stress, you can find some relief from chronic pain.
Several techniques can help promote relaxation and reduce stress. Listening to soothing and calming music can improve your mood and make life with chronic pain more bearable. There are even relaxation tapes or CDs specially designed for this. Mental imagery relaxation (also known as guided imagery) is a form of mental escape that can help you feel at peace. It involves creating calming and peaceful images in your mind. Another technique is progressive muscle relaxation that promotes relaxation.
3. Increase chronic pain relief with natural endorphins in exercise.
Endorphins are chemicals in the brain that help improve your mood while blocking pain signals. Another pain-reducing effect is exercise – it strengthens muscles, helping to prevent further injury and other pain. Plus, exercise can help maintain your weight, reduce the risk of heart disease, and control blood sugar, which is especially important if you have diabetes. Ask about an exercise routine to your doctor that’s right for you. If you have certain health conditions, such as diabetic neuropathy, you will need to be careful about the types of activities you do; your doctor can advise you on the best physical activities for you.
4. Cut back on alcohol, which can make sleeping problems worse.
The pain makes it difficult to sleep, and alcohol can make sleeping problems worse. If you have chronic pain, drinking less or no alcohol can improve your quality of life.
5. Join a support group. Meet other people with chronic pain.
You feel less alone, when you are with people who have chronic pain and understand what you are going through. You also benefit from their wisdom in dealing with pain.
Also consider meeting with a mental health professional. Anyone can develop depression if they have chronic pain. Getting counseling can help you cope better and help you avoid negative thoughts that make pain worse – so you have a healthier attitude.
6. Don’t smoke. This can make chronic pain worse.
Smoking can make painful circulation problems worse and increase the risk of heart disease and cancer.
7. Track your pain level and your activities every day.
To effectively treat your pain, your doctor needs to know how you are feeling between visits. Keeping a journal or diary of your daily “pain score” will help you keep track of your pain. At the end of each day, rate your pain level on a scale of 1 to 10. Also note the activities you did that day. Bring this notebook with every doctor visit – to give your doctor a good understanding of how you live with chronic pain and your level of physical functioning.