Chronic pain is often called the “invisible disability.” If you suffer from lingering pain after an injury, you are not alone. An estimated 20% of adults in the United States suffer from chronic pain, making it one of the leading causes of disability among adults in the U.S.
For years, many people with chronic pain thought they had little choice but to take dangerous addictive drugs like opioids. However, there are some other ways to manage your pain that might allow you to discontinue or lessen opioids.
Activities that Can Help Chronic Pain
Massage therapy– Chronic pain can be exacerbated by stiffening muscles, so activities that relax the muscles often reduce pain, including applying heating pads or receiving massage therapy.
Physical therapy is another effective treatment method. Stretches and exercises designed to retrain posture, strengthen the core, and improve flexibility are shown to reduce chronic pain.
Yoga and Tai Chi can also help reduce pain symptoms in the same way as physical therapy, but some feel it is more effective because of the emphasis in stretching.
Acupuncture- It is not for everyone but some swear by it. The traditional Chinese medicine works by applying hair-thin needles into pressure points on the body and can be particularly effective at treating chronic back and neck pain, knee pain, and headaches.
Meditation– Yes, it is scientifically proven that meditation helps reduce stress and relieve pain. It is a no-cost method of relaxing the body and the mind that can be done at home. Meditation reduces the release of stress hormones into the bloodstream and induces the release of endorphins to combat pain. Use a simple app like HeadSpace to get started.
Biofeedback is another emerging method of treatment that works by hooking the patient up to sensors that monitor body functions like heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, muscle tension, and body temperature. By watching how they change in real time, patients can train themselves to consciously control these functions and reduce their pain. Talk about mind over matter!
Lifestyle Changes You Can Make on Your Own to Combat Chronic Pain
Making changes to your daily routine can’t eliminate all your pain, but you may be surprised by how big a difference a few small lifestyle changes can make to the level of pain you experience on a daily basis. Those changes include:
- Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation is shown to decrease pain tolerance.
- Exercise. The natural boost of endorphins from exercising can help combat pain.
- Quit smoking. Nicotine reduces your body’s ability to effectively supply oxygen through the bloodstream, which can worsen chronic pain.
- Watch your diet. Avoiding processed foods and refined sugars may help reduce chronic pain.
- Do things you enjoy. When you are in pain, the last thing you may want to do is socialize. But watching your favorite show, listening to music, or talking with a friend can help distract your mind from pain.
- Cut back on alcohol. Anything that causes depression, causes stress, which can increase pain or at least the perception of pain.
National Geographic Magazine published an article in January 2020 on how scientists are unraveling the mysteries of pain, and exploring new ways to treat it. View the article to learn more.