5 tips to managing your pain
1. Understand your pain
Want to reduce your pain symptoms but not sure where to start? Understanding your chronic pain is the first step towards better managing your condition. To better understand your condition, speak with a trusted health professional team who can advise on what tools can assist in managing your pain. These tools may include:
- Pain medications
- Diet & Exercise programs
- Procedures by specialists
- Breathing and relaxation techniques
2. Maintain a healthy relationship with your partner and family
Pain is subjective – we can’t experience each other’s pain. Therefore, it is important to discuss with loved ones what you are experiencing so they understand what you are going through. If you struggle to express your how chronic pain affects you, take some time to write down your pain experiences. Also consider the tone of voice you use when communicating. If you are feeling particularly sensitive or tired, consider arranging a better time to talk when your emotions have settled a little, or use breathing techniques to calm and centre yourself first. Reconnecting with these relationships is essential and will go a long way to ensure that your support system has strong foundations. Remember that your partner is also on the journey with you and on your side.
3. Get a good night sleep
Is your pain keeping you up at night?
Understanding what you need to do to get a good night’s rest is critical to better managing your chronic pain. Sleep is responsible for calming the nerves and can reduce the inflammation that occurs with chronic pain. Implement some of the below to improve your sleep routine.
- Create a routine – wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day.
- Exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day – but not too close to bedtime.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks, smoking and drinking alcohol before bed.
- Relax before going to bed – this could include reading, soothing music, practicing meditation or having a warm bath.
- Creating a calm and relaxed place for sleeping – lower the lights, keep the room at a comfortable temperature and use essential oils to add a soothing smell to your room.
4. Eat the right foods
Eating the right foods is an important step to improving quality of life with chronic pain. Certain foods can increase inflammation, worsening pain and should therefore be minimised. These include foods with high amounts of:
- Refined sugar
- Fried foods (high in omega 6 fatty acids)
- Processed meats
- Trans-fats (such as doughnuts, cookies, crackers, pies, and cakes)
- Alcohol, which irritates the stomach, affects liver function and may also contribute to weight gain
- Food additives like MSG, aspartame and heavily coloured food dyes
Do you find yourself craving sugary foods to get you through the day? While it is tempting to eat sugary treats, it is important to eat foods that release energy slowly into your blood stream and have higher nutrient content that help the body to produce more pain-relieving chemicals. These include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Complex carbohydrates (grains and wholemeal)
- Good quality protein
Each little step you make toward a healthier diet, will leave you with more energy and feeling better about yourself. You may be surprised the difference it makes to your pain.
5. Develop healthy thinking
Pain can affect the way we feel. It can leave us feeling lonely, upset, angry and frustrated. The way we feel can affect our thoughts too, which can negatively affect our experience with pain. Therefore, it is important to have a positive mindset which can support you to feel more energised and encourage you to take steps towards feeling better.
In chronic pain, you can use a range of techniques to help develop healthy thinking habits to support you in managing your pain. For example, you do not need to believe every thought you have about your pain condition. Try this exercise to help you choose healthy thoughts.
- Notice your thoughts. When you notice a negative thought, stop it in its tracks and write it down.
- Look at that thought and ask yourself whether it is helpful or unhelpful.
- Choose a new, helpful thought to replace a negative one. Ask yourself: What effect does believing this thought have on me? What might happen if I tried to believe the healthier thought?