We all experience physical pain at some point in our life, be it through a sports injury, a fall or cut. In normal circumstances, the pain will subside after a few days or weeks. At the very most, it will last a few month, in which you can say the pain is acute – generally, this is pain that lasts less than six months.
On the other hand, chronic pain is something that just won’t go away. Months and years will pass and you just never seem to shake off the injury. Sometimes, the pain could be with you for a lifetime. Examples of chronic pain include arthritis and back pain. Other are caused by our lifestyle choices such as bronchitis that is linked with smoking.
How do we feel pain?
Our nerves are responsible for us feeling pain by sending relevant signals to the brain, which in turn gives us warning signs such as ‘take your hand off the hot pan’. Although these things are obvious to us, the reason for that is our brain’s learning and teaching us. Chronic pain is thus caused by the constant signals that keep going to our brain over a long period of time.
What should you do if you are experiencing chronic pain?
Chronic pain, depending on its severity, can be very debilitating. It can stop us doing our daily activities that we take for granted and really grind things to a halt. If this is happening to you, you should go and see a doctor who may prescribe stronger painkillers than you get over the counter, physiotherapy or even surgery in worst case scenarios.
If your pain isn’t extreme, there are a few lifestyle choices you can make that can help manage and reduce the impact caused by chronic pain.
See a pain specialist
Instead of visiting your GP, go and see a doctor who specialises in treating chronic pain. They will have all the tools to manage your pain problem.
At The West London Interventional Clinic, we draw upon our expert skills and the latest technology to help relieve all types of pain ranging from back, shoulder and neck pain, joint pain and cures for headaches and facial pain. Some of our treatments include botox therapy, x-ray guided procedures, and radiofrequency treatment. Find out more.
Take regular walks
Chronic pain management is not always about resting. Keeping your body active can help keep the pain at bay too. Walking is an easy and simple method of exercise that you can incorporate regularly. Any form of exercise will release endorphins – these are natural painkillers. Try walking 3-5 times a week for at least half an hour and see how you get on.
The image of poking a lot of needles into your body might not make sense when it comes to pain relief, but acupuncture does have its place. It can potentially, help release the endorphins or possible block the nerves from sending pain signals to the brain.
Have a proper sleep
Trying to sleep well whilst managing chronic pain can be a catch 22 situation. Getting enough rest can help reduce pain and not getting enough can exacerbate it. If sleep is becoming really difficult, speak to your doctor. A certain sleeping position or a specific type of mattress may be the solution.
Do avoid resting and being immobile for long periods because it will weaken muscles and cause stiff joints, which will make pain worse.
Keep your brain busy
Keep your brain busy so it doesn’t have time to think about the pain. Binge on your favourite TV program, play a board game or meet some friends. Remaining idle will have you focusing on your pain.
Change your diet
Some foods can make chronic pain worse or trigger an episode of pain. Keep a food diary side by side with a pain diary and you may find correlations between the two and therefore adjust your diet as necessary.
Meditate and do yoga
Breathing exercises such as slow and deep breathing can release tension and stress. Similarly, it can also help manage your pain. The great thing meditation is that you can do it anywhere. And if you have a bit more time and space, consider practicing some yoga that helps with fibromyalgia and arthritis.
Lift some weights
Lifting extremely heavy weights is a cause of chronic pain. Yet regular and light resistance training will help build your muscles, strength, and flexibility, making your body bigger and stronger to fight pain.
Biofeedback is a fancy technique that you can use to manage and control activities that you usually do without thinking such as blood pressure and heart rate. With biofeedback you can artificially relax your muscles and reduce pain.
Helpful vitamin supplements give you a boost of key items, such as fish oil, that can reduce the pain caused by arthritis and other joint issues.
Physical and occupational therapy
If you visit your doctor, they may refer you to physical and occupational therapy. These therapies teach specific exercises that target pain by increasing your mobility and strengthening your muscles.
Speaking to a counselor can help you come to terms with the impact of the chronic pain in your life. Talking about these will mentally help you feel better and suggest ways of managing daily life.
Don’t overdose on painkillers
Over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen have their place but repeatedly taking them to manage your chronic pain can cause an overdose, which can cause your body serious damage. Always read the label and follow the recommended dosage.
Other types of medications that used to treat different conditions can indirectly reduce chronic pain. Medicine used for depression and epilepsy by reducing or completely blocking pain signals.
Surgery can be effective in targeting the very stubborn forms of chronic pain such as a slipped disc. The advantage of surgery is that it can eliminate your pain once and for all. Not all chronic pain can be treated by surgery, speak to your doctor and discuss your options.