Chronic Pain (cont.)
Chronic pain cannot always be prevented.
Staying in good physical and mental health may be the best way to prevent chronic pain or help you cope with the constant pain. Get enough sleep every night. Treat your health problems early, learn to alternate activity with rest throughout each day, exercise, eat a balanced diet, and try to reduce stress in your life to prevent chronic pain from developing.
The following ideas can help you manage your chronic pain.
- Take your medicines as prescribed.
- Participate in a physical therapy or exercise program that includes stretching several times a day.
- Keep your appointments with your doctor, especially if you have moderate to severe or constant chronic pain.
Make lifestyle changes, such as:
- Get enough sleep every night. If you are tired during the day and have trouble sleeping, try to:
- Set a bedtime and a wake-up time—and stay with these times, even on weekends. This helps your body get used to a regular sleep time.
- Get some exercise during the day.
- Avoid taking naps, especially in the evening.
- Avoid drinking or eating caffeine after 3 p.m. This includes coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate.
- Treat medical conditions and mental health concerns early, before they get worse and become harder to treat. Untreated health conditions (such as shingles) or mental health problems (such as depression or anxiety) can make chronic pain harder to treat.
- Exercise regularly with aerobic exercise—such as swimming, stationary cycling, and walking—to build your strength and health. Water exercise may be especially helpful in reducing pain that gets worse during weight-bearing activities, such as walking. Talk to your doctor before you begin an exercise program. Start slowly and increase your efforts bit by bit. If your joints are stiff, try taking a warm bath or shower first to loosen up. Also, do some stretching exercises each day.
- Schedule your day so that you are most active when you have the most energy. Learn to move in ways that are less likely to make your pain worse.
- Eat a balanced diet. Good nutrition will help you stay healthy and strong. For more information on good nutrition, see Healthy Eating.
- Stop smoking. Smoking may affect your level of pain and may reduce how well your chronic pain treatment works.
- Reduce stress in your life. Try a relaxation therapy such as breathing exercises or meditation. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
Other ideas include:
- Trying assistive devices, if recommended by your doctor, that help you do your daily activities. These devices can help you to be more mobile and independent. For example, use a cane or crutch, braces, splints, or devices such as doorknob extenders or an elevated toilet seat.
- Joining a support group. A support group is made up of people with similar experiences who can understand your feelings and provide comfort. A support group can keep you from feeling isolated and alone. Being around others who share your problem can help you and your family learn how to accept and manage chronic pain. To find a group near you, contact the American Chronic Pain Association at 1-800-533-3231 or online at www.theacpa.org.
- Preventing falls by taking care of yourself, learning ways to keep your balance, learning about your medicines, and making your home safer. Use night-lights in hallways and bathrooms.
- Doing self-massage or trigger point massage therapy.
If you are a caregiver for a person who has chronic pain, your own stress and worry can also cause you to have symptoms of depression, vague body pains, digestive disorders, or headaches. Experts say that it is important to take care of yourself, too, and not to feel guilty about it. For more information, see the topic Caregiver Tips.