4 Things You Need To Know About
Safely Managing Chronic Pain Symptoms
This blog was contributed by one of our readers, Jackie Waters. Ms. Waters is the proud mother of four boys. Jackie has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since her early 20’s and knows what it is like to live with chronic pain. She is passionate about providing a healthy and happy home for her family, and aims to provide advice for others on how to do the same with her site Hyper-Tidy.com.
According to a recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 50 million adults in the United States suffer from chronic pain. Unlike acute pain that presents as an immediate reaction to injury, chronic pain can last anywhere from a few weeks to several years. While the condition isn’t always curable, treatments can include anything from pain relievers to surgery to electrical stimulation. However, for someone dealing with a newly diagnosed condition that causes perpetual discomfort, there are some safe alternatives to treatment that should be incorporated into any treatment plan.
Handling The Shock Of A New Diagnosis
Along with learning how to manage physical pain, studies reveal patients may also develop psychosomatic or stress-related symptoms because feelings of anxiety, stress and tension all cause muscles to constrict. Over time, the muscles become fatigued and not as efficient. Emotional stress can also cause debilitating headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and stomachaches.
Experts believe a combination of physical therapy and psychotherapy — a method of treatment that incorporates imagery to address the nervous system — can effectively manage chronic pain as a whole. However, there are also simple measures a patient can take by modifying their lifestyle.
Since stress and tension are contributing factors of chronic pain, it’s important to incorporate relaxation techniques into a cohesive treatment plan because the central nervous system is elevated when someone is experiencing discomfort. Some options include guided meditation with a visual stimulus, breathing techniques, taking a warm salt-infused bath, getting a massage, or taking a relaxation-focused yoga class. EDMR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) has also been proven as an effective treatment for chronic pain because it helps the mind transform trauma into a peaceful resolution.
Exercising With Chronic Pain
While exercise may not be the first thing that comes to mind for someone suffering from chronic pain, it’s crucial in order to avoid long-term problems. Research has shown that chronic pain sufferers can experience impaired neuroplasticity — which means that nerve cells become so oversensitized, even a gentle tap can be painful. Over time, the brain feels chronic pain on an even more intense level. Exercise, however, can improve blood flow and oxygen to the brain which is key for repairing neuroplasticity.
While it’s wise to speak with a doctor and/or a physical therapist before starting any fitness routine, the best exercises for someone with chronic pain are low-impact and include swimming, pilates, yoga, walking, and strength training.
Create A Peaceful Home Environment
Believe it or not, home environment plays an important role in chronic pain management. In fact, there are architects and interior designers who specialize in creating soothing hospital, clinic, and medical-related environments. Many of the same principals used are applicable within the home of someone experiencing stress and anxiety derived by pain. For example, reduce clutter to make each room understandable and stress-free, invest in dimmers and blackout shades to keep headache-inducing light to a minimum, decorate with soothing colors (think blues, neutrals, and other cool tones), and try to make at least one area of the home a quiet space for meditation. Studies reveal that noise halts the healing rate in patients, so invest in tightly sealed windows; soft, sound-absorbing carpet and drapery; and a solid (not hollow) door to reduce noise.
Find The Right Treatment Approach For You
While medication or surgery may be necessary to treat long and short-term chronic pain, implementing safe and healthy approaches helps the sufferer feel more in control of his life. Considering there were 33,000 opioid-related deaths in 2015 (more than any year previously recorded), nearly half of which involved prescription opioids, alternative coping methods are more important than ever.
In some situations, dosed appropriately, prescription opioids are an appropriate part of medical treatment. However, opioid risks include depression, overdose, and addiction, plus withdrawal symptoms when stopping use. People addicted to prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin. The Centers for Disease Control recommends physical therapy over opioids for pain management. Physical therapists partner with patients, their families, and other health care professionals to manage pain, often reducing or eliminating the need for opioids. Research has shown that a simple education session with a physical therapist can lead to improved function, range of motion, and decreased pain. Moreover, stress-reduction techniques are something one can use for the long-term even if pain subsides.