Chronic pain is all too common after a serious injury. Whether caused by a car accident or a fall on a slippery surface, people who live with chronic pain suffer long after the cuts, bruises, and broken bones have healed. It can last for years or even a lifetime, but there are ways to live with and manage chronic pain.
The Canadian Institute for the Relief of Pain and Disability generally describes it as “pain that doesn’t go away after three months.” Outside of pain caused by cancer, there are two types: musculoskeletal pain, affecting the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons; and neuropathic pain, a more complex type of pain involving damage to soft tissue, the nervous system, or the brain.
Medication and medical treatment can help, but there are a few simple things you can do to help manage the daily struggle of living with chronic pain. Of course, discuss any type of treatment or lifestyle change with your doctor or pain specialist – they’ll have the best answers for your situation. Awareness and education are key.
De-stress and relax
Life is hectic enough without having to worry about a flare up of chronic pain. In fact, increased stress can add to and intensify the pain. Find ways to eliminate or reduce your stress, whether it be work related or at home.
Taking and making time to relax can help. Try practicing deep breathing and quiet meditation techniques – these two simple things help your body relax when suffering a bout of pain. Look for a quiet space and focus your attention for a few moments on your breathing, cutting loose the stresses and clutter of everyday life.
Likewise, you may want to look into the services of a registered massage therapist. A massage can be relaxing but there are proven therapeutic benefits that can help with alleviating and treating pain. Treatment costs can also be covered by medical and insurance benefit plans – check yours for information.
Exercise and diet
Yes, every doctor and health professional will tell you that regular exercise and a good diet are the keys to living well. That’s just as true if you are trying to cope with chronic pain.
Exercise, even if it is light, has enormous benefits. First off, it releases endorphins which help to block pain and lift your spirits. Secondly, exercise strengthens muscles and boosts blood circulation – that’s good for healing and preventing further injury to the affected area.
Feeding your body with good, healthy, nutritious food is always good practice, but it’s especially important when your body is stressed by an injury or chronic pain. Resist the burger and fries and reach for fresh foods that are low in fat, sugar, and sodium. Fueling your body with a healthy diet will boost your energy levels and provide you with the nutrients you need to power through your day and your pain.
Slice your vices
We all know that drinking and smoking have all sorts of problems, so if you’re into one or both, cut them from your life. Too much alcohol can affect your sleep quality which can be difficult enough if you’re in pain. And smoking affects your breathing and circulation. Managing pain requires getting quality sleep and keeping blood and oxygen flowing properly.
Reach out, get help
There’s no need to suffer in silence. If you face chronic pain, reach out and find the resources you need. Talk to your doctor, join a support group, talk to friends or family, or find information from helpful resources in the community and online. Pain BC is an excellent source for help and information. There are others listed below.
You can also join the conversation online during National Pain Awareness Week, happening this year from November 5 to 11. Chime in on social media with #livingwithpain and follow us on Twitter @slatervecchio to connect with the recovery and chronic pain community across BC.