10 ways of living with chronic pain and having a healthy lifestyle
1. Take a holistic approach including Western medicine
Beware of your own self judgments and other judgements from well meaning others. Try to keep an open mind; take in all the information you can. Something may make sense to you or work for you that may not for others. This is about self healing, not about opinions of others. Despite some other people telling me I shouldn’t, the prescribed use of morphine and other medications continue to help me. I also have found some Western movement practices useful, as well. My point is to seek information and tools that work for you whether they are Western Medical practices or other, what are called, alternative healing practices.
2. Take your pain medications as prescribed.
If you are taking medications of any kind please take it as prescribed. It is easy to think that if something is working well that taking more of it will make it work better or faster. This kind of thinking is called magical thinking because it is not based in reality.Take them only as prescribed. It they are narcotic, be extra careful because both physical and psychological addiction is a possibility. It you have a history of addiction, be extra careful. But if you and your doctor think it will help you by taking them, then please do. Don’t let fear deter you from your healing path.
3. Find all the ways to reduce stress in your life that works for you( not everything works for everyone)
Here is a list of potentially helpful stress reduction practices for chronic pain management:
Progressive muscle relaxation
4. Breath work is vital
Breathing is a natural treatment for chronic pain. Once one learns a few simple breathing techniques, pain management and control can happen. The simplest toll of breathwork is noticing the breath. This mindfulness practice of noticing where one is in the here and now, in the present moment slows one down, and as one senses the breath stress is reduced. The second technique of having a slightly longer exhale will relax you, as more carbon dioxide is produced and the amount of oxygen intake is still constant. I try to take 3 minutes of breathwork in a calming way at work every couple of hours; part of the things I practice that improves my health while at work.
5. Share with others who also have similar experiences to yours.
Acute Pain is not chronic pain. People who have not experienced the effects of chronic pain, either in the own or loved one’s life, can not really understand. There is a stigma attached to chronic pain that some other diseases do not carry. We are often told our pain is imaginary or is the sign of mental illness. The stigma is a kind of badge of courage we chronic pain sufferers wear. We, and only we, can really understand what we go through. It is therefore strongly encouraged that you find and utilize a chronic pain support group. I am lucky, the hospital in the city I live in has a full pain management program, with classes and access to thing like biofeedback and Feldenkrais movement classes, among other things. Local hospitals are a good place to start looking for a support group. I am also a member of a 12 Step group, that has also taught me some helpful tools, though not specifically targeting chronic pain management, have none the less proved useful tools.
6. Try nutrition and eating that reduces pain ( inflammation )
There are anti inflammatory diets on the internet or available from your doctor. It is highly useful to access your own diet in regards to chronic pain. The major dietary recommendation for patients with chronic pain is to eat protein foods with each meal and to not eat or drink carbohydrates without eating protein at the same time. There are also foods to avoid and foods that can be added that can help. Seek the advice of your doctor or a licensed nutritionist. If you have other complicating medical or other issues, let them know this information as well, as some foods, and herbs can be toxic in certain circumstances.
7. Enjoy life
Have some fun, whatever that means to you. Go karaoke with friends. Write a poem. Try not to sit in your pain, find a way to enjoy yourself in spite of it!
8. Use movement, physical therapy , and exercise as appropriate, but do it.
There are many modalities of movement practices that could be useful to you. Explore them and practice at least one. Myself I practice Feldenkrais movement and I walk for exercise. I am about to add warm pool movement/exercise classes twice a week as well.
9. Try biofeedback, acupuncture and other alternative treatments including energy work.
Alternative therapy encompasses a variety of disciplines, including acupuncture, guided imagery, chiropractic treatment, yoga, hypnosis, biofeedback, aromatherapy, relaxation, herbal remedies, massage and many others.
In the past decade, strong evidence has been gathered for the benefits of mind-body therapies, acupuncture, and some nutritional supplements for treating pain. Other alternative therapies such as massage, chiropractic therapies, therapeutic touch, certain herbal therapies, and dietary approaches have the potential to alleviate pain in some cases.
10. Be Intuitive
You are your own best advocate. You know best. Trust your intuition when it comes to your health care. You may “know” things intuitively about your body and its reactions to pain and your responses to it than a clinician can. Follow others advice only after checking in with yourself. This is, after all, all about you. A pain management treatment plan that doesn’t have your own input will be hard to follow. One in which you participate in creating, guided by both science and intuition, will serve you best.