Temporary pain is something we have all experienced when we were sick or had an injury to our body. The good news is that when we recovered the pain left us too. But there is another type of pain called chronic pain that many people live with on a daily basis. In the U.S. there are over one hundred million people who suffer with chronic pain, which is more than diabetes, cancer and heart disease combined.
Chronic pain is more complex than temporary pain and involves biological, psychological and emotional factors that often produce stressful feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety and hopelessness. Medical treatment for chronic pain should address the physical, psychological and emotional aspects of pain to be effective. Below are ten ways to treat and manage chronic pain.
- Deep breathing and meditation techniques can help alleviate some chronic pain. Taking a class to get started and learn the basics is a good idea, but you can do it alone if you choose to. Deep breathing is a relaxation technique that is easy to do. Find a quiet spot to sit and get in a comfortable position. Try to block out all distracting thoughts and concentrate on the area just below your navel. Breathe in through your nose and allow the air to fill your abdomen. Hold the air in for a count of three and then let it out through your mouth. As you breathe out you will feel your body begin to relax.
- Learn how to reduce stress in your life and the feelings associated with stress. Feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety and depression can all intensify the body’s sensitivity to pain. Try to rid your mind of all negative thoughts and emotions. Listen to calming, relaxation music that helps you unwind and relax. Try mental imagery (guided imagery), which is a technique that brings your attention to a calm and peaceful place.
- Exercise is a great stress reliever and it increases endorphins, which are brain chemicals that block pain signals and improve your mood. Exercise also strengthens the muscles to help prevent injury and pain. It will also help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce heart disease. If you have medical problems, ask your physician what exercises are appropriate for you.
- Avoid alcohol, which can cause sleep problems or make them worse. Your overall health will be better, which is an advantage to managing pain, if you do not drink.
- You may want to join a support group to meet other people who struggle with chronic pain. Sharing ideas and techniques to cope with pain will benefit everyone and it also gives you an opportunity to socialize. Talking to a mental health counselor about coping with your pain is another good choice.
- Tobacco can worsen chronic pain so it is best to avoid it.
- Massage therapy is quite effective in managing pain. Massage works in several ways and it triggers the release of opioids, which are natural pain blockers in the brain. It also increases blood flow to sore, stiff muscles and joints, which causes them to relax. Massage therapy is well known as an effective treatment for back pain and can also ease the adverse symptoms of cancer such as nausea, anxiety and pain.
- Biofeedback therapy can help manage pain by training a patient to control physiological processes such as heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension. These processes can be manipulated at will by the patient after they learn specific relaxation and mental exercises. Biofeedback is used to treat chronic pain, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), high blood pressure, migraine and tension headache, urinary incontinence and more.
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