ain is not something anyone wants. Yet, according to the Institute of Medicine,over 100 million adults in the United States suffer from it, comprising 20-30 percent of adults.1 Managing chronic pain isn’t always easy, but you need to know the factors that contribute to this kind of persistent pain. In order to effectively treat chronic pain, you must address the mental, physical, social, and emotional pieces that make up YOU!
No matter what kind of chronic pain you may be dealing with, whether it’s fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, back pain, arthritis, bursitis, or any pain related to chronic illness, here are some ways to help you better understand the root causes of chronic pain and better formulate solutions to gain relief and reduce the intensity of the pain.
Practice Daily Relaxation
Chronic stress and chronic pain go together to challenge the body’s desire for maintaining steady state conditions. They go together hand-in-hand where different types of stressors can impact different facets of the body and compromise well-being. Pain and stress are both adaptive in protecting us from physical injury, starvation, or other states where our body could be at risk for getting hurt. However, the long-term effect on a person’s physiology is the consequence of chronic, repetitive stress.
Pain increases muscle tension. This, in turn, adds pressure to surrounding tissues, which exacerbate pain systemically. For this reason alone, deep breathing can serve to release built up muscle tension and remove the focus away from the pain.
Start by visualizing healing as you inhale through your nose and evoking a mental image of your body releasing any pain as you exhale through your mouth. Re-creating the sensory perception of healing is an important first step toward feeling better when dealing with chronic stress and pain.
Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
What you consume on a daily basis may increase or decrease your inflammatory state. Also, consuming certain foods that are “pro-inflammatory” can trigger inflammation.
Foods to avoid include:
- refined (e.g. candy, cookies, soda, white bread, pasta)
- processed (pre-flavored, pre-packaged foods)
- certain oils (e.g.corn, safflower, soy, peanut)
- red meat
These foods set you up for other chronic conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. The foods that I would recommend, which are not only heart healthy, but also joint healthy include:
- Fruits: including the berries (e.g. strawberries, raspberries, blueberries)
- Cold water fish (e.g. tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc.)
- Leafy green vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, arugula, etc.)
- Whole grains (e.g. oats, wheat, barley, buckwheat, spelt, quinoa, millet, etc.)
- Nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts)
- Seeds (e.g. chia, flax)
- Oils (e.g. extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, avocado oil)
Daily Dose of Laughter
Every time I watch something funny on television or in a movie, it puts everything at ease. Recently, I attended a party where I was sitting next to this one guy who was telling jokes to everyone at our table. Immediately, he put everyone at ease, which made for a great start to a very pleasant night. Research has shown that humor therapy (yes, there is such a thing) relieves chronic pain, enhances happiness and life satisfaction, and reduces loneliness among people with chronic pain.2 You may not consciously realize that your body undergoes healing every time you laugh.
The benefits to laughter include:
- Releases endorphins (a.k.a. “happy hormones”)
- Reduces stress hormones
- Decreases muscle tension
- Elevates immune system
- Natural exercise for your heart, lungs, and muscles
- Enhances your intake of oxygen
- Promotes creativity
- Improves overall health
Seek Professional Help
Depression plays a significant role in chronic pain. Seeking therapy for chronic pain can provide tools to help an individual cope and function. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps provide pain relief for many individuals. I have known people who have treated their chronic pain through this approach in combination with massages, physical therapy, and/or medication and has worked well for them. Consulting with a professional can help educate individuals with chronic pain on the different options available. This level of expertise can help guide their thinking toward pain relief, as they develop further strategies that are best for their situation and how to help with pain management and pain reduction for a better quality of life.
To Pain Relief and Happiness!
- Khan, Talal W., and Farnad Imani. Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Kowsar, Feb. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5554427/.
- Tse, Mimi M. Y., et al. Journal of Aging Research, SAGE-Hindawi Access to Research, 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2989702/ .