So many of us are living with pain, every day, sometimes every moment of every day. We may have our calendar stuffed full of appointments- doctors, physiotherapist, remedial massage, acupuncture, chiropractor, surgeons…. Anything that could offer you some relief, even just temporarily.
In some cases there just isn’t a permanent solution, all that can be done is manage the pain as best you can. There are is without a doubt a huge mental toll that comes with living with chronic pain, but how well you cope can depend on a number of factors, and there are strategies to help you make the most of your day despite your pain.
1: Start your day the best you can
If you can think back to the last time you had a really terrible nights sleep, or didn’t get much sleep at all, you probably noticed that you were much more sensitive the next day, small inconveniences felt like huge problems, tasks for that day felt a little more overwhelming, and it felt a bit more like the world was against you.
Now think (if you can) of the last time you had a really great nights sleep, woke up feeling refreshed, full of energy. Little inconveniences were dealt with quickly and without a fuss, and so didn’t have the snowball effect that comes with procrastinating on dealing with problems. You felt like you could take on the world. You had a happy buzz all morning, and a positive attitude all round.
Of course, in a perfect world, we would all like to wake up with the second option. The issue with chronic pain is that it can affect sleep, and part of this may be out of your control. What is in your control is your sleep habits and environment.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, limiting screen time in the hour before bed, installing block out blinds or heavy curtains to ensure the room stays dark, controlling the temperature in your room, investing in a high quality mattress and comfortable linen, using a white noise machine to drown out noise. All little things that can improve the quality of your sleep as much as possible.
2: Manage your pain
Did you know that stress increases the intensity of pain you feel? Finding ways to manage stress- whether this is literally reducing the number of stressful events in your day, or being able to better manage stress when it does occur through strategies like deep breathing, meditation, gentle exercise, or creating an action plan to handle a problem.
Another strategy- especially if you find that you are turning to pain medication more and more- is to take advantage of the natural pain relief that comes from endorphins, which of course result from exercise. The rule of thumb is that you want to aim for at least 25 mins of moderate intensity exercise in a form that you can manage. If you think you aren’t able to exercise, the majority of the time a PT of exercise physiologist can tailor an exercise plan for you working around your pain and injuries.
And finally, some conservative natural options for pain relief include the use of heat packs, deep heat creams, or ice packs, gentle stretching, massage, distraction, or TENS machines.
3: Watch your thoughts
Literally. Observe your thoughts. When you notice a negative, or pessimistic thought, take notice. Then reframe this thought into a less negative thought.
As an example: Your negative thought “I’m always in pain, I can’t do anything, I’m just useless”
Reframe this thought to “There are ways that I can reduce my pain, even through my pain I am valuable because I can still do….”
This may not feel true to you at first, especially if you really strongly believe the original thought, but the thing is… the more you correct yourself, and change a thought to a positive one, the more you start to believe it. Your brain will do what you train it to do with enough repetition.
Lastly, one of the main triggers that increases joint pain is pressure, and the more extra weight you are carrying the more pressure is on your joints. Our OnTrack experts are highly trained in working with individuals with existing injuries, pain, or limitations, and have helped hundreds of people of all shapes, sizes and ages to lose weight and keep it off.