How to Successfully Manage A New Chronic Pain Diagnosis
If someone you care for has just been diagnosed with a chronic pain condition, it might be comforting to know they’re not alone. Over 100 million Americans live with chronic pain and its associated negative outcomes, such as unemployment and depression. Lower back pain alone is the leading cause of missed work. And chronic pain sufferers are three times more likely to become depressed.
But poor outcomes don’t have to be part of your new normal. Instead, focus on some life-changing strategies that will help you help your patient or family member manage their new condition for a positive outcome.
Chronic Pain and Stress
Put simply, stress exacerbates pain. When the body is responding to stress, muscles go into overdrive, and tense muscles lead to increased pain symptoms.
Solution: Consider massage therapy and supplements to reduce unwanted stress and muscle tension. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, massage has been linked to improvements in all types of pain management scenarios, from post-operative pain to common lower back pain. But the benefits don’t stop there. A regular visit to a reputable masseuse will reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and lower blood pressure.
On the supplement side, look into CBD oil, which comes in a variety of different products — including tinctures, edibles, vape oils, juices, and e-liquids. CBD oil has been shown to reduce anxiety, decrease stress, and help with muscle soreness and inflammation. As you may have noticed, there are tons of different brands on the market right now due to its increasing popularity, so take advantage of buying guides to help you locate the right ones for you.
Chronic Pain and Diet
A 2015 study linked neuroinflammation, or inflammation in the body’s nervous system, to the transmission of pain. These findings were critical in helping understand the importance our body’s inflammation plays in producing pain, and the study provided a critical jumping off point for new groundbreaking pain treatment studies.
Solution: Chronic pain can be better managed by adopting an anti-inflammatory diet and avoiding foods that trigger inflammation like:
- Vegetable Oil
- Refined Flour
- Artificial Sweeteners
- White Bread
- Processed and Traditional Grain-fed Meat
- Trans Fats
- Fried Foods
- Saturated Fats
- Artificial Additives
Chronic Pain and Exercise
People suffering from chronic pain have a tendency toward a sedentary lifestyle as they associate physical exercise with the likelihood of increased pain. Instead, physical activity has been shown to significantly improve pain and its related symptoms. Exercise can help keep joints from stiffening and build strong muscles to support the body better, not to mention reducing the risk of anxiety and depression.
Solution: Start slowly by developing a routine for your patient or loved one, under a doctor’s care and instruction, that incorporates:
- Stretching exercises to increase flexibility and loosen stiff joints and muscles.
- Strength exercises to build strong muscles.
- Cardiovascular exercise like cycling or brisk walking is associated with reduced back and knee pain.
Chronic Pain and Sleep
Chronic pain can lead to poor sleeping habits, and poor sleeping habits can lead to chronic pain, creating a vicious cycle.
Solution: Following these tips for healthy sleep habits:
- Suggest your loved one only go to bed when they’re fully tired.
- Keep the room temperature low to get the best night’s sleep.
- Make sure the pillow isn’t contributing to pain.
- Adding daily exercise will make for easier sleep.
Chronic Pain and Opioid Treatment
If your patient or family member is considering taking an opioid for pain management, it’s important to understand the risk associated with prescription drugs. According to a report issued by the White House’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, 175 Americans are dying of a drug overdose every day, translating to a death toll similar to 9/11 every three weeks.
Solution: When using pain medication long-term, it’s important to take them “by the clock” as prescribed. Many patients attempt to reduce the risk of addiction by cutting back on the medication and allowing the pain to become unbearable, this technique is actually known to backfire. Instead of managing the pain, patients are reminded of how bad the pain became, and the relief that the medication brought can lead to addictive habits.
Chronic pain can be managed. Suggest to your patient or loved one that they start a journal that records their activities and their body’s pain response. By journaling, they’ll have an accurate record to review for determining triggers and which solutions worked best. Also, talk to your loved one’s doctor about finding new methods to handle pain, keeping the risks of medication in mind. Finally, don’t let the diagnosis bring you or the person you’re caring for down. It’s possible to take control, and advocating for good health can work wonders.