This post was written by Catherine Sallaz, therapist, PPG – Pain Management.
From a slight discomfort to excruciating agony, pain can significantly interfere with your life. Whether mild, moderate or severe, you should not ignore your pain. Discomfort is a signal, much like an alarm or warning from your nerves to your brain that there could be something wrong and it is time to see your physician. When you ignore your pain, it can become chronic, negatively impacting your life, limiting your activities, and your ability to work.
There are treatments your pain management professional can help facilitate to relieve your pain, as well as methods you can try at home to find out what gives you relief. Try the following suggestions in conjunction with the recommendations from your physician to find the most effective combination for you.
Sleep. Pain can make it difficult to fall asleep or to stay asleep, and not getting enough sleep can make the pain worse. Practicing good sleep hygiene such as maintaining a regular bedtime and wake up schedule, not having sugar or caffeine within three hours of going to sleep, keeping your bedroom free of technology, and using your bed only for sleep and sex can enable you to get a full night of uninterrupted sleep.
Dietary Changes. Red wine and cheese can trigger migraines, and other foods, such as fatty meats and milk, are known to worsen the pain that comes with inflammation. Keep a food diary to see if any foods increase your pain. Once you identify these foods, cut them out of your diet to see if your symptoms improve.
Activity. Inactivity can worsen pain. Strength training with weights or resistance bands has been known to reduce pain as effectively as medication for arthritis or back pain. Exercise can also improve your balance and flexibility. Start slow, with short distances and walk to release endorphins which are natural pain killers. Yoga and stretching can help reduce tight muscles and decrease stress. You can access classes online as well as in person. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy as well, which can teach you movements that will directly target the areas of concern and help you to heal. Make it your goal to engage in activity five times a week for 30 minutes at a time.
Therapy. Talk with a mental health professional to identify life stressors that may be contributing to your pain. Ask for strategies such as deep breathing, meditation, systematic relaxation and visualization that you can learn and incorporate into your daily schedule. Discuss ways to distract yourself from the pain while keeping your motivation when it may feel that you have no control over the discomfort.
Other strategies that have been found to help include acupuncture, biofeedback, massage and supplements. Though you may not feel like socializing, it is important to continue to make contact with family and friends, as there may be a tendency by some to self-isolate when experiencing pain.
Accepting, managing and working to heal your pain can take time and effort, but pain reduction will have a positive impact and will allow you to resume your usual activities and live your best life.