Managing chronic pain

One in five Australians experience chronic pain.

This is pain that does not go away after surgery or treatment and in some cases can exist without any clear reasons.

While medicines can assist in dulling the pain, they also come with their own side-effects like mood change, difficulty concentrating or nausea.

When living with chronic pain, it is important to put your mental health first as pain deeply affects your capacity to work and your overall well-being.

According to Painaustralia, those who live with chronic pain are more likely to have major depression, higher rates of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance misuse.

Alarmingly, suicidal behaviour is two to three times higher than those in the general population.

But there are ways people who live with chronic pain can learn to manage their discomfort.

  1. Daily stretching or walking: helps to keep your muscles conditioned and improve your pain levels. Start small and increase your activity over time in consultation with your physiotherapist.
  2. Pace your activities: Don’t think that because you have woken up feeling good that you can do more and take on the world. By planning rest or stretch breaks and keeping physical activity at an even level throughout the day, you can reduce the risk of flare-ups.
  3. Relaxation: When our muscles are tense, they increase pressure on nerves and tissues, which increases pain. To reduce muscle tension, you can use simple deep-breathing techniques, take yoga or meditation class or learn these techniques to do at home.
  4. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is about learning to accept your thoughts and feelings and being in the present moment. It can help you live with pain. Some smartphone apps that can assist you include calm, headspace and smiling mind.
  5. Learn desensitisation: Desensitisation involves learning not to react to your pain negatively. This retains the way your brain thinks about pain, which can improve the experience of living with pain
  6. Distraction: Turn on your favourite tunes or podcast. Focusing on something else other than the pain, which is pleasant or that you enjoy doing, can assist you to fade away the pain.
  7. Diet and exercise: Maintaining healthy weight can improve the symptoms of chronic pain particularly for those with musculoskeletal or joint pain.
  8. Improve your sleep: A good night’s sleep can help you cope with your pain but sometimes living with chronic pain makes catching some shut-eye difficult. Incorporate a bedtime ritual into your routine and keep your bedroom relaxing and peaceful.
The best thing to do if you want to take charge of your pain management is to discuss the ways forward with your GP or specialist who can assist you in setting up a treatment plan.
 
- Information sourced from Painaustralia – www.painaustralia.org.au
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