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September is Pain Awareness Month. Nearly 8 million Canadians live with chronic pain, which can have a huge impact on a person’s mental health, physical health, and overall quality of life.
If you or a loved one are suffering from chronic pain, it’s important to speak to your health care provider and discuss a treatment plan with them. There are also many non-medical pain management tactics that can help alongside formal treatment. Continue reading for our top five.
1. Add exercise to your routine
Lack of physical activity can make you feel stiff, make your muscles and bones weaker, and make chronic pain worse. However, including physical activity and exercise into your daily routine often releases endorphins, which can improve your mood and even block pain signals. Exercise can help strengthen muscles, which can prevent re-injury of the pain site. And it can also help you lose weight, which can improve pain by reducing pressure on your joints. The best type of exercise for pain management is one that doesn’t put too much strain on your body, such as walking, swimming, using an exercise bike, or yoga. It’s also important that activity becomes a regular part of your routine, not just something you do when you’re feeling up to it.
2. Focus on your mental health
Stress, anxiety, and depression can all make chronic pain worse, and studies have shown that treating these mental health conditions can help reduce pain. If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, speak to your health care provider about treatment options. They may recommend therapy or in certain cases medication. Getting more physical activity can also help with depression and anxiety, as well as helping with the pain itself.
3. Get a good night’s sleep
Poor sleep can often worsen pain, so taking steps to ensure you’re getting a good night’s rest is an important part of your pain management plan. Sleep hygiene is the name for the techniques used to improve sleep. These include:
- Having a set bedtime and wake-up time.
- Winding down before bed by putting down electronics and relaxing with a bath, a book, or some gentle music.
- Making your bedroom an easy place to fall asleep by blocking outside light and sounds, setting a comfortable temperature, and making sure your bed is comfy.
4. Try to distract yourself from the pain
If you live with chronic pain, it may be all you think about and cause you to avoid the activities you used to enjoy. However, those very activities can help distract you from the pain. They can also help improve your mental health and quality of sleep, which both have the knock on effect of reducing pain. Try regularly scheduling in time to connect with friends and family and to do the hobbies you enjoy – and try to encourage yourself to do them even on the days you don’t feel like it.
5. Try out meditation
Increasing evidence shows that meditation often helps with pain management. One study even found that those who meditate were able to reduce their pain by up to 22%. Meditation involves focusing your attention on the present moment and the sensations in the body without judgement. There are a range of different types, including mindfulness meditation, body scanning, and breathwork meditation. If you’re not sure where to start, listening to a guided meditation or using an app such as Headspace can help.
Living with chronic pain can often feel overwhelming and many people feel as though it’s taking over their life. However, these simple lifestyle changes can go a long way to helping you overcome the pain. What’s more, not only are they free, they also come with myriad other health benefits!
The information presented in this blog post is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information in this post as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for professional counseling care. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.