Self-Care: Top Tips for Chronic Pain Relief

Sep 02, 2018 by Bethel Swift, in Self-Care
Do you suffer from a chronic pain condition? I have a few in my back pocket (where they typically refuse to stay) so here are some of my go-to techniques for managing pain.

Tip #1 - De-stress

Look for any and all places where you can de-stress. Thinking about reducing stress in your life overall can be overwhelming in itself, so just think short-term at first: one hour, one day, one weekend, at a time. If you need to cancel plans, do. If you need to drop or skip an activity, make it happen. Strip down to just what you need to keep yourself employed and with a roof over your head, and food in your stomach. Tell those closest to you that you'll need to be a bit selfish for a while. Loved ones should understand.

Tip #2 - Rest

This may seem like an obvious tip, but truthfully, it can be the most difficult one to follow. We all have goals and aspirations and a dose of chronic pain can send those careening off course. If you are anything like me, your natural reaction may be to try to power through instead of power nap. I can honestly say, though, that when I do give in to my body's needs, whatever flare I am going through dies down much sooner than if I don't. So, even if you can't actually sleep, try to rest as much as possible - and don't judge your body for needing extra rest to restore itself to 100 percent.

Tip #3 - Hydrate

This is an easy one to forget even when you are feeling well. (I almost neglected to include it in this post!) The human body is made up mostly of water, so it stands to reason that agua is pretty key to the restorative process. While it is be best to avoid caffeinated or carbonated drinks, tea is a particularly soothing option. Some of my personal favorites/brands are: peppermint (Pukka), Bronchial Wellness Blend (gaia), STAY WELL Blend (Bigelow) Ginger/Turmeric Blend (Trader Joe's) and Holy Basil (Alvita) which is amazing for stress relief (blend with peppermint for better taste.

Tip #4 - Eliminate

I struggle hard with this one, but it really is best to eliminate sugar from your diet when you are in pain (chocolate is especially dangerous for me). In general, to the best of your ability, avoid inflammatory foods period. There are a variety of sources (naturally saying a variety of different things) about which foods cause or increase inflammation but dairy, and fatty/red/processed meats tend to be on most lists. Try to also avoid additives such as food coloring and preservatives which may prolong pain spells. And here's one you likely won't hear elsewhere: keeping the precautions above in mind, I say, go ahead and indulge in the comfort of carbs. Yup, I said it. When all you can think about is how much pain you are in and what you can't eat or drink (alcohol is typically not a great idea - especially if you are taking pain pills), turning to safe, anti-inflammatory, not-overly-processed, calming carbs is A-OK in my book. (And you can tell your nutritionist I said so.)*

Tip #5 - Move

This one comes with a caution to not overdo it, but a long - or even short - walk at a palatable pace can be helpful. Throw in some headphones and listen to some good music or call a friend (even invite them if you are up to it) and just talk. It might be too much to drag yourself to PT or a Yoga class on high-level pain days but there are a number of videos online that you can do at home. Just type "Yoga for ------ pain" into YouTube and find one that works for you. Make sure to move at your own pace - not worrying about making the exact shapes - but modifying and adapting the moves to "find what feels good" as Adriene Mishler (of Yoga With Adriene) reminds us on her YT channel.

Tip #6 - Combine

I have had great success combining Eastern and Western medicine approaches to combat my little variety pack of problems. Personally, I LOVE the mental benefits of acupuncture and the physical benefits of cupping and hands-on massage therapy (when I can afford it) and wherever possible using vitamins, supplements, and herbs instead of pills. That said, prescriptions also play an important and shame-free role in chronic pain management so I am grateful to have them.

Tip #7 - Heat/Ice

When in pain, we want to be warm and comfortable so, ice really isn't an instinctive choice. However, in inflammatory situations, sometimes ice does more good than heat. Try ten minutes on, ten minutes off, or wrapping the ice/ice pack in a thin towel. If you are opposed to ice, heat is another great option but do please use caution as it is easy to go too long with heat and end up causing more harm. (Been there done that, with a wearable heating pad for cramps. I know my #endosisters can relate!)

Tip #8 - Connect

Pain can be isolating. Especially if you have to cancel plans or reduce activities to honor your body's needs, the temptation to curl up in a ball and be alone all day can be fierce. Instead, see if you can let someone trustworthy into your world. Humans crave connection so even if you don't have the energy to meet up in person, a phone call with a friend can be just what the doctor ordered to take one's mind off of pain. Hearing about what's going on in another's life and sharing about what is going on in yours is healing in its own way.

Tip #9 - Engage

Engage your senses with pleasant sights, smells, sounds, etc. Go ahead and binge on Netflix after work (if you make it in), or play some comforting or upbeat music - your call. Diffuse calming oils. Take a bath (or skip showering). Frankly, just acknowledge your body's distress call and reassure yourself that you will take care of you.

Tip #10 - Express

I am a huge fan of gratitude journaling and it is incredibly effective for helping me not to emotionally spiral when I'm in pain. Regular journaling is also a great way to relieve stress that intensifies our pain. If writing isn't your thing, try coloring, painting, singing along to Ed Sheeran's latest - or whatever your jam is. Don't expect perfection and don't limit yourself: a) by thinking you need to create something happy or uplifting - go ahead and let your dark side out! b) by saying you "aren't artistic" - you are! We are all born creators and everybody has something to say so don't stress, express!

*I am not a medical professional and you should, of course, consult your doctor before trying any new course of treatment or activity. The tips offered above are a generic overview of some things that have worked for me in relieving chronic pain. Also, this is not a sponsored post. I receive no compensation or discounts for noting the brands I like and use.

photo courtesy PublicDomainPictures / 17917 via pixabay