Ways to Manage Chronic Pain

If you suffer from chronic pain and are looking for ways to manage your pain without the use of medication, you may want to consider some alternative treatments. All pain begins in the brain, and the region of the brain where the pain is felt is connected to the same pathways that regulate emotions. This connection suggests that physical pain may be associated with emotional pain. Therefore, it may be possible to retrain your brain through non-pharmacological approaches. As always, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any new treatment. The following is a list of practices that have been shown to be effective in managing chronic pain. You may want to try incorporating one or two at a time to see if they work for you.

People with chronic pain used to be told to stay off their feet, but now the general recommendation is to stay active and exercise. However, physical activity should not be strenuous, and if you are in pain, you should stop immediately. A good place to start is with a slow, gentle exercise program such as Tai Chi or yoga. Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art that incorporates gentle exercise movements and deep breathing. To join one of our classes or to learn more about the health benefits of Tai Chi click here.

Attend a chronic pain self-management workshop. MSU Extension offers a free six-week series that is the Chronic Pain Self-Management Program. This program is for adults living with chronic pain and their family caregivers. The program provides information and techniques to help you address the challenges associated with managing chronic pain. Developing a personal action plan each week is a key component to achieving your goals. The course explores a variety of self-management tools, such as communicating with healthcare professionals, managing medications, and reducing stress. This type of program gives you the opportunity to meet people in similar situations and gain confidence in managing your pain.

Practice relaxation techniques/mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the present moment with intention. While you may think that focusing on the pain sensations themselves would make things worse, instead, it provides a path to pain relief that is different from traditional interventions that try to stop the pain immediately. You can enroll in a variety of mindfulness classes through MSU Extension here.

Explore the wonders of nature. Being in nature can help relieve pain, calm the senses and provide a relaxing environment. A variety of health benefits can be gained by simply connecting with the earth.

Develop a consistent sleep routine. Research indicates that poor sleep habits can lead to increased pain intensity. Some general recommendations for good sleep hygiene include getting up and going to bed at the same time, exercising daily, and avoiding caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and electronic devices several hours before bedtime. Listening to guided imagery can be an excellent way to fall asleep or get back to sleep according to this tip from Optimistic Mommy.

These non-traditional techniques will not necessarily eliminate your pain completely, but they can help reduce it and, in turn, improve your overall well-being. By changing your mindset to be open to new treatments, you can regain control of your life.

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