More than 100 million people in the United States suffer from chronic pain; however, there are ways to feel better, and it may not be what you think.
Firstly, let’s establish some expectations. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or surgery that will take all the pain away. Treating chronic pain requires more than a doctor telling you what to do or how to do it. It requires regular research, investigative measures, and a healthy patient-provider relationship.
Because, for the most part, your life is in your own hands, and it’s up to you to determine what’s working and what isn’t. Doctors and medical practitioners can offer insight, knowledge, and skills training, but they can’t force you to make changes that will make the treatment work.
So, why not start now?
Start with the WHY
Thoughts are powerful tools. If you tell yourself that you’re in pain and you’re using words like “my back pain” or “I have so much pain,” then it sounds like you own the pain. When something is yours, your brain will tell your body to do everything it can to hold onto that.
Instead, try changing it up a little bit. It’ll take some focus and gentle self-reminders, but try changing how you think about pain by removing the “I” and “my” words. Call it “the pain” or “this stiffness.” At the same time, it would be beneficial to start thinking about why you want to be pain-free. Nobody wants to be in pain, but you’ll need something stronger to keep you on track. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you focus your why energy:
- What is something I want to do but can’t because of the pain? Examples include “play with the kids,” “walk my daughter down the aisle,” “help my son move,” or “travel.”
- What is most important in my life, and how does the pain prevent me from enjoying what I love?
- Am I ready to make some serious changes to my lifestyle and diet?
Diet and lifestyle changes aren’t the only answer; however, these healthy changes always pay off. You’ll be able to reach your goals and stay motivated on a difficult health journey.
You may not realize how much behaviors impact chronic pain, especially concerning back pain, knee pain, hip pain, and shoulder pain – the body parts you use most often. Therefore, let’s address some risk factors that you can focus on in the coming weeks.
Risk Factors for Chronic Pain
Smoking (Linked to Back Pain)
Studies show that smoking is one of the risk factors for chronic pain and makes existing chronic pain worse. Regular smokers are three times more likely to get chronic back pain. Furthermore, smoking makes it harder for your body to heal.
Inactivity can lead to muscle disuse syndrome. Weaker muscles require more effort to do simple tasks like taking a shower. Weak muscles can lead to falls and fractures as well. Try doing some light exercises daily, such as walking around the block or gardening.
Studies have linked chronic stress to a lower pain threshold, which means that everything feels a lot worse when you’re under stress. Unfortunately, pain causes more stress, sleep difficulties, and appetite changes, all of which lead to worsened pain. It’s very important to learn stress-coping mechanisms to help you reduce levels. Some ideas include:
- Breathing exercises
- Guided meditation (YouTube is a great place to find these)
- Biofeedback techniques. For example, open the closest book at random and read words from the bottom of the page and go up from right to left. This will help you focus on saying the words, not listening to a story.
- Music therapy
Just one unhealthy meal can lead to pain and inflammation. The human body can’t digest chemicals and preservatives in junk food. We can’t even digest wheat completely!
But, believe it or not, there are some serious pain-fighting foods out there, and they’re usually healthy, like cherries, grapes, salmon, and ginger. Changing your diet will help you in the long-run, and it’s something you can do right now. Start with the basics. Remove all junk food from your pantry and refrigerator.
If you live with people, try talking to them about your goals. Most people are supportive of this kind of change, especially if they know it will help you feel better.
Avoiding the Doctor
Untreated chronic pain will get worse without proper treatment; however, it will take a good doctor to help you find your way. If your doctor is working hard to help you feel better by investigating symptoms and repeatedly updating your treatment plan, don’t repay them by skipping appointments and missing treatments. Instead, make your doctor your partner in health and ask questions, request treatments, and learn more.
Having chronic pain is usually connected to an injury, accident, or disease. Don’t wait for it to get worse. You can start now by reducing some of your risk factors and working closely with your doctor. At OSA, we believe that chronic pain requires multiple techniques like physical therapy exercises, non-invasive procedures, holistic measures, and medicines that will help you avoid going under the knife. Make sure your pain doctor focuses on whole-body care, rather than symptom management.