Tips for Managing Chronic Pain
September 21 2021
7 Ideas to Help Your Patients Manage Chronic Pain
According to studies, at least 3 out of 10 people in the US experience chronic pain, which is pain that lasts 3 months or longer. This pain can be life altering and gets in the way of daily activities. Chronic pain has many causes, including injury, illness or even prolonged emotional, social or physical stress. It’s important to remember that this pain is real and not “all in the head.” Also, pain may not always be caused by a worn out or broken body part. It can also be caused by the brain misreading signals sent by the body.
Suffering from chronic pain without receiving good treatment can lead to the worsening of pain through stress, depression, anxiety, isolation and even fear. This means managing chronic pain is key in improving the overall quality of your patient’s life.
Exercise and Physical Therapy
1 Getting in some mild or light exercise can help reduce pain through strengthening muscles. It also releases endorphins, which can improve your mood and block pain signals. A patient’s health condition may limit the exercise they can do, so be sure that you work with the patient’s doctor and physical therapist for a healthy exercise and stretching regimen that works for them.
2 Stress can increase pain so help your patient manage their stress by leading them through relaxation techniques. This can be deep breathing exercises or meditation. These techniques help relieve tension in muscles and can soothe a racing mind. This also allows the patient to be more present in the moment and be better able to listen to what their body is telling them. When they better understand the symptoms they are currently experiencing, they can communicate those symptoms better, which leads to improved care.
Eating a Healthy Diet
3 Eating a healthy diet full of nutrients is key to a healthy lifestyle. Be sure that the diet is tailored to each individual patient’s needs. As a general rule of thumb, cutting back on alcohol can improve a person’s quality of life as well as eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy.
Getting Good Sleep
4 While we sleep, our body gets a lot done to help heal itself! In fact, the body releases a particular chemical during sleep that helps reduce inflammation, which can lead to increased pain. This means that poor sleep can worsen pain. Educate your patient on good sleep hygiene, such as starting a calming nighttime routine. This should include cutting out screen time before bed, as the blue light from smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs can mess with our circadian rhythms. For those that continue to have difficulty falling or staying asleep, a doctor may prescribe over-the-counter or prescription medications.
5 There are plenty of medications out there to help with chronic pain. Many of these medications are maintenance medications, meaning that even if the patient feels better, they should continue to take their medications. Encourage your patient to take their medications so they can continue to feel the benefits from them.
Dealing with Feelings of Isolation and Depression
6 Feeling crummy all of the time can limit what you can do each day and lead to depression. Keep your patient engaged and help them continue to connect with loved ones, whether that is arranging social visits or phone calls. If your patient is experiencing more concerning signs of depression, be sure to work with your medical team to get them the counseling and other treatments (like medications) they need to help improve their mental health.
7 Some other considerations for managing chronic pain include:
- Helping the patient to quit smoking
- Helping the patient to learn their limitations and to pace themselves (doing too much can cause an increase in pain, and even cause damage to the body)
- Helping the patient to maintain a positive outlook on life (this may be difficult when you are experiencing pain day in and day out, however the power of positive thinking can help lift spirits considerably; encourage your patient to make a list of the little things they are grateful for to help them maintain a positive outlook)
- Helping the patient join a support group (talking with others who understand what you are going through helps you feel less alone; help your patient reach out to a support group if needed)
- Encouraging the patient to keep a pain journal that tracks their daily symptoms (this can help with early diagnosis and treatment of new issues)
- Using massage and other tools to reduce pain (this doesn’t have to be calling in a massage therapist, but can be as simple as helping the patient get a tool that will provide massage, such as an electronic massager; other tools can be over-the-counter pain creams and patches)
Helping your patient to manage their chronic pain can increase their quality of life. Treating and managing chronic pain is life long in many cases and requires dedication to a routine. With encouragement and education in conjunction with treatment, hopefully your patient will see a reduction in pain that lifts their spirits and encourages them to continue with their pain management routine.