5 Tips for Living with Chronic Pain

5 Tips for Living with Chronic Pain

Invisible illnesses are often incredibly difficult to live with, and just as often misunderstood or underestimated.

Even though you may already have a combination of physical therapy, medication and other treatments, symptoms can still sometimes act up and make daily tasks more difficult than they need to be.

If you’re looking for a few more tips for an easier life in spite of your chronic pain, here are some to get you started!

Find New Ways to Relax

Stress, anxiety, anger and other negative emotions can increase anyone’s sensitivity to pain, but being someone who suffers from chronic pain symptoms makes it that much more critical to avoid these feelings as much as possible.

There are many ways to relieve stress and promote more calming feelings and emotions, including:

  • Calming music
  • Creative outlets (writing, art, etc.)
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Breathing techniques
  • Aromatherapy

These are just a few ideas, but everyone is different! Experiment and look into new and relaxing ways to bring down your stress levels and you can avoid unnecessary additional sources and causes of pain in your life.

Endorphins Go a Long Way

Taking advantage of nature’s pain killers by boosting your endorphin levels is a great and organic way to relieve your pain symptoms.

Depending on your pain levels, exercise can be something you dread. After all, sore muscles on top of an already aching body? It’s probably hard to sound more counterintuitive than that.

The reason that the term “runner’s high” became popular, though, is because the rush of endorphins can be phenomenal. Not only do endorphins boost your mood, they also block pain signals and ease both the suffering associated with the workout and other sources of pain.

Even if you have to start slowly with short walks or small weights, finding an exercise that you are able to enjoy and work up to can both distract you from the initial pain symptoms and also relieve them overall.

Build a Community

Chronic pain can often seem like a very individual struggle and it can be easy to feel alone or misunderstood by others.

Joining support groups, both online and in person, is one way to strengthen your personal community. They may seem a little cliche or needless at first, but they can really help both in making you feel less alone and in giving you more people to trade ideas and experiences with others in similar situations.

Additionally, you can further strengthen your community by seeing a mental health professional if you find that your pain is impacting your emotional and mental wellbeing. Many cases of depression and anxiety can be linked to chronic conditions, and getting professional help can make it a lot easier to handle.

Cut Back on Substances

Though substances like cigarettes, alcohol and various drugs may be sources of pain relief or enjoyment in your life, they could also be very negatively impacting your health and even worsening your pain overall.

Chris Meyer, a doctor and surgeon with experience in conditions like chronic swelling, stresses the importance of sobriety when handling chronic pain and other persistent illnesses:

“The thing about substances like alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs is that people typically take them as a method of escaping things like pain, so it may seem fair to use them. However, withdrawals can often worsen pain’s endurance and intensity, making it harder to handle whenever you want to be sober. Outlets like smoking can also worsen circulation and lead to even more complications.”

In addition to withdrawal symptoms, drugs and alcohol can worsen things like sleep problems and lead to other diseases like cancer, heart disease or liver disease, things that would definitely not make living with chronic pain any easier.

Keep Busy

Your body may give your schedule some limitations, but it’s important to keep yourself as mentally and physically occupied as you are able.

Distractions may seem like a cheap or ineffective way out, but they can go a lot further than you may realize. Staying in control of your life will give you a chance to focus on things other than your pain.

Plus, even on the worse, less manageable days, leading a more fulfilled life with the activities that make you happy will always boost your morale overall.

In Summary

Chronic pain can make life much more difficult to enjoy, even if you are properly medicated and supervised by a doctor.

Keeping stress down, boosting your endorphin levels naturally, finding support, limiting your substance intake and keeping yourself busy with things you love are great ways to diminish and take your mind off the pain.

For more useful tips and resources from our community, be sure to look through and keep up with our other fantastic articles and posts on chronic pain!

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Authored by: Katherine Lutz

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Jill

Cleveland Clinic will not prescribe pain meds for anyone. Even post op. They have a program they push to teach alternate therapies, yoga. CBT, diet, exercise, ECT. But you need to be off opioids before you can attend. I met with the top doc spine Dr last fall and he restated that surgery won’t help my spine as had six previous doctors over the years. Gotta keep trying, right? He was great and had my complete respect but even if he did agree to surgery I would need to go off Norco prior. Do not think that the high profile medical institutions will help you. They were the first to ban opioids as has Mayo. Having degenerative disease these tips were helpful years ago but that ship has sailed. Can’t imagine anyone on this site hasn’t already tried them.

Rakel

I have found that Wintergreen oil relieves pain, especially when in Emu oil. Tiger Balm cool pain patches are brilliant, no “medication” in them just camphor, eucalyptus , menthol etc but these slow release patches relieve pain for 24 hours. Building muscle in the correct way, however slowly is the permanent way to pain relief even if you have central pain as I do. Endorphins and natural anti I fkammatories are released by exercise. Women post meonopause need to take HRT as without Oestrogen you can’t build any muscle. If you have disturbed sleep dieting won’t work you will lose muscle not fat. Yes I do need my opiates ( not opioids the synthetic ones like hydrocodone, oxynorm Fentanyl etc as they target selective receptors whereas true morphine Sulphate targets all of them). Morphine Sulphate is not a popular choice in the US as it’s very cheap. Luckily as I live in the UK I get my opiates but I feel for you folks who have had yours removed it’s a Human Rights Abuse,

Great tips!

Mayo stopped meds in 2015.

Billie McCurdy

Easier said than done. Don’t use alcohol. That’s a death sentence with pain medication. Now they take you off all medicine that releases endorphins in your body. Do aromatherapy and also bed yoga because I cannot stand on my feet without falling. It’s hard to walk and exercise when you have no strength and your legs. When neuropathy has taken over your whole body including your internal organs. But I still try and use as many organic cures as possible. So far no good no, but will still keep trying. Without organic vegetables and vitamins and different products I don’t think I would be here today.
I have been begging the medical professionals to give me a stand-up Walker instead of one I have to bend over and push. There’s new Walker you slip your arms in and can stand up straight. I can no longer bend over and hold my body up with a handheld Walker because my arms no longer can carry my body. I am trying to save my money so I can order it myself. I am bound and determined not to be in a wheelchair. So I’m trying everything I can.

Katie Olmstead

My greatest way to fight pain is to dance, believe it or not. I dance usually 3 evenings a week (contra dancing and English country dancing). I can only last the evening if I get an excellent endorphin kick. And yes, I pay for it badly afterwards. I dance one night, recover for a day, and then do it again. With my pain from CRPS increasing (I am about to turn 65 and have been in pain for 21 years), it is harder to do this but I know my life is pretty much screwed if/when I have to stop dancing. It is joy, socializing, exercise, and a way to appear normal and sometimes, even feel normal. All my treatments and all my practitioners know that I have to keep dancing. If they don’t get it, I change doctors. I remember one surgeon at the beginning of all this, when I was 44, he blew me off and said I was too old to bother with dancing; take up knitting. Needless to say, I never went back to him. My newest pain specialist is a young doc. I said the same thing to him: I am too young to give up dancing. HIS response was, “of course!” So I keep trying.

Thomas Kidd

All of these things might work for a small amount of people. But after 30+ years of Chronic pain and taking Methadone which works and gives me a symbolince of a normal life. I kept busy until my pain medicine was reduced to the point of mistreatment. Then my doctor expects me to continue paying co-paymets while being caused more suffering! This is insanity! Snake oil medicine doesn’t work. A person must be able to relax but when withdrawal comes on not much relaxing takes place. I am not a criminal and I am supposed to be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act which is law. Many of us will not survive a complete taking off our medicine because of the long time we been on them. I also have Narcolepsy to deal with and reduction of pain medicine has made it worse. Almost 3 years ago I was doing pretty good but I found that I am not important, the Doctors license and paycheck is the driving force behind this insanity. I am prepared to die my sins are forgiven. I pray that all out there are also prepared. God bless you and preserve you until the judgment. Your fellow sufferer. Thomas Kidd.

Susan

Other things that can help chronic pain a little more manageable fall under “lifestyle choices”: for example, a good bed (or recliner) is critical. My poor, pain-ridden husband and I have been sleeping on the same traditional queen-sized box spring/coil mattress we got as a wedding gift…28 years ago. I’ve purchased a fully-adjustable, split-king bed with all the bells and whistles (Casper offers one for half of what TemperPedic or SleepNumber cost), and that will help a lot, I hope.

We’re in the midst of a much-needed remodel, and we’ve kept accessibility, function, comfort, and my DH’s lack of mobility in mind: we designed custom cabinetry around the new bed to suit his needs, had the master bathroom “blocked” for grab-bars all over (even where they’re not currently needed, for later, just in case), and we even designed a fold-down, upholstered “table” that can support his weight so he can rest his upper body while on the commode. We’ve installed dimmers on all the lights (even the bathrooms), and upgraded our electrical to accommodate a therapeutic whirlpool/jacuzzi in the backyard since we got rid of our tub (too hard to get in and out of, and our water heater can’t handle the capacity of a walk-in tub).

None of these accommodations can or should replace reasonable access to opiate pain relief, and I appreciate the expense of it all. However, we all have to have someplace to live. Having not been able to keep up with even basic maintenance on the house for over a decade, we found ourselves in a pickle: cut our losses and move (tempting, but here in Southern California, extremely expensive), or invest in what we already have. Details like well-positioned shower heads, grab bars, and dimmer switches don’t need to cost a fortune, but can go a long way to increase comfort.

God bless.

Maggie King

In the rush to fight the “opioid crisis” hysteria, I have read at least 50 articles similar to this.

At 66, with multiple diagnoses of OA, Fibro, sciatica, neuropathy and a pending diagnosis of an autoimmune disease, AND a finding of “severe impairments” by SSA judge in 2005, I’ve been thru the wringer of complementary or alternative treatments.
My PM Clinic closed last year, and with it my pain meds that would have allowed me to be a part of life.
I advocate for sane pain med policy and joined FB groups etc. I learned breathing, visualization and therapeutic music, my art and writing…it all helps a bit. But dealing with pain unmedicated does stifle my creative urges, and hinder any real level of exercise options available to me. I live on less than $11,000/year.

I endured years of steroid injections, awful harmful side effects of Lyrica, neurontin etc.

CBD OR MM are still illegal, pain clinics in MS are turning away any patients or refuse to RX opioids.
If we don’t receive a brief respite from daily pain, it’s hard to see any light, and easier to see why many have chosen not to continue life or opt to turn to the thriving black market(which few of us could find or afford.)

ElizabethR

With all due respect, most people living with long term pain have already tried a wide variety of approaches, and more “tips” aren’t what we need. I used to be an active, busy person but now I’m 82 and living with chronic pain. There are many things I once did (and enjoyed) that I can no longer do. That’s just a fact. All the “tips” in the world won’t change that, although I still do the best I can.

susan

I am disabled with multiple sclerosis and a fused back. I try to exercise and have a physical therapist come to my home. Seems to be a day to day life I live. Used to be very active and worked 40 to 50 hours a week. Now it’s a different kind of life. Bless all who suffers as well. It’s very hard to do stuff when you can’t walk w/o assistance. Even taking a shower is a major problem. ETC. Thank-you.

Rebecca Hollingsworth

I think all of us have jumped through the same hoops and tried most if not all of the recommended techniques. While they may provide a brief period of relief, it is definitely temporary. Opiods have worked for countless chronic pain sufferers until the government decided what was best for us. Unfortunately constant pain is now the norm and that result doesn’t seem to be changing anytime in the near future. Anyone else tired of the constant pain? I know I am. As I have stated previously, the only thing worse than chronic pain is no relief. Stay strong. It’s going to be a long road ahead.

Cindy

Someone posted below asking if anyone here knows a doctor in Seattle.
There’s no way to reply because this board isnt’ set up for replies.
Please, please, change the setup here and allow people to reply directly to each other.

And, if that person is reading this, no, I’ve never been out west. But —

Maybe see if the Mayo or Cleveland Clinic has an outpost that isn’t too far from you. They both have facilities in Florida — for me would require an overnite trip, but a lot closer than the midwest.

And maybe they could give you names in your area.

I will say that, surprisingly, when I moved from the Boston area to SW Florida, I’ve found doctors who in some cases are much better than what I had up north. But I’ve also had a couple of horrible experiences.

My current pain manager is great, but finally caved in to gov’t pressure and imposed a forced taper against his will. He told me this directly.

Good luck.

I have been suffering for 10 years now – since fibro triggered. I was effectively medicated until late 2017…and then I moved. I have not found a doctor willing to put me back on my meds yet but still hoping. Fortunately, when it gets really bad, the ER does not treat me like a frequent flyer, and I can get at least a few hours of relief. Other than that, you are right – support groups and distractions. I read constantly and I write so staying busy through the written word. Plus, doesn’t blow Disability out of the water writing for a content mill and gives me that extra grocery money at the end of the month where disability always falls short.

If anyone in Reno knows of a good pain management practice, I have the referral just not the doctors. My primary care keeps telling me to take tylenol. Let’s just say that we have had words and she has finally stopped saying that. She does support my using CBD oil in the meantime. Something has to take the edge off, right? I have had fibro for over 10 years but triggered to the point of 24/7 pain 10 years ago. Last year I had the shingles, a bad fall where I sprained my back, and bitten by a black widow spider (fortunately it was a male they say from the symptoms and after-effects) and those three situations launched me into an all new nightmare – RSD/CRPS – that was diagnosed in January after an ER doc took pity on me and hospitalized me for 3 days solely for pain control. I will admit that the three days of morphine really did help. I miss my Percocet though. With it, I was a lot more functional.

Cindy

I can’t say how stunned I am to see a picture here of people playing basketball. People with chronic pain.
Even before my forced taper, I was incredibly limited in activity. Something like going to Target would kick my pain up so that I can’t move at all for days. Now with the forced taper, it’s much worse.
Maybe that’s b/c I have pelvic pain syndrome and not some other problem. For me, moving at all is a problem most of the time. I can’t sit up like a normal person, — or walk much, — or stand up straight for more than a couple of minutes w/o needing to hunch over
I bought a chaise for my living room so I can spend my life in a reclined position — including for eating meals, which frequently gets messy.

I also have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue and other problems.

Before the forced taper, I could go for walks in my neighborhood sometimes. But now, I doubt I’ll ever do that again. Would require extra percocet which I can’t spare.
Right now, my dirty laundry is out of control. My kitchen is overflowing with trash and recycling which I have’t felt well enough to take out in 2 weeks, and my kitchen sink is full of dirty dishes which smell.

So, basketball or any other real activity? I don’t think so.

Gail Honadle

I’ve tried all that [edit], and that is what it is [edit]. Even the smelly creams and compounds have been found to be INEFFECTIVE. Why do people think SNAKE OIL IS A PAIN MED?

Thomas Rogers

I was properly medicated, until I was told that was not my decision anymore!

Sue Blaine

I know that there are doctor’s out there that still believe in helping someone with chronic pain. I live in Seattle, Washington. Does anyone know of a doctor in Seattle that can help me? I do not know how much longer i can go on living like this, far too many medical issues and no help. If i hear one more time that i don’t look sick I’ll scream!

Kathrine, I feel you are correct. I have lost almost all of my muscle in the past nine years. I had surgery December 11th, this is the third one. I feel like this one was successful. I start physical therapy today. I know it will be a slow process but I am determined too build myself back up the slow and correct way. I have no choice but to succeed for I am 63 it’s do it now or slide down until it is too late. I was an offshore boat Captain for for many years as well as my husband that is still working. I was a very active person until 2010, I will become that active person again starting today at 1:00pm.