According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 76.2 million Americans, or one in every four, will suffer from chronic pain in their lifetimes. Chronic pain is the most common cause of long term disability. Here are some strategies to help prevent and manage chronic pain.
Create a routine including at least 30 minutes of daily exercise to help reduce and prevent pain conditions, stiffness, and fatigue. Your daily schedule could include 5 different types of exercise, which are as follows:
- Stretching: Make sure to stretch any painful muscles and joints through their full range of motion. While stretching, push to the maximum range of motion, but be careful to avoid causing any additional pain.
- Conditioning: The best exercise to reduce and prevent pain is brisk low impact aerobic activity, such as walking. Other low impact exercises include swimming, riding a stationary bike, dancing, or tai chi.
- Strengthening: Light weights and strength training are important for people suffering from myofascial pain, osteoporosis, and arthritis.
- Posture: Perform postural exercises daily because they relieve the muscles and joints from gravity’s strain and help to achieve a balanced and more relaxed posture. Key areas are the jaw: tongue up and teeth apart, and the neck: chest up, shoulders back, and chin in.
- Relaxation: Deep breathing and mindfulness can help relieve muscle tension and lead to better self-awareness.
Eat a healthy healing diet to help reduce chronic pain, and become more aware of what you are putting into your body.
- Read labels: Stay away from foods containing preservatives. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day, eat colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grain products with high fiber, poultry and fish, legumes and nuts, and a low-fat dairy diet to help reduce and prevent inflammation, pain, and obesity.
- Stay away from high sugar foods, and limit your caffeine intake. Sugar actually promotes inflammation and chronic pain. Caffeine can intensify myofascial pain.
Change your lifestyle to achieve better sleep. Getting good sleep can help to reduce your chronic pain.
- Establish a regular sleep routine: practice relaxation, light reading, and a warm bath before getting into bed. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and heavy meals before bed. Also, try not to exercise too close to bedtime.
- Go to sleep in a dark, quiet room. Try to avoid sleeping in front of the television.
- Create and sustain positive relationships. Positive social support can help you to recover from illness and chronic pain. Resolve stress, conflict, and anxiety before going to sleep.
Written in collaboration with Mike Karegeannes PT, MHSc, LAT, MTC, CFC, CCTT, CMTPT, Owner of Freedom Physical Therapy Services.