There are only so many ways your health care team can help you with your pain management. Much of your management strategy depends on how well you treat yourself. Let’s look at 7 common mistakes in pain management to help you better understand how to ease your chronic pain.
Remember: daily activities and lifestyle choices can greatly impact your body and your pain levels. Medications, physical therapy and other remedies work better when your choices are focused on a healthy daily routine.
Mistake #1: Holding on to stress
You know that uneasy feeling you get in your chest when you feel nervous or overwhelmed? That is your heart rate increasing due to stress. It tightens your muscles and makes it difficult for you to breathe. This stress can cause anxiety and increase your pain.
Stress also releases the cortisone hormone (stress hormone). This can lead to inflammation in your muscles and add to the pain.
Instead of holding on to your stress, make a list of activities that will help you keep calm. This could include:
- deep breathing exercises/meditation
- learning a new skill
- taking up a new hobby
Participating in activities that give you joy can help you rid your mind and body of stress. This, in turn, can help you manage your pain more effectively.
Mistake #2: Relying on unhealthy food habits
Junk food may taste great and give you certain comforts that other foods don’t. But when you eat too much of it, it can also leave your body without the nutrients it needs to function efficiently.
Relying on unhealthy food options – be it from restaurants or from home-cooked meals – can lead to a myriad of health concerns that impact chronic pain, including inflammation. Focusing your daily diet on nutrient-dense meals can help to decrease pain levels and to prevent health complications from pain and poor diet choices.
Mistake #3: Maintaining a hyper-focus on your pain
Think of a time when you were busy with work or a project close to your heart. Were you able to tune out your pain while you focused on other activities? That’s the thing about our brain: it can largely focus only on one thing.
Asking your brain to stop thinking about your pain won’t work. This will only make you more focused on the pain and may even make your body believe the pain is getting worse. Instead, distract yourself at any opportunity you can with work, hobbies, time with family and friends or other fun activities.
Distraction is different from ignoring your pain. It’s allowing your brain and your body to have much needed recovery time so that you can devote time to activities you love and manage your pain more effectively. You may try distraction techniques such as:
- reading a book or listening to music
- participating in your favorite hobby
- challenging yourself to more physical activity
- going outside to appreciate nature
- watching your favorite movie and playing a new video game
- calling a friend to chat (but not about your pain)
Mistake #4: Abusing alcohol
Some say alcohol can help us heal from emotional pain. But that line of thinking may lead some of us to substance abuse, not pain relief.