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.
If you’re focused on your pain management, it’s likely that your health care team will suggest keeping your alcohol consumption to a bare minimum. Drinking excessively is linked to increased risk for heart disease and lung disease, among other serious health concerns.
Mistake #5: Doing the wrong exercises
Exercise can help alleviate your pain, but it’s important to use the right moves for your pain. This will help to ensure you don’t put added pressure on your pain points.
For instance, you may want to try out a back pain treatment method that tasks you with doing deadlifts. Most people would follow through with the exercise by using strength from their lower back. But if you struggle with lower back pain, the better option would be to consult a physical therapist and follow the exercise plan she recommends. She may have a variation of the exercise you can try or exercises you can do to work up to deadlifts.
Mistake #6: Taking on too many activities
It’s easy to keep adding tasks to our daily to-do lists and then feel overwhelmed when we realize just how long that list has become. Stuffing multiple tasks into a short period of time can cause undue stress. Trying to tackle each of those tasks can lead to a U-turn on your road to effective pain management. Doesn’t sound fun, right?
Instead, plan your activity schedule in such a way that your body can handle. Allow yourself the time you need to complete tasks and to rest. It may differ from one day to the next, and that’s perfectly fine.
Mistake #7: Smoking
Smoking might be one of the factors that led to your pain. It’s most certainly a habit that makes chronic pain worse.
Oxygen is essential to your entire body. Your lungs help deliver oxygen to your blood. Then, your blood carries nutrients and oxygen throughout your body. When you smoke, you inhale many different chemicals. Over time, your lungs won’t be able to work properly.
Smoking can also:
- damage other organs
- weaken tissues and bones
- make it more difficult for your body to heal
- worsen fatigue
- increase inflammation
Which common mistake in pain management have you made recently?
Tell us what changes you plan to make in the comments!
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Pain management starts and ends with health awareness and dedication. Click here to read more.