Sometimes it’s the little things we do or don’t do that sabotage our best efforts to avoid pain. When you’re experiencing pain, it can seem to have a mind of its own. It may come and go at will. It likely takes a toll on your mood and your energy level. It can impact how you go about your everyday activities. You may think you’re doing all you can to keep pain under control, but sometimes even the most conscientious among us can unintentionally undermine our efforts to feel better. Medications can help manage pain symptoms, but there’s more to feeling better than just taking prescription pills. Lifestyle and attitude changes can also be key factors.
Thanks to sound advice from leading pain experts and people living with pain below, we’ve provided 6 activities that can help you soothe your pain and improve your physical, mental and emotional well-being.
1) Challenge yourself to be more physically active
When you’re experiencing pain, getting up and about may likely be the last thing you feel like doing. The idea of working out or going for a run or a bike ride may seem impossible. When you live with chronic pain, it’s likely that you often struggle to engage in physical activity out of fear of making your pain worse. But being sedentary can lead to stiff muscles and joints and cause your muscles and tendons to shorten, and that can lead to secondary sources of pain. In addition, living a sedentary lifestyle increases your risk of putting on weight, a risk that can worsen pain in your weight-bearing joints such as your hips, knees, ankles and feet. It can also cause pain in your neck and back.
Pain Resource Expert Tip: Challenge yourself to engage in some type of regular physical activity even the days when you’re experiencing pain. You can start small and work your way up to more demanding and more frequent activities. Whether it’s taking your dog for a walk, dancing around your house, riding a bike around your block, and/or even walking in place while watching television, engage in an activity that gets your heart pumping and your body moving. Choose activities that you enjoy doing so you’re more likely to stick with them. Build up your momentum to establish a weekly routine.
Challenge yourself, but don’t overexert yourself. If you have arthritis in your joints, for example, swimming or aqua aerobics might work for you; the water’s natural buoyancy reduces impact and helps cushion the joints. Whatever you choose, start at a comfortable pace, take breaks as needed, and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workouts.
2) Express your frustrations
Chronic musculoskeletal pain, especially lower back and neck pain, is often associated with feelings of anger or distress. A recent study at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago found that when people with chronic pain were told to actively suppress their anger during a frustrating task, their feelings became aggravated and pain more severe.