How Self-Help Can Reduce Your Pain and Improve Your Life

A diagnosis of chronic pain can leave you
feeling helpless. You might feel like you’re at the mercy of your body, with
little you can do about it outside of the doctor’s office. While conventional
treatments like medication and physical therapy are an important part of any
chronic pain management plan, there’s also a lot you can do at home to minimize
your pain and improve your life.

If conventional treatments have been working
for you, you might wonder why you should bother with at-home remedies at all.
However, while many people rely on pharmaceutical treatments to ease their
everyday pain, these therapies come with significant drawbacks:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or
    NSAIDS, include common over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, aspirin,
    and naproxen. When taken regularly, NSAIDs can lead to ulcers, kidney damage,
    and high blood pressure, among other side effects.
  • Acetaminophen, which includes Tylenol, is a
    non-aspirin pain reliever. It relieves pain but doesn’t reduce inflammation.
    While it’s considered one of the safest over-the-counter pain relievers for long-term use,
    there is a risk of liver damage.
  • Opioid painkillers, like hydrocodone,
    oxycodone, and tramadol, can be effective at treating certain kinds of chronic
    pain. However, they also carry a risk of dependence and addiction, especially
    if taking more than prescribed or continuing medication when it’s no longer
    needed. Patients must be diligent about following their doctor’s instructions
    and staying aware of the warning signs of a prescription
    drug problem.

While you don’t need to rule out medication
completely if it’s effective for you, it shouldn’t be the first line of defense
in a pain management strategy. Instead, focus on creating a lifestyle that
minimizes your pain. What that looks like will differ from person to person,
but there are a few key areas every chronic pain sufferer should consider:

  1. Diet: While research into the connection between nutrition and chronic pain is still in its infancy, there’s evidence to support the idea that diet contributes to inflammation & pain, as well as diseases like obesity and diabetes that may be comorbid with chronic pain. Furthermore, bad bacteria harbored in your gut can cause inflammation. Cutting out processed foods &reducing meat consumption in favor of a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fiber, and essential fatty acids could ease pain symptoms over time. You can reduce inflammation & improve your gut health by eating foods that are rich in probiotics—yogurt & sauerkraut—and prebiotics—bananas & raw garlic—all of which contain good bacteria for your gut.
  2. Exercise: It’s hard to exercise when you’re in pain, and some days it’s downright impossible. However, despite the temporary relief of rest, inactivity makes symptoms worse over time. Chronic pain sufferers should incorporate a mix of cardiovascular, strength-building, and range-of-motion exercise into their fitness plan in order to improve the body’s strength and function and relieve pain symptoms. Review any fitness regimen with your doctor to prevent accidental injury.
  3. Sleep: Pain affects your ability to sleep well, and poor sleep aggravates your pain, creating a vicious cycle that devastates your well-being. Upgrade your mattress and pillows to minimize pain (pillows for back pain are available online for $19.87), incorporate practices like meditation and breathing exercises into your bedtime routine, and practice good sleep hygiene to maximize the quality of your rest.
  4. Home: If everyday tasks around the house aggravate your chronic pain, it’s time to change that. Locate frequently used items in places you don’t have to stoop or reach to access, rearrange so you can meet most of your needs on the ground level, and invest in remodeling to add home features that make life more convenient, like an entry ramp or arthritis-friendly hardware. You can hire a local handyman if you need help with these projects.

Living with chronic pain doesn’t have to mean suffering in silence. Take an active role in your own pain management by talking with your doctor and physical therapist about what you can do at home to relieve symptoms and pursue a pain-free life. In Toms River, this will generally cost between $208 and $656, depending on the amount of work that needs to be done.   

Image via Unsplash

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