Are you struggling with Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, a Rheumatoid condition or Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain?
Managing chronic pain is extremely challenging – having support is vital.
It is important to have support in a couple of areas. Firstly, your home/work life, since this is where you spend most of your time.
Having the support of a health professional is also extremely helpful too. Hopefully you find this article offers you some guidance.
Obviously the above-mentioned conditions can be quite different, however, the strategies to manage these painful conditions can be similar.
Before we get into the main topics of how you can help manage you pain, let me give you some nuggets of lifestyle advice I’ve learned from supporting 100s of chronic pain clients over the years:
- Ups & Downs – I’m sure as you know, recovery/management is never a straight line, there is going to be ups and downs; understanding this and having the tools to help yourself through the downs is very important.
- Habits – Making positive changes is all about habits. Us human beings are habitual creatures. Breaking bad habits takes time, building good ones also does too. But once built it’s hard to break them down.
- Less is more – Most people think they need to make quick, extreme changes. Moving in baby steps is often most effective for most people to make long lasting changes
- Going all in? – If less is more doesn’t suit your personality, going all in with a widespread overhaul to your lifestyle might suit you and work for you. Making sure to keep these long lasting is vital here; remember it’s all about habits!
- Planning – Planning ahead is key to being successful with any type of positive lifestyle changes to help you manage your pain/condition.
- Give yourself some slack – You are a human being. There’s going to be moments of weakness; let yourself stray from your plans or habits every now and then, but don’t let this happen for too long.
The 5 Key Areas To Focus Your Attention On To Influence Your Pain
The Human body is amazingly complex and interconnected. Over the last few decades, scientific research has shown these 5 areas to have significant effects on pain and chronic conditions. Even though your condition could be permanent and/or medically-managed, your lifestyle and behaviour will have a significant effect on how you feel and your pain levels.
These are all interconnected and improving one can improve the others, and vice versa.
Sleep and rest is vital for normal bodily functions. Most of the recovery processes of the body happen at night. Getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep is extremely important. Ideally, keeping a regular sleeping pattern is recommended. It’s all about getting into the habit of a certain bed time & sleep routine.
The challenge for most people here is pain at night affecting their sleep. This is where working on the 4 areas below is vital to reduce your pain levels overall. If you are on prescription pain-killing medication, this could also be taken at night (if medically advised).
2. Nutrition (smoking/alcohol)
What you put into your body matters. Would you expect your car to run well if you put dirty diesel into it? Having a healthy eating habit is imperative. There are so many diets out there but you just need to get these essentials right.
- Eat appropriate-sized portions
- Minimise sugar – beware hidden sugars & non-wholegrains (white bread/pasta etc)
- Minimise processed food
- Eat plenty of vegetables
- Minimise alcohol
- Don’t smoke
If you manage to tick these boxes, you’ll be doing extremely well. Some of the above foods/chemicals are pro-inflammatory, increasing inflammation. Logically we need to minimise these as mentioned above.
Planning is key when trying to eat well. Planning out your meals, buying food in advance and not having poor quality food in the house will help you.
3. Emotional & Mental Stress
We are inherently stressful beings. I’m sure you’ve heard the positive effects of this before – when we are in a stressful state, it enacts our flight or fight response which has a series of chemical reactions in our bodies (to help us run away from that lion etc). However, in today’s modern world, we tend to spend too much time in this state. We spend too much time in the “flight or fight” state (called our sympathetic system) and less in our “rest and digest” state (called our parasympathetic system).
Being in a prolonged state of “flight or fight ” can increase your pain levels and decrease your tolerance to pain. Thus, giving yourself time to relax and get your body into this rest and digest state is extremely important. This can be anything that works for you: meditation, breathing exercises, reading, watching a movie, spending time in nature etc.
Don’t underestimate this one!
Moving frequently is important. Moving for an extended period of time is also important too – this is activity. The most important thing here is to find something you enjoy. But beware not to over do it. Listen to your body. The phrase “no pain, no gain” doesn’t apply here. Everybody’s tolerance level is different and it will even fluctuate quite a bit depending on your behaviour or if you’re currently experiencing a flare up of pain.
Performing a form of cardiovascular exercise that doesn’t irritate your condition will release pain-killing chemicals and also have anti-inflammatory effects in the body. There are various types of activities. It’s just about finding the right fit for you.
It’s important to note here that the right type and duration of activity will be very individualised per person. Getting professional advice on this is very helpful.
Pain is extremely complex and can fluctuate a lot. It is vital to bring the focus to the controllables. By controllables, I mean the previously mentioned 4 points, as well as the lifestyle nuggets above. Your condition may have a significant physiological cause, this may even be genetic. But our genes can be positively affected by our environment and our lifestyles, such as the 4 previous points.
Being aware of all of the above points is crucial. Remaining optimistic, but realistic is also important. As previously mentioned, having adequate support structures is super helpful to keep you on track and help you help yourself.
At APC, we practice with a holistic approach to support our clients. We understand the journey they’re going through has its ups & downs. Our expertise in the human body and can help assess lifestyle issues that may be affecting pain levels (such as nutrition, stress & activity). Treatment techniques are tailored to each individual; it could be a massage, some dry needling, simple stretching exercises, muscle strengthening exercise or even a supervised class.
We are here to support, help and empower.
If you have any questions for us, don’t hesitate to get in touch.