How to Reduce Chronic Pain

These suggestions may reduce pain and improve the quality of your life. These are general, common-sense suggestions, not a substitute for professional medical care.

Steps

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    Relax. 50% of pain can be reduced by relaxation. Tension and stress will increase pain. Practice relaxation--it is a learned skill for most people.
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    Breathe. Long, slow and focused breathing helps relaxation and takes attention away from pain.
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    Distract yourself. Use intense stimulation (e.g., loud music) for temporary relief from pain.
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    Absorb yourself in what you enjoy (hobbies, movies, the Internet). Maintain contact with enjoyable people. Spend time interacting with pets (a dog or cat). Don’t allow your life to become a monotonous daily routine; do new and different things every day. Do things for other people. Learn something new every day.
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    Use guided imagery/ meditation/ hypnosis/ biofeedback. Learn about these methods. Get training in self-hypnosis. Practice intense daydreaming. Go to a biofeedback therapist, get training, and buy your own equipment.
    • Meditation is a particularly useful technique that has been shown to reduce pain. In fact, a study has shown that meditating for 20 minutes four times a day reduced pain intensity by 40%, and reduced the unpleasantness of the pain by a whopping 57% [1].
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    Understand medication. Take enough medication, often enough to control YOUR pain. Learn about analgesics (pain medications). Antidepressants should be considered by most chronic pain patients. Be careful about using tranquilizers--they are habit-forming and become less effective over time.
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    Investigate nerve stimulation techniques. Acupuncture, massage, and electrical stimulation through a TENS unit are often helpful. Consult professionals who work in these procedures.
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    Apply ice to a focused area of the body that is in pain. Ice can reduce pain for hours. You can also use ice on contra-lateral side of the body--that is, the opposite side of the body where the pain is experienced (ice the left hand, if you have intense pain in the right hand).
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    Get social support. Don't suffer alone. Go to social events that you enjoy (music, church, political meetings); stay in contact with your family and friends (send everyone a positive email everyday).
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    Care for your mental and spiritual health. Keep your life positive: surround yourself with positive ideas and people. Involve yourself in your religion if that it is important to you. Study psychology and learn about how the mind can be used to control feelings and perceptions.
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    Educate yourself about YOUR physical and medical health. Train yourself to be the best expert about your health. Learn about any disease that you have and stay current on treatment developments.
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    Eat regular healthy meals, exercise, get enough sleep. Don't indulge in excesses such as tobacco, too much alcohol or over-eating.
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    Find appropriate health care providers. It may be very helpful to consult with a physician who specializes in pain management. If such a specialist is not available in your community, consult with an anesthesiologist. Also consult with a physical therapist, a health psychologist, or a nurse who specializes in pain treatment. Have you considered an acupuncturist or a practitioner of Chinese medicine? Supportive psychotherapy with a health psychologist is sometimes helpful.
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    Avoid people who make you feel bad. Don't stay with the same practitioner if you feel they are discouraged and uninterested in helping you. Health providers are only human, each has their own personal limitations. Don't hesitate to ask for referrals to other experts. Some practitioners do not work well with chronic pain patients--don't let your practitioner get you into a negative thinking.
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    Avoid fads and miracle workers.

Warnings

  • Again, these are common-sense suggestions, not a substitute for professional medical care.

Article Info

Categories: Pain Management and Recovery