Self Care Do's and Don'ts for Chronic Pain
As a chronic pain sufferer, you've probably discovered a few strategies that make your pain more bearable. Unfortunately, some of these practices could actually be worsening your symptoms. In addition to visiting your chiropractor regularly, following these do's and don'ts will help you manage your pain.
Do Bring on the Heat
Heat, whether from a heating pad, hot tub, or warm bath or shower, offers an effective way to ease muscle pain. Tight muscles and tissues loosen when they're warm. Heat also increases blood flow, reduces stiffness and relieves stress.
Don't Overdo It
It's not easy to change your habits if you're used to working long hours or running marathons every month. Unfortunately, things have to change when you develop chronic pain. Sitting at work for hours strains your joints and cause your muscles and tissues to tighten. Ignoring pain when you exercise can lead to painful flare-ups or even worsen your condition.
Frequent stretching breaks during the day will reduce pain and keep muscles and tissues loose and flexible. Chronic pain doesn't have to prevent you from exercising, but it may mean that you need to choose forms of exercise that are easier on the joints, like walking, swimming or riding a stationary bicycle.
Do Be Aware of Your Triggers
Like most people with chronic pain, you probably have a few triggers that worsen your pain. Sitting in a chair without adequate lumbar support could aggravate your aching back, while using your digital devices might intensify your neck pain. If you know your triggers, you make a few modifications that will prevent painful flare-ups.
A new, ergonomic office chair or lumbar support pillow could reduce or prevent back pain. If neck pain is a problem, hold digital devices at eye level, chose chairs that offer neck support, and take short breaks every hour.
Don't Skimp on Sleep
Without enough sleep, you're bound to feel tense and irritable, which can affect the way you perceive and manage pain. Sleep also offers several important benefits for your body. It's essential for tissue repair, may improve immune system functioning, and is important for learning, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard University.
Do Try Massage
Is massage part of your self-care routine? The hands-on therapy can:
- Relax Tight Muscles and Tissues. Stretching and kneading muscles and tissues offers a simple, effective way to relieve tightness and pain and stop muscle spasms. Whether you receive massages at the chiropractic office or perform them on yourself at home, massage therapy is an excellent addition to your self-care tool kit.
- Improve Range-of-Motion. Tight tissues prevent you from bending, reaching and moving easily. Loosening your tissues with massage enhances flexibility and range of motion. When you're muscles are looser, you may find that your range of motion improves.
- Reduce Stress. Have you noticed that the muscles in your neck, shoulders and upper back tighten when you're stressed? This normal reaction to stress can make your chronic pain feel even worse. Endorphins released during massages relieve pain naturally and help you feel calm and relaxed.
Meditation not only relieves stress but also offers pain relief benefits. The practice reduces pain intensity and unpleasantness, according to a research review published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences in 2016. Since meditation can be performed anywhere, it's an excellent self-care technique.
Don't Rely Solely on Medication
Over-the-counter and prescription medication offers temporary relief of pain and inflammation. Unfortunately, the pain returns as soon as the drug wears off. Medications can also produce unpleasant side effects and may even become addicting in some cases. When you try some of the techniques mentioned here, you may discover that you can take medication less frequently.
Do See Your Chiropractor
Your chiropractor offers treatments designed to keep your pain under control. Whether you've only been in pain a few months or have struggled with chronic pain for years, spinal manipulation, massage, soft tissue mobilization, traction, flexion-distraction, ultrasound and other therapies offer effective relief for many types of chronic pain.
NCBI: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: Mindfulness Meditation-Based Pain Relief: A Mechanized Account, 6/2016
Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard University: Why Do We Sleep, Anyway?
Spine Universe: 15 Ways to Practice Self-Care When You Have Back Pain, 9/29/20
Harvard Health Publishing: Chiropractic Care for Pain Relief, 2/15/21