by Pam Smith
You step out of bed in the morning, and you feel it immediately: those all too familiar aches and pains that have plagued you for years. For some of us, it’s a creaky, aching back, or throbbing knees. For others, it’s stabbing pain shooting up from the heels, or a burning sensation in the hip.
As we age, our muscles and connective tissues become weaker, less flexible and more prone to injury. We tend to experience more disease and surgery, and our bodies are less able to control, or recover from, painful conditions. All of this will often result in chronic pain.
Chronic pain can disrupt our sleep, make simple movements difficult, and reduce energy. It can impair our work, social, recreational, and household activities. Chronic pain will often have a negative impact on our financial security, and can provoke alcohol or drug abuse.
The good news is that there are proactive steps we can take to minimize the pain that crept into our muscles and joints while we were not paying attention to the calendar. While we cannot eliminate all of our physical ailments, we can certainly try to make improvements upon our condition.
Maintain a healthy weight and stay active
The more our body hurts, the less we move. The less we move, the more likely we are to gain weight. The more weight we gain, the more likely we are to exacerbate existing health issues. It is essential to break this harmful cycle if we wish to minimize our chronic pain.
Reduce stress in your life
Negative feelings like anxiety, stress, and anger can increase the body’s sensitivity to pain. By learning to take control of stress, you may find some relief from chronic pain.
Several techniques can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. Listening to soothing, calming music can lift your mood — and make living with chronic pain more bearable. There are even specially designed relaxation tapes or CDs for this. Mental imagery relaxation (also called guided imagery) can help you feel peaceful.
Cigarettes can impair healing and have been identified as a risk factor in the development of many diseases including degenerative disc disease, a leading cause of low back pain.
Stretch and flex pain away
Yoga and Pilates may seem too “out there” to be of any use in dealing with aches and pains, but increasingly exercise physiologists are recommending them. These strength and flexibility exercise regimens add tone and strength to muscles in a way that is totally nonimpact, and their use has become quite commonplace.
Join a support group
When you’re with people who have chronic pain and understand what you’re going through, you feel less alone. You also benefit from their wisdom in coping with the pain. You might also consider meeting with a mental health professional. Anyone can develop depression if they’re living with chronic pain. Getting counseling can help you learn to cope better. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Acupuncture is a treatment based on a belief that fluids flow through channels in our bodies. Caregivers insert very thin needles just under your skin. This is believed to open the channels, allowing fluids to flow better. This treatment may decrease pain and improve healing. Always see a caregiver for acupuncture.
Biofeedback is a special way to control how your body reacts to things like stress or pain. The first step in this training is to use electrodes (wires) to monitor your body responses. These electrodes are placed on different parts of your body, such as your chest. The electrodes are attached to a TV-type monitor which gives a paper tracing of your heart beating. You will learn how to control body changes, such as slowing your heart rate, when you become upset.
This therapy teaches you how to focus inside yourself. The goal of meditation is to help you feel more calm and peaceful.
Keeping yourself informed and educated about your condition can help you maintain a good quality of life while you are living with chronic pain. We suggest you always consult your physician before starting a new routine or therapy. For more helpful information visit: http://www.ampainsoc.org/