In honor of national pain month, I would like to discuss something that affects 100 million American adults and certainly many of my readers—chronic pain. It’s something my patients struggle with every day.
Chronic pain is a medical term for “long-lasting” pain that can happen after an injury, on a surgery site, or take place after a disease heals. It even may be more severe or last longer than the actual injury or illness itself. Pain is called chronic once it lasts three months or more.
Those suffering from chronic pain know that the impact is not just physical. It affects all areas of your life—body, mind and spirit. So you and your doctor must look for solutions in all areas of your life that impact your health. You can often lessen symptoms and suffering through a few important actions or lifestyle changes.
One important way to improve chronic pain is by looking inwards. Some methods include:
Journal your pain – Journaling can help you see if there are common threads that may be increasing (or decreasing) the amount of pain you experience.
Try guided imagery – Guided imagery is a kind of meditation that invokes all the senses to help the body address various symptoms.
Practice therapeutic yoga – This specific kind of yoga can impact pain and many other health issues and can increasingly be found within hospitals, clinical settings, or in one-on-one sessions. Make sure to work with a properly trained yoga therapist.
If you suffer from pain from arthritis, headache, muscle pain or even pain from cancer, you may find that a change in diet can fight inflammation and reduce chronic pain. Red meat, certain oils, white bread, and foods with high-fructose corn syrup can increase chronic pain. However, consuming foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and fish may reduce inflammation and pain.
Even vitamins, minerals, oils, and herbs can play a role in chronic pain. But before you buy any supplements, please talk to your doctor to be sure they don’t interact with medications you may be on. Learn more about how diet can impact chronic pain.
Work with Your Doctor
While the previous topics center on methods outside regular health care, it is crucial to keep your doctor in the loop. Here are four important things to remember:
- Communicate with your doctor.
- Know your rights and responsibilities as a patient.
- Make the most of your visits and insurance.
- Connect with those who also suffer from chronic pain.
Combining these steps will create a powerhouse of knowledge that can help control chronic pain. Read more about how to include your doctor in fighting chronic pain.
Finally, for women, chronic pain can be extra difficult because it can be more frequent, longer-lasting, and even more severe than that in men. Women are also more likely to develop painful conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraine headaches and endometriosis, amongst others. Women even respond differently to pain relief medicines. Knowing how to deal with these gender-specific differences can impact how to treat chronic pain. Explore other differences of chronic pain in women versus men.
There are ways to cope with chronic pain through self-care and with proper guidance. Consider trying these methods with the help of your health care team and take advantage of other non-drug approaches such as chiropractic manipulation and acupuncture. Information about these and other resources can be found on my website.
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