Tips for Living with Chronic Pain
Currently, 28 million adults in the UK are living with chronic pain, according to research by The British Pain Society, which is two-fifths of the population.
Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting more than three months or permanently, which doesn’t stop with medication.
I was born with various conditions including Hypermobility Syndrome, which have only in recent years started to cause chronic pain.
Hypermobility caused three spinal discs to move too much during pregnancy, resulting in permanent prolapse and long-term sciatica.
Add in other health problems with my joints, blood and hormones and we have a great combo!
It’s deteriorated to the point of affecting my quality of life, so I’ve been working with medical professionals to find ways to reduce this.
Sadly there are many people with chronic pain who don’t seek support, who miss out on learning the best ways to manage their pain.
I’ve researched ways to manage pain and combined it with medical advice I’ve been given, to create these tips:
It’s assumed that resting helps chronic pain, but this can actually make it worse.
Years ago the treatment for chronic pain was bed rest, but doctors have since found movement provides better pain relief.
My pain management specialist likes to use the phrase “motion is lotion” because movement is a medicine.
It encourages blood flow, strengthens the bones and muscles, and helps avoid stiffening which inactivity brings.
Gentle exercise like walking, swimming and stationary exercise bikes can be great for keeping the body moving safely.
If mobility is an issue, seated stretches, tai chi and Pilates are great alternatives to keep moving safely, and are all done on a chair or bed.
Doing things like exercise, chores and other daily life activities can cause more pain if done too much.
On good days I would overdo it by doing chores or exercise for too long, meaning I’d spend days in increased pain afterwards.
This is a tricky cycle that’s so easy to fall into.
Occupational therapists advised me to try pacing, where you time yourself doing tasks and at what point they become painful.
You then create a time limit to do these tasks which is long before the point of pain, to avoid increased pain.
This ensures you can remain achieving things, but without causing days of extra pain as a consequence.
Motivate the Mind
According to the NHS, keeping the mind busy by things like work, can help distract from the pain.
Research has found people who leave work due to pain can become depressed and become less active, which increases pain.
If the job’s too difficult physically, talk to HR, who can look at making adaptations to help you work more comfortably.
Alternatively, look into studying adult courses to change career to something more suited to your health.
If work’s not an option, adult learning’s great for motivating the mind and keeping you stimulated.
It’s also great for socialising and minimising mental health issues like depression when caused by isolation.
If education isn’t appealing, finding hobbies that involve meeting other people can also help.
Hobbies could includes arts and crafts, writing, walking clubs and cookery to name just a few.
Working with physiotherapists and occupational therapists has helped me a lot.
They’ve given me exercises to strengthen core areas, and identified ways I can adapt my daily routine to manage the pain.
This has included an assessment of how I move around my home, to make adaptations to promote my independence.
I have a rail around my toilet, a bed rail and a raised bed, which has made a huge difference.
I’ve been given advice for ways I can complete chores that minimise risk of trapping my nerves.
Age UK Mobility offer advice and sell useful equipment to help people maintain their independence, walk-in baths and showers.
An added bonus is that buying through their service supports Age UK’s charitable work too.
If my conditions deteriorate I will get larger adaptations to my home if it benefits my daily life.
Use Your Mind
Medication can only do so much with minimising pain, so combining this with other techniques can be more effective.
It’s becoming recognised that our brains can learn to cope with pain through things like meditation and mindfulness.
The NHS now offer a course called Pathway Through Pain using mind techniques to help with persistent pain.
Mindfulness is learning to be present in the moment, which involves paying attention to your body and how it feels.
It’s harder than it sounds, but is great for helping to reduce physical and emotional tension.
Meditations can be brilliant for chronic pain, and I use YouTube for mindfulness-based meditations to help with mine.
Support & Resources
The NHS has a helpful article on ways to manage chronic pain which includes self-help tips.
Pain UK has a database of places you can go to for support on their website too.
Pain Relief Foundation
The Pain Relief Foundation have a useful section of PDFs offering advice about managing various chronic pain conditions.
If you have any other useful tips to manage living with chronic pain, please add them to the comments below.
This is a collaborative post.