We have all struggled with pain at one point or another, whether it is a pounding headache or the consequences of pushing ourselves too hard at the gym. But, eventually it goes away, and all is right with our bodies again. But, for some of us, this pain doesn’t go away-it is a chronic condition that casts a shadow over daily life. Whether it results from an accident that left permanent damage, or a specific health condition, you know all too well how challenging it can be.
The emotional toll can be heavy, which just exacerbates the situation. Even if we can’t get the pain to fully go away, there are several strategies that allow us to cope, and achieve a sense of normalcy in our lives.
Regardless of any strategies you employ, it is crucial you work closely with your doctor, and openly discuss challenges, treatment side effects and any other issues that influence your condition so he can best know how to treat you. If you are not already, it is vital you work with doctors who have specific training in pain management and use a range of treatment, such as the Tucson Pain Institute.
Limit Inflammation through Diet
Inflammation actually serves a positive purpose in our bodies, but when it is constant, it causes all sorts of problems , including triggering, and worsening, the sensation of pain. One of the best ways to control levels is through diet. Some foods we eat are known to cause inflammation, while others have the ability to reduce it.
Let’s start with the bad guys first. Limit your intake of oils high in omega-6 fatty acids. They are not bad inherently, but trigger inflammation when we consume large amounts of them, which is the case in a standard American diet. These oils include sunflower, safflower, soy, corn and mixed vegetable oil.
You also want to limit your intake of refined carbohydrates (white bread and pasta) and sugary foods and drinks. They cause a large spike in insulin, which can trigger inflammation. Saturated fats found in animal products can also cause inflammation
Foods that reduce it include those that contain omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and other fatty fish, flax seed, hemp seed and walnuts. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables too—they are rich in inflammation-fighting antioxidants. Aim for lots of variety.
Stress relief is crucial for managing your condition because this unpleasant experience causes all sorts of changes in the body that can worsen your pain; a poor state of mind can also make sensations seem more intense.
Meditation may be a particularly beneficial tool for a couple of reasons, based on research conducted to examine the effects of this practice on people with chronic pain conditions, such as low back pain and fibromyalgia. First, meditation can affect how the brain functions and it appears to alter the body’s response to pain. Second, it improves our state of mind and perspective. Much of the suffering we feel due to our pain is of the mind, and how we are reacting to what we are feeling. If our state of mind changes, the pain may not feel as intense because we are not getting as absorbed by the feelings, and a more detached perspective makes it seem more bearable.
Make Enjoyment of Life a Priority
Have you ever noticed that your pain doesn’t seem as bad when your mood is lifted, or you are engaged in an activity that brings you some sort of pleasure? It is still there, but it kind of moves to the background. What we focus on sensations, they feel more intense, but when our attention is elsewhere, we experience the pain differently.
One of the best ways to cope with chronic pain is to commit to making your life as great as you can make it. Make your happiness, and activities you enjoy a priority in life. This is not selfish, nor indulgent; it is a treatment that is right up there with your medications or therapies.