25 Chronic Pain Management Tips

Straight From Our Pain Specialists With Some Help From The Experts (YOU)

The Short Answer –

‘Pain is what makes us human’ – that may be true but so is the determination to lessen any pain and get more pleasure from our lives. Here we take the most comprehensive look at 25 chronic pain management tips that may help you to relieve most types of pain.

Understanding General Pain Management vs Condition-Related Management

Pain is regrettably a fact of life. Many of us will at some point suffer chronic pain in our lives. Depending on how you define chronic pain, it affects anywhere from 20% (US study by the CDC, 2016) to 50% (British Medical Journal, 2016) of the global population.

That’s around 3.5billion people suffering with pain on a more than very occasional basis.

The difference depends on how long you assume pain needs to have lasted before it changes from ‘acute’ (short-term) to ‘chronic’ (longer term) by definition.

Extensive research has shown substantial risk associated with prolonged use of painkillers and, despite great advances in medicine, the very individual nature of pain leaves many of us largely in the dark when it comes to finding the best method of reducing that pain.

Chronic pain management tips can be split in to two types – the general and the specific.

Specific tips sit under specific topics or pain headings on this site – for example tips on how to sleep better at night with lower back pain is under ‘lower back pain’ or tips for coping with rheumatoid arthritis in the hands is under ‘rheumatoid arthritis’.

There are certain treatments/ activities that will almost always make you healthier and less vulnerable to your pain. These are the general pain management tips listed below that can help you with whatever pain you are suffering with.

As the author of this article, I have been collecting tips from the numerous pain management meetings that I have had the privilege of speaking at. I have added these to my clinical knowledge to present a list that I am sure will help you.

25 Tips For Living With Any Form Of Chronic Pain In List Format

  1. Get A Good Nights Sleep
  2. Allow yourself to mourn and be upset (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)
  3. Keep a journal
  4. Plan Your Limits
  5. Activity Pacing
  6. Time Management
  7. Take control of Stress and Avoid Stressful Events
  8. Arrange Distractions
  9. Rest!
  10. Exercise wherever possible
  11. Meditation
  12. Find Out What Helps Your Specific Pain
  13. Educate Yourself
  14. Join A Support Group
  15. Take up a hobby
  16. Practice Self-Care
  17. Adjust Your Diet
  18. Cut Back On Alcohol
  19. Don’t Smoke
  20. Practice Mind Over Matter
  21. Goal Setting
  22. Try a Herbal Remedy
  23. Work With Your Doctor
  24. Learn Bio Feedback
  25. Have A Self-Care Box

Why Not Try Some Of These Techniques At Home – What Have You Got To Lose?

25 Chronic Pain Management Tips (In More Detail)

1.Get A Good Nights Sleep.

The results of a study conducted in late 2017 by the Pain Research and Treatment Journal, showed that about a quarter of chronic pain sufferers also have clinical insomnia (inability to sleep).

Besides leaving you tired and feeling run down, not having a good night’s sleep further intensifies many of the downsides of living with chronic pain including mood swings, depression and is likely to make you more tense, therefore only increasing your pain.

2.Allow Yourself To Mourn And Be Upset (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy).

Coping with chronic pain, especially if it does not have an obvious cure or end-date, can be just as difficult mentally as it is physically. It is likely to mean significant adjustments to your lifestyle and some activities that you can no longer do.

It is important, especially in the early days, to allow yourself to be angry and to allow yourself to feel sad. You are effectively mourning parts of your life that you may have to leave behind.

However, like losing a loved one, eventually we all have to accept that life will continue and that if we are to make the most of the hand we have been dealt, then we have to start looking up.

That’s not saying ‘everything is alright’, it’s just accepting the situation we are in, deciding what we want now and moving forward as best we can.

3.Keep A Journal.

Write down what happened on a good day and what happened on a bad day – is there a link? Plan your activities for days going forward and recognise when you took on too much one day.

4.Plan Your Limits.

It is likely that your chronic pain will slow you down in many ways. What is vital is that you don’t try to continue as normal unless you are really up to it. Don’t plan to have a ‘full day’ if there’s even a chance it will leave you worn out and in much greater pain by the evening.

5.Activity Pacing.

If you do want to do more, try working up to it in small steps. For example, if standing at the sink causes you too much pain, try doing it for just two minutes at a time, then after a week or two if you body seems to be ok with that, try four minutes and so on.

6.Time Management.

Most Chronic Pain gets worse as the day goes on, which may not fit in to your list of priorities. For example, if by 4.30pm you can barely move because you overworked yourself during the day, you might be forced to miss out on quality time with your children before their bedtime.

Using a diary will help with good time management to ensure you are as good as you can be for the most important times of your day.

7.Take Control of Stress and Avoid Stressful Events.

Large events that are out of your control may only exacerbate your pain, partly due to the stress itself physically tensing your body (intensifying your pain) and also due to the mental side of stress that can actually heighten the bodies receptiveness to pain.

It is therefore really important that you plan your days in advance and take out any events that may be too stressful.

8.Arrange Distractions.

Whatever your pain levels, having a distraction can greatly help to take your mind off it. By taking your mind off the pain, it is then effectively reduced as the brain is busy and so less focused on sending you pain massages all the time.

You are also subconsciously less focused on receiving those pain messages. Even something as simple as playing computer games (or writing), engages your brain in other activities.

9.Rest!

This could (and probably should) be tip number one. We are not the only website offering ‘chronic pain management tips’, but it does amaze me how few actually include rest – even though it’s undoubtedly the most important.

Not getting enough rest, not only heightens your feeling of pain, but may easily make the joint more inflamed and the pain worse.

Again plan in your rest time, to make sure that others don’t fill it up for you.

10.Exercise Whenever Possible.

Just as I make point 9 to take regular rest, I’m also going to add the importance of taking regular exercise. This doesn’t need to be overly strenuous and can vary according to the type of pain you are suffering with, but getting regular exercise not only boosts your immune system but it produces endorphins.

These chemical endorphins lock on to the pain receptors in your brain actively reducing your feeling of pain. They can also produce a ‘morphine-esque’ high afterwards. Exercise can be anything from walking to leg raises from a sitting position – it is very much about doing as much as you can manage, even if that is not exactly running a marathon!

11.Meditation.

A perfect, relaxation technique that can be carried out with guidance from the comfort of your own home if you want. Meditation has been proven to increase life focus, improve your mindset and greatly reduce your stress levels.

12.Find Out What Helps Your Specific Pain.

This site is jam packed with great ideas from pain sufferers just like you helping each other on different tricks/ techniques that helped to relieve their pain.

This list is general to all chronic pain – but depending on where your pain is located (lower back/ upper back etc) or the cause of your pain (rheumatoid arthritis/ gout etc), we are trying to build the biggest online source of pain management tips and advice available.

Use it, try different methods. And manage your pain yourself. Not every tip will work for every person because we all respond to pain stimuli differently, but there is a combination out there that is most effective for you.

This will give you the best chance of a pain-life life. It may involve a combination of 10 or more techniques/ practices and some pharmaceutical help on top. But it is out there. It’s up to you to find it.

13.Educate Yourself.

Your pain will (unfortunately) more often than not, be your problem. Doctors will help in achieving a diagnosis and should always be consulted in the first instance to rule out other serious diseases. Pain specialists can also help greatly, but levels of pain are deeply subjective as is your response to various treatment options.

There is no single rule for any of this except that you are the only one that truly knows how your pain is responding to any given treatment.

14.Join A Support Group. 

Maybe you have one locally that you can attend (sometimes organised through your local doctor). Face to face groups are great because they help you to make more friends that live near you.

In addition to that, joining our group as a member and taking part in some of the upcoming discussions/ product trial panels will also keep you abreast of new developments and keep finding fresh ideas to try out until you hit the jackpot.

We also have a private discussion forum coming for members only to offer each other private support.

An image of a pain management support group, receiving a presentation from a local clinician

15.Take Up A Hobby.

Partly this is great as one of the distractions above, but I listed it separately mainly for it’s ‘social’ benefits. Managing with chronic pain, particularly if you have to spend large periods of time at home resting, can leave you suddenly quite isolated.

Keeping a hobby or adopting a new one, even if it is something sedentary such as knitting or chess, helps to keep you positive, reduce the isolation and ensure you still have fun!

16.Practice Self-Care.

This is an overall approach to accepting that your pain is always best understood by yourself and therefore needs to be managed, as best you can, under your own organisation.

17.Adjust Your Diet.

Depending on what has caused your pain in the first place, there are certain food types that may be able to help. Tuna and Mackerel (oily fish) are well known to reduce inflammation around joints particularly in some cases of arthritis.

Similarly, losing weight can also make an obvious difference, since the less strain you put on your body in carrying itself around, the less intense the pain levels are likely to be.

18.Cut Back On Alcohol.

This is a bit of a controversial one, and something we will cover in more detail in a separate study. Using alcohol as a pain reliever has been common ever since the days of cowboys and Indians. A quick slug of whiskey before removing a bullet and so on. Indeed, it’s short-term benefits are almost empirically proven.

However, the risks grow considerably as soon as you start drinking regularly and especially if (as many people have been found to be doing), you start taking pain meds at the same time.

In isolation, the only problem with drinking alcohol is that while it may help you to get to sleep initially, it has been proven to create broken, shallow sleep – much less conducive to a good night of rest.

However, mix an evening drink with your pain meds and you open a whole new can of worms with liver failure and heart disease prominent side effects.

19.Don’t Smoke.

Many smokers actually increase their level of smoking when they have chronic pain, possibly as a mild form of distraction.

Unfortunately, you are mistaken if you do so. Studies found that you are twice as likely to suffer chonic lower back pain if you smoke than if you don’t.

What’s even worse is that the act of smoking, while it may feeling comforting at the time, actually heightens your sense of pain and tempers your bodies response to pain treatments – meaning you have to take even higher doses of painkillers just to get the same effect.

20.Practice Mind Over Matter.

Being positive in all circumstances has been proven to have amazing effects on the body. Oncologists are often very careful with how they present cancer diagnosis – knowing that the more hope they leave a patient with (without openly lying to them of course), the greater the chance of a miracle recovery.

This is not to be confused with the whole range of ‘mindful’ recovery techniques such as the ‘FeldenKrais method’ and the ‘Alexander technique’ that teach you to separate mind from body and find better ways of moving to minimise your pain.

These are also great options for managing with chronic pain, but are more relevant to point 12 about finding pain remedies that work for you.

21.Set Goals.

This is key to maintaining a positive outlook. Always set goals, whether that involves creating a ‘bucket list’ for the year in question (NOT your life as that can be counter-productive!) or on a much smaller level, listing things you want to achieve on a weekly basis.

This way you will always be reminded that your life still has considerable value.

22.Try a Herbal Remedy. 

Again what have you got to lose? We will be looking at herbal remedies for pain relief and trying to break them down after a dedicated Herbal Remedy meeting I’ve got coming up.

23.Work With Your Doctor.

Most doctors will do anything they can to help you control your pain. It is probably the hardest area for a non-specialist doctor to treat, but pain management consultants can also offer an informed view and are worth involving as you move forward managing your pain.

This is particularly important if your pain gets worse or moves as it may be indicative of something else taking hold.

Quite often, early symptoms of side effects to medications are missed because of this – until it too late and live failure or heart disease is the outcome.

24.Learn Bio Feedback. 

Bio Feedback is a technique that helps you identify particular muscles that are in pain and then avoid using them where possible.

25.Have A Self-Care Box. 

Keep a self-care box at hand (maybe one in the car and one at the bedside), with essentials in it should your pain suddenly get worse. This could include a pay-as-you-go mobile phone in case you need help, some extra painkillers and a bottle of water to keep you hydrated.

On top of this you could add anything that you feel might help to be at hand when you suffer a pain episode.

The Final Word –

Hopefully our list of Chronic Pain Management Tips has given you further food for thought. 

Increasingly in today’s health market, time is at a premium with doctors and the onus for self-management falls on you.

There is some logic behind this as well because each individual has different responses to the same pain stimuli. What hurts one person, will potentially have less impact on someone else.

Furthermore, the same is true with treatments – what works for one person wont necessarily be as effective for another. The only answer then is to try various treatments until you find one (or more) that suit you best.

Don’t forget to check out our disease-specific pages via the top menu to get more pain relieving tips and advice provided by people suffering with your condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

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References –

1. Carla E. Zelaya, PhD, James M. Dahlhamer, PhD; Jacqueline W. Lucas, MPH. (2016). Age-Adjusted Percentage* of Adults Aged ≥18 Years Who Were Never in Pain, in Pain Some Days, or in Pain Most Days or Every Day in the Past 6 Months, by Employment Status’ National Health Interview Survey, United States

2. A FayazP CroftR M LangfordL J DonaldsonG T Jones (June 2016). Prevalence of chronic pain in the UK: a systematic review and meta-analysis of population studies. British Medical Journal June 2016.

3. Robert Jank, Alexander Gallee, Markus Boeckle, Sabine Fiegl, and Christoph Pieh. (Dec 2017). Chronic Pain and Sleep Disorders in Primary Care. Pain Research and Treatment.

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