7 lifestyle habits to manage pain
1. Always take your pain medications as prescribed
Taking your medications on time and in the right amounts is very important for managing your pain. Avoid yo-yo medicating, and work closely with your doctor to make sure the dose, type, and timing of your medication is safe and effective. Remember that most pain medications do not take your pain away and can become less effective over time. Instead, they are to help you improve functions like sleep and movement so you can better manage your pain actively.
2. Make sleep a priority
Your body repairs itself during sleep. Have you noticed that when your sleep is bad your pain is usually worse? Even small changes to your sleep habits can really help!
- Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.
- Avoid eating three hours before bed.
- Avoid watching TV or looking at a computer/handheld devices 1–2 hours before bed.
- Create a comfortable, soundless, and dark sleeping environment. This includes trying different beds and reclining chairs for comfort. It even means that if your spouse or partner’s snoring keeps you awake, sleep in another room.
- Avoid having the TV or lights on while you sleep.
- Try a mindfulness technique if you are feeling stressed.
- Mobile apps like Sleepio can help you create good sleep habits.
3. Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Nutrients like protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals are important to help your body fight pain. If your diet is not balanced, chances are that your body’s ability to control pain will not be good. A balanced diet consists of:
- Eat 4–6 smaller meals during the day.
- Drink 8–10 8 oz glasses of water per day.
- Include a fresh fruit and vegetable in each meal.
- Have some protein with each meal. This includes meat, nuts, seeds, dairy, and protein powders.
- Good fats fight pain: This includes olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil as well as fish oils high in Omega-3.
- Reduce: Sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and starches like bread and pasta.
- Avoid: All processed foods and fried foods.
- Supplements: A daily multivitamin and krill oil that is high in Omega-3 fats can be beneficial. Check with your doctor before starting any supplements.
4. Use mindfulness tools to manage stress and pain
For many people, when stress increases, pain increases as well. Millions of people use mindfulness tools like meditation to calm the mind, reduce emotional stress, and reduce pain. Here are a few tools to help you get started:
5. Move your body
The term “use it or lose it” is important when talking about movement and pain. For most people with chronic pain, movements like walking, turning, bending, and reaching are painful. When something is painful, we usually avoid it. This creates a cycle of pain and movement issues where movement creates pain which limits movement which creates more pain. So, how do we break the cycle?
- Check with your doctor before starting any type of movement therapy.
- If you sit a lot, get up every 30 minutes and walk around the house gently swinging or shaking your arms. Move slowly and lightly. Set an alarm and turn it into a game.
- Take deep breaths throughout the day to improve circulation and reduce stiffness.
- Find and start a gentle movement class like yoga, tai chi, or water aerobics.
- A free movement program online.
6. Be social
When we hurt, we usually don’t want to be around others. Research has shown that being socially isolated increases our perception of pain, as well as other health issues. It is important to be around others even when we hurt. Here are a few tips to help you be more social:
- Join a chronic pain support group. Here is a list of groups in Jackson County.
- Join a walking meetup. Here are some in Jackson County.
- Have a regularly scheduled visit with friends and family at your home each week.
- Have a regularly scheduled visit with friends and family outside of your home each week.
7. Goal setting
Let’s face it, making changes to our lifestyle is challenging. It takes dedication and consistency, but is usually more than worth the effort. The key to making lasting changes is to use a foolproof goal setting system. Here are some tips used for making and achieving your goals successfully.
- Work on one thing at a time.
- Be very specific.
- Make sure you can measure your progress.
- Make sure the goal is challenging but doable.
- Set a time limit to achieve your goal.
- Tell your goal to your friends and family so they can support you.
Practical Pain Relief is a free web-based program that will take you step-by-step through improving your sleep, stress, diet, and movement. Start your journey to living with less pain today.