Chronic debilitating pain is real. If you suffer from it, you’ll know that you can’t focus. Maybe you can’t even work. Maybe you went too long ignoring the warning signs and all of a sudden you’re struggling to even get out of bed.
If this sounds like you or someone you know, then you’re likely affected by debilitating pain in a very real way. The title of this post is no secret. You know that when you’re suffering from never ending back pain, body aches, or worse yet the unrelenting agony of nerve pain, that everyone around you suffers too. It affects your entire life, your livelihood, your stress levels, your peers and most of all your family.
The American Pain Society quoted research last year that revealed the shockingly widespread impact of pain on our society. “…nearly 50 million American adults have significant chronic pain or severe pain…”
Statistics are similar in other countries of the western world such as Canada, Australia and the UK. Some suggest that pain is even more prevalent in the third world where work and living conditions are unfavorable to living pain free lives. I’ve witnessed how when pain is dealt with socially, mentally and treated greatly affects outcomes. In other words, early and effective measures to educate and treat pain begins at the onset of painful episodes.
I feel that inappropriate treatments, education and the socialization of pain that can lead to chronic pain behavior is a huge part of the problem.
I don’t mean to be shallow in this article. The issue of chronic pain is very complex. This short article only touches on some of the important truths and myths about dealing with debilitating pain. Fortunately for most, their pain is annoying or severe at times but most often only temporarily debilitating pain.
So how do you pick up the pieces and turn pain around for good?
Managing Chronic Back Pain
I’ve seen over my years as a chiropractor that with time and the person applies the right expert techniques they can often work to drastically reduce or eliminate chronic back pain. But I won’t suggest that it will happen overnight. In the meantime, while you work on incorporating the work described in this article, here are a few excellent methods for managing many causes of existing pain.
These methods will help you take more control of your pain and find some normalcy in your daily life. These suggestions are merely that. I hope that something in this article might help you get back to doing the work that’s important to you and focusing less on the difficulties you’ve been experiencing.
Massage therapy has been shown to be extremely useful in treating chronic pain. Benefits can last long after a treatment, showing that it’s not so much the relaxation that gives maximum value but the physical improvement in the person.
In a study that reviewed massage therapy’s role in treating chronic pain the researchers showed,
“The benefit obtained from massage exceeded that achieved from relaxation, education or acupuncture. However, the beneficial effects may be less than that provided by spinal manipulation (chiropractic adjustments) or TENS.”
Which brings up the next suggestion.
As a chiropractor, I see the benefits people experience every single day. Chiropractic treatment is more than just spinal manipulation. In traditional chiropractic practice like what i subscribe to, it’s holistic. Everything is taken into consideration and it’s a very natural practice. Depending on your personal needs and experiences you’ll get a different action plan.
There’s no doubt that chiropractic treatment is beneficial for those experiencing chronic pain. Many studies show the direct benefits and this study showed that chiropractic can reduce perceived pain and severity of low back pain.
Conscious relaxation techniques
Learning to focus on life beyond the pain is an important tool for coping. Focusing on our breathing, our life force, is essential to modulating pain. The breath is a powerful tool for relaxation. Focus on breathing can bring your attention to the present moment. It takes your attention away from how you wish you felt.
Eastern practices and culture has a lot to teach us about pain. The practice of watching one’s breath is a foundation to the technique for cultivating mindfulness in life. The next time you feel a surge of pain, frustration and even anger, STOP, drop and breathe. Okay, don’t drop. But drop out of the mental state of anxiety and try to drop into a space of awareness.
When chronic pain is at it’s worst is when mindfulness needs to be incorporated. It’s actually very helpful to lay down and breathe deeply into each area of your body. This is a conscious relaxation practice called Yoga Nidra. There are plenty of videos on YouTube that can guide you through a Yoga Nidra session. It’s incredibly easy and will help you cultivate habits that will enable you to go into deeper states of relaxation with ease.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, moving the body is essential for pain management. Getting your health back is the goal. I know it’s the last thing anyone in pain wants to do is to expend a lot of effort. But this is exactly why it’s important to start slowly with low impact activities like walking, swimming and gentle yoga.
By simply moving your body in whichever ways you can you get things moving. Your lymphatics and blood flow move through your body more efficiently, your circulation can improve and you can feel better because gentle exercise releases all those feel good hormones we love so much.
You know us humans love stats, we love measurements and seeing the physical what’s going on in the invisible world. Biofeedback quite literally proves to us the power of our mind to change our bodies.
Hooked up to a measurement device with a qualified practitioner, the aim of biofeedback is to control our pain or our somewhat unconscious responses by attuning our breathing and consciously relaxing. It helps us tame the fight or flight response of our sympathetic nervous systems which in turn can help with pain management.
Perhaps more commonly known as TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), electrotherapy is primarily used on nerve related pain conditions. It works by preventing pain signals from reaching the brain and stimulates the body to produce more of our natural pain relievers, endorphins. TENS can have a temporary pain relieving effect when used appropriately. See your therapist for professional guidance for the use of TENS and all other self-help pain modalities.
Having a support system is vital for coping with chronic pain of any sort. It can be a very lonely experience to be in consistent pain and not have anyone to relate to. Family might disregard the severity or implications of chronic pain if it’s a long-term challenge. Educating your loved ones on what it’s like to deal with chronic pain and ask them to compassionately support you on your journey to healing is an essential part of an effective pain management strategy.
There are plenty of support and counseling groups for people suffering from chronic and debilitating pain. You can find more information by doing a quick search. If you’re in Canada you can look for resources here.
Getting Your Life and Energy Back
There are two things that greatly exacerbate chronic back pain: inflammation and stress. Inflammation may be controlled or reduced with an anti-inflammatory diet. Diet plus nutritional and food supplements can also affect how much inflammation your body experiences.
Eliminating excessive stress is a mental and emotional practice. When you get these two factors under control, you may find more freedom and healthy potential for yourself.
Dealing with Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation related to lifestyle choices is all too common. The SAD (Standard American Diet) creates a breeding ground for illness as it breeds chronic inflammation. In fact inflammation has been blamed as the root cause of most chronic disease. So with this understanding, controlling inflammation can control chronic pain.
The fundamental lifestyle changes that most people need do to reduce inflammation are:
- Reduce stress
- Eat clean whole foods and avoid excesses of omega-6 fatty acids abundant in vegetable oils and canola oil. Instead, incorporate healthy fats from omega-3 rich sources like wild fatty fish and balanced saturated fats from coconut oil and organic butter, extra virgin olive oil and natural fat sources like avocado.
- Eat plenty of pesticide-free leafy green vegetables to reduce acidity in the body.
- Incorporate plenty of antioxidant rich fruits, berries and colored vegetables as these will help reduce inflammation.
- Eat a veggie-centric diet based on mostly vegetables and decrease the focus on meat and starch meals
Eliminating Chronic Stress
In order to remove chronic stress from your life, you will need to know what it is that stresses you out in the first place. Pinpoint what it is that drains most of your daily energy.
Now focus on what makes you feel good. What activities reduce your stress levels? Incorporate more of those things more abundantly into your life AND on a regular basis.
It’s not selfish to do what makes you happy, especially when your health, happiness, and your loved one’s are at stake.