Chronic pain is long-term pain that lasts for at least three months. This is a debilitating condition that can have a big impact on your life. If you are bedridden one day but feel better the next, it can be hard to understand and explain to others. Many people feel angry and frustrated if pain prevents them from doing routine tasks or enjoyable activities.
There are many methods of treating chronic pain and different techniques are practised around the world. Possible treatments include over-the-counter and prescription medicines, relaxation techniques for the body or mind and acupuncture (when fine needles are placed at specific points in the body). Some people find pain relief by using a combination of treatment options.
Dr Sarang Puranik, Consultant in Pain Management at Parkside Private Hospital, explains five of the best ways to manage chronic pain.
It is possible to prevent many chronic pain issues by starting regular physiotherapy exercises with a qualified physiotherapist. For example, muscle and joint stiffness can make your pain worse. When you have learnt exercises to reduce stiffness and tips to keep active, you can practise them at home. You can then gradually increase your level of activity every day.
The Physiotherapy Department at Parkside has a rehabilitation gym, specialist treatment area with five private cubicles and large hydrotherapy pool. You can read more about the physiotherapy treatments available here.
- Regular exercise
Regular exercise is an important part of managing your pain. Gentle exercises, such as yoga, Pilates and walking, help to keep your muscles and joints active. The NHS has a list of suggestions for easy, low-impact exercises. You can try to include any of these activities in your weekly routine.
If you do regular exercise, your body releases more natural chemicals called endorphins. They can help to control pain and give you a sense of wellbeing. Deep breathing exercises can also help to relax your body and ease your pain.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation, where you focus on the present moment without judgement. The process makes you aware of what is happening inside and outside your body moment by moment. You learn to notice your body sensations just as they are without struggling against them or being overwhelmed by negative thoughts. This skill can help you to cope with chronic pain.
In recent years, mindfulness has become more popular. Anyone can practise this self-help technique anywhere. It is now commonly used as part of chronic pain management.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy. It can help you to manage problems by changing the way that you think and behave.
Negative feelings, such as anger, helplessness, fear, anxiety and stress, can make your body more sensitive to pain. CBT can include various techniques to help you deal with the emotions of living with chronic pain:
- Biofeedback: This is when you are connected to electronic devices that give you information about how your body works. You can then learn new ways to control your body, such as relaxing any tense muscles to reduce pain.
- Goal setting: If you have chronic pain, you may avoid doing certain activities. Goal setting helps you identify what you would like to do and plan a realistic way of achieving it. This can give you more sense of control.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy: If you learn to cope with pain, you can limit the control that it has on your life. This therapy encourages you to ‘accept’ your condition and ‘commit’ to living with it as well as possible.
By controlling your mood and stress levels, you can manage your pain better. If possible, it is important to continue working or keep your mind busy with other activities.
Living with chronic pain is emotionally challenging. We do not currently have specialist pain psychologists at Parkside, but can give you useful tips on coping with pain. If you need any mental health support, you should make a GP appointment or contact another organisation for help. There are also various useful online resources, such as the Moodjuice chronic pain self-help guide.
- Early treatment of pain
If you have acute pain after surgery or an injury, getting the best possible early treatment could prevent this pain from becoming persistent (chronic). There are many treatments, such as medicines and injections, to help manage your discomfort. You can ask your GP or specialist pain medicine doctors, including our experienced team at Parkside, to explain the treatment options.
About Dr Sarang Puranik, Consultant in Pain Management
Dr Sarang Puranik has a specialist interest in chronic pain management. To make an appointment with Dr Puranik at Parkside Private Hospital, please call 020 3944 0568 or complete this form online.