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How to take control of your pain

Most of us experience pain from time to time, but for one in five Australians, it doesn’t go away. Chronic pain is a complex experience, which is influenced by physical, psychological, and social factors.

In many cases there may be no cure for chronic pain, however appropriate management can lead to much better health outcomes.

The first step to when dealing with chronic pain is finding a supportive and understanding GP, they will be your primary point of contact for your pain condition.

In collaboration with you, your GP can develop a Chronic Disease Management Plan. and if you have associated mental health issues, you can also access help through a Mental Health Treatment Plan. Your GP may also recommend consulting a specialist or help you put together a multi-disciplinary health professionals’ team such as physio, pain specialists, physiologists and so forth.

However, evidence shows that one of the most effective ways to deal with your pain is your own self-management. When people take control over their pain, they feel empowered and able to resume normal activities—or even learn something new.

Self-management is the best way to improve your level of activity, reduce disability and keep pain to a minimum.

The below three steps are very important when you start to take control of your own pain.

  • Accept the pain. Accept that it is unlikely to disappear but recognise that you can do things to minimise its impact on your life and reduce the severity of the pain.

  • Change the way you think about pain.

  • Pace yourself.

There are also many other therapies and strategies that can help manage chronic pain which is what I want to focus on here.

Everyone is different, so try it for yourself and see what works best for you.

Acupuncture

According to the World Health Organisation, acupuncture can be used to treat neurological pain, musculoskeletal pain and many types of sporting injuries.

Complementary medicines

These can be used in conjunction with or instead of traditional medical treatment. There is some evidence to suggest it can help with the management of chronic pain for some people. Chinese medicine practitioners, naturopaths and herbalists will help you find out more.

Diet

Dietary changes can influence pain symptoms. Maintaining a healthy weight can improve some chronic pain conditions, particularly for people with osteoarthritis or other musculoskeletal pain. For others, a diet that reduces inflammation in the body can help with pain relief. Some also find a low-gluten diet helpful.

Meditation and relaxation

These techniques can help calm the mind and body. When muscles are relaxed, there is less pressure on nerves and body tissues, and this provides a natural form of pain relief.

Hydrotherapy

This can be very useful in treating many different types pain conditions. A hydrotherapy pool is heated to around 35 degrees Celsius which allows you to fully relax. Increased

buoyancy allows for greater ease of movement and exercise than is permitted on land. Increased temperature and hydrostatic pressure, enhance circulation and flexibility and decreases swelling. Even regular baths in epsom Salts can be of great benefit to relaxing your muscles and easing body tension.

Massage

Massage can ease pain by increasing blood flow to sore, stiff joints and muscles and by speeding up the flow of oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes muscles and reduces stress and anxiety.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage

A type of remedial massage used to increase circulation of all body fluids including lymphatic, blood, interstitial, cerebrospinal and synovial fluids. Activation of these fluids helps to reroute stagnant fluids that cause swelling. And by moving stagnant or excess fluid from the tissue spaces pressure is relieved from the nervous system. Regular

lymphatic drainage can, in some cases dramatically reduce and prevent both pain and muscle spasms. LMD also activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for down-regulation of the body which has a dramatic effect on heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion as well as state of mind. Activation of this system can help diminish sympathetic response - fight or flight- encouraging a more relaxed and comfortable state of being. This can be helpful when dealing with anxiety, depression or stress which often goes hand in hand with pain.

Mindfulness

A special kind of awareness. It is achieved by learning to become aware of all your thoughts, feelings and body sensations in each moment, including pain. It involves learning to accept all of this without reacting to it and therefore becoming less overwhelmed by it.

Music and Literacy

Listening to music and reading - Research has found that listening to music and reading literature can lower pain intensity and improve overall wellbeing. Music can reduce anxiety, fear, depression, pain-related distress and blood pressure, while literature can trigger pain-free memories and send new pain-free messages to the body.

Sleep

A good night’s rest will help you cope with pain. While it may be difficult to achieve, there are things that can help. If you are having problems sleeping, try implementing a bedtime ritual, and keep your bedroom peaceful and relaxing. Meditation and mindfulness can also help.

Yoga

Yoga can reduce symptoms of pain, build confidence and provide physical activity, meditation and an opportunity for self-care.

TENs Machines

TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It is a drug-free therapy that can be helpful in reducing many types of pain. The pain-relieving benefits of TENS therapy are comparable to massage, acupuncture, heat packs, over-the-counter analgesics and muscle relaxants.

There are many more techniques that can help you with chronic pain, the above are just a few.

As someone who suffers from chronic pain due to autoimmune disease, I have gone through the cycle of using opioid pain relief and more traditional medicine to help control symptoms and pain. I still use heavy duty medications to control my illness such as steroids and methotrexate but over the past 18 months I have taken more control of my health and pain and explored some of the above options.

In my experience I have found the following to be the most supportive of my mind and body.

  • Having a very supportive GP and other specialists

  • My own personal TENs machine (which I got from Aldi for $40)

  • Yoga

  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage

  • Reiki

  • Listening to music (having a sing off at home whilst vacuuming can be very cathartic!)

  • Reading books

  • Dietary changes including removing inflammatory foods such as diary

  • Getting good sleep

  • Hydrotherapy (including Epsom salt baths at least twice a week)

  • Meditation and Mindfulness– I am currently using the app Insight Timer which has thousands of free guided meditations and also music to listen to).

But most of all, I feel that since I took control of my own health and pain, I am in a much better frame of mind to manage what happens to my body and to heal myself.

I hope you have found this information interesting - if you have any questions just comment below. If you would like to try Massage or Manual Lymphatic Drainage to help with your pain you can book in for a session with me here.

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