Chronic pain can potentially disrupt your life and devastate your mental and physical health. It can prevent you from getting the much-needed sleep your body needs and cause other disruptions in your life. That’s why it’s vital for you to find ways to help manage your chronic pain and minimize it to improve your overall well-being. If you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans that suffers from chronic pain, we’ll shed light on a few things you can do to take charge and improve your chronic pain condition so that you can live your best life.
What is chronic pain?
According to Johns Hopkins, chronic pain is one of the most expensive health issues in the U.S. and typically lasts more than three months.
The pain you feel could be continuous or have periods of waxing and waning. Chronic pain can also be described as aching, shooting, stiffness, burning, throbbing, or stinging.
Long-term pain often results in costly medical bills for the sufferer, lost wages due to the inability to work, and loss of productivity in many areas of one’s life.
Chronic pain is often due to arthritis, low back pain conditions, cancer, and headaches. But injuries and other health conditions can also put you at risk for daily pain. In some cases, the source of one’s chronic pain can’t be found.
How can chronic pain impact you?
Chronic pain can affect you so that you can’t eat properly, exercise, work, or enjoy life as you should. It has such a powerful impact that it’s one of the top reasons people seek medical care.
Untreated chronic pain can cause you to have a poor quality of life and diminished health because you can’t move well and get oxygen to flow throughout your body properly.
It also can cause you to feel anxious or depressed about your condition and its impacts on your life.
A report by the Centers for Disease Control cites that 20.4 percent, or one in five people, suffer from chronic pain at some point in their lives. But one study showed that the number could be as high as 40%.
People who have chronic pain often become desperate to find ways to help curb their chronic pain.
5 Ways to Help Manage Your Chronic Pain
- Over-the-counter medication.Topical pain ointments and non-prescription medications such as acetaminophen, aspirin, and NSAIDs can help manage chronic pain. However, it’s important to remember that chronic pain occurs for many months or years. And, over the counter pain relievers are not without their risks, including intestinal bleeding, kidney disease, liver failure, and even an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. So, while OTC meds are probably okay from time to time, they’re not always the best option for long-term chronic pain management.
- Prescription medications. When over-the-counter pain medications fail to adequately address chronic pain, many people resort to prescription medications. For instance, some patients are given anticonvulsant medications for nerve pains or muscle relaxers for muscle pain. Unfortunately, many are also given opioids which are highly addictive. A chronic pain sufferer might also be prescribed a sedative to help with insomnia or anxiety or even an antidepressant when chronic pain leads them to become depressed. While some of these medications can prove useful, many people would rather avoid the regular use of prescription medications due to their long-term effects.
- Hot and cold packs. The U.S. Pain Foundation points out that cold and heat therapy is one of the most utilized pain relief measures for people who have chronic pain. They surveyed 1,600 respondents, and 67.8% of them said they used heat at least once a week to help their chronic pain, while 44.9 % said cold therapy did the trick. It’s important to note that cold therapy reduces blood flow while heat therapy increases blood flow. The general rule of thumb is that cold therapy is better for inflamed and swollen joints, while heat therapy is best for stiff and sore muscles. Even though heat and cold therapy might seem harmless, you still need to be careful and take precautions. For instance, if you have poor circulation, you’ll want to avoid cold therapy. If you have an infection where you are hurting, you’ll want to avoid heat because it could help spread the infection. You’ll also want to avoid applying heat or cold packs for longer than 15 minutes or so because too much can make matters worse.
- CBD. CBD or Cannabidiol is fast becoming one of the most common ways health consumers manage their chronic pain. It can help reduce joint pain and muscle aches throughout the body by directly blocking pain signals. Taking CBD for chronic painhelps alleviate chronic pain without the addictive mechanisms that some prescription medications have. You can get CBD edibles, sublingual CBD, topicals, and inhalation CBD through vaping and smoking.
The best part is that CBD is generally well-tolerated by most chronic pain sufferers. However, CBD can interact with some medications, such as blood thinners, so it’s always best to speak with your doctor before taking CBD or medications. You’ll also want to consider the quality of the CBD product you’re considering. All CBD products are not created equally, and some are more effective than others.
- Lifestyle therapies/Alternative treatments. More and more chronic pain patients seek alternative ways to help minimize their chronic pain. These include stress reduction, low-intensity exercises such as yoga, walking, or swimming, an anti-inflammatory diet, physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, and more.