Chronic pain is a health condition characterized by a persistent painful sensation lasting over three months, often without apparent cause. The condition is a significant problem in the US, with one health report showing that one in five Americans battles chronic pain.
Although prescription pain medications are available, they can cause undesirable side effects. Second, such drugs may not have potent analgesic (pain-relieving) effects among some patients, creating the need for complementary therapy.
Thankfully, alternative techniques to pharmaceutical pain medications exist. Therefore, keep reading to learn simple lifestyle adjustments and alternative therapies that effectively reduce chronic pain intensity.
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Keep Stress Away
Chronic pain can trigger mental stress causing undesirable stress side effects like insomnia and heightened anxiety. However, one study established a bilateral relationship between chronic pain and stress, meaning stress can also cause chronic pain.
According to the study, mental stress causes hyperalgesia or enhanced pain sensitivity. Although the bilateral causality between the two remains under investigation, the following theories can explain the relationship.
First mental stress induces muscle tension, and tense muscle fibers feature sensitive points or trigger points that cause the entire muscle to ache. Moreover, trigger points can cause other muscles not connected to the aching muscle to experience pain (referred pain). Trigger points and referred pain contribute to a chronic pain disorder called myofascial pain syndrome.
Second, another study established that cortisol, the primary stress hormone, can directly stimulate the peripheral nervous system without the central nervous system. Therefore, cortisol can cause pain even when the pain pathway is inactive.
However, being proactive about keeping your stress levels low can help alleviate stress-induced chronic pain. Participating in stress management interventions like talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy can help. Moreover, consider adding music therapy, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and other stress management practices to your daily routine.
Physical exercise is also an effective chronic pain management tool because it lowers cortisol and other stress hormone levels. Moreover, physical activity also causes the body to release endorphins or feel-good chemicals that the body releases to alleviate physical pain and improve mood.
Third, physical exercise also grows and strengthens muscles and may improve mobility among chronic pain patients. Moderate-intensity physical activity also triggers the release of inflammation mediators and improves their flow to inflamed sites, helping lower inflammation.
However, adopting a fitness routine is easier said than done. Regardless, start small with simple activities like walking and gradually challenge yourself while respecting your body’s limits. You can consult your doctor on the ideal exercise routine for you, especially if you have or have had a severe injury.
Consider Physical Therapy
Physiotherapy is a treatment form administered via physical intervention to help restore or preserve physical function among persons with debilitating injuries or health conditions. It may include exercise-related and non-exercise interventions, depending on your pain. Physiotherapists are the clinical experts who prescribe and administer the treatment and must study anatomy and other disciplines to master the treatment.
According to one study, physiotherapy has clinically relevant improvement in pain relief and mild disability. Therefore, consider booking a session with a physiotherapist for chronic pain relief.
Consider Biofeedback Therapy
Biofeedback is a therapy that entails improved awareness of your body’s physiological activities, including muscle tension, breathing and heart rate levels, and brain waves. The treatment builds on the premise that learning to control such involuntary functions can help you consciously modulate such functions, alleviating health issues like chronic pain.
It begins with training whereby a biofeedback therapist attaches sensors to your body and gradually teaches you how to monitor the physiological changes on a screen. Although the treatment has a low prevalence level, one study on the therapy showed positive short-term and long-term effects on specific chronic pain parameters.
Adopting the lifestyle adjustments and therapies above will go a long way in helping you reclaim your life from chronic pain. However, maintain consistency and track your progress, keeping “pain scores” to establish the most effective chronic pain intervention combinations.