Let’s face it: in many ways, managing chronic pain sucks. And there’s a reason for that! Chronic pain is not just painful – it drains the body of nutrients and energy, and can have a massive impact on mental health.
I’m an open book when it comes to my own pain – yes I experience pain regularly, and yes, it can be hard. But as a biz owner, some days I need to pull my shiz together and get on with it. So here are my own tried and tested suggestions for managing chronic pain.
Tips For Managing Chronic Pain
- Consume plenty of anti-inflammatory foods, especially during a flare. I’ve covered this topic before, but anti-inflammatory foods are great for managing chronic pain flares.
- Know your food flares. We all have foods that aren’t so great for us – mine, as someone with Coeliac genes, is gluten. Others you might have include dairy, fructose, FODMAPs or nightshades. If you’re not sure what foods flare you, try keeping a diet and symptom diary for a couple of weeks.
- Aim for nutrient density. When you experience pain, your body will churn through vital nutrients that you need for repair. So find the ways that you can add more nutrients to your daily diet. Smoothies and juices are easy options in the summer. Soups based on bone or veg broth are always handy in winter – we’ll usually have a batch going in the slow cooker.
- Make food easy. There are days that you won’t be ok enough to make healthy, nutritious food – and that’s ok! I have a few backup sources. Firstly, if it’s my turn to cook, I’ll call in a favour from my boyfriend and get him to cook instead. I also have a stash of Thr1ve meals in the freezer. If I know I have a big work week and am feeling less than 100%, I’ll order a box from them.
- Keep up the gentle movement. Whatever movement you can do that doesn’t exacerbate your pain can help you to recover. Movement encourages lymph and blood flow, which means more healing nutrients to the painful area and more waste carried away. I love yoga, walking my doggo and strength training on my good days.
- Make sleep a priority. This means both quantity AND quality. I know when I’m sleep deprived, I’m more likely to experience a pain or symptom flare. To optimise my sleep, I’ll up my magnesium intake (which is a great nutrient for pain!), avoid electronics before bed, and sip on sleep tea blends.
- Be aware of your daily activity. Sometimes there is something small in your day that is flaring you up. For example, my most recent little issue is the position of my car seat! It was a little too far forward, and shifted my hip and back slightly. You might lean one way when you’re sitting down, or rest on one leg when standing. Be aware of the little triggers, and try to adjust them.
- Keep on top of stress management. Stress is a MASSIVE flare for pain and any chronic symptoms. We can’t stop stress – it’s a natural part of life. But we do need to make stress management a priority if we’re managing chronic pain. How you do this is very personal – when I’m stressed, I restrict my work hours, increase my meditation time and spend plenty of time with my dog. Try to find something you can do regularly that lights you up.
- Mind your mindset. It can be easy to feel down when you’re in pain, and that’s ok. But it’s important to recognise that the flare is a temporary situation – you might feel better in a minute, an hour, a day or a week. How we feel and what we’re experiencing keeps on changing. So even if you can’t find the ‘good’ in your experience right now, trust that nothing is forever.
- Don’t stop chasing goals. This has been one that I’ve been slacking on lately, so now it’s time to change it. If you don’t have a goal to chase, you don’t have any real reason to get out of bed. Enthusiasm isn’t just a good feeling – it will flood your body with feel-good chemicals that ease pain. Find goals that can be worked on even if you are having a flare.
- Get you a kickass physical therapist. Ideally, they are experienced in chronic pain. But most importantly, they listen to you and adapt the treatment to your needs. My saviour is Mel from Simple Wellness Myotherapy – she is fascinated by the human body, loves working with people who experience chronic pain, and is able to treat me even when I’m in agony.
- Do the same with a complementary therapist. A good practitioner will always work WITH what your medical team prescribes, not against. And like any prac, it’s essential that you feel heard and understood.
- Find a good GP. I had serious issues with this when I was younger – one tried to send me to a psych because she thought I was a hypochondriac teenager. Turns out I had cancer (oops!). Now I work with Sybilla Fievez, who works from Ferntree Gully and St Kilda. She takes time to listen and support me through any request I have – and as an integrated practitioner, she’s very into natural therapies as a support.
As a disclaimer: yes, these tips work for ME when it comes to managing chronic pain. Some of them may physically reduce pain, and some are focused on changing the perception of pain. But what I need might be completely different to what you need. So give any of these tips a go, and see if you find something that helps – we are our own biggest experiment!