In part 1 of our blog post on skills to cope with chronic pain, we talked about the skills of understanding, acceptance and calming, in part 2 we discussed balancing and in this post we are going to cover the fifth skill – coping.
THE FIFTH SKILL: Coping
That is, having tips, techniques, and plans to use when the pain is bad. You need more than just taking pain medication at these times.
Distraction & visualisation
It sounds simple but creating a distraction from your pain can be really effective. Distraction can include knitting, painting, colouring, pottery etc. Watching television, playing video games, reading a book or listening to music can be a form of distraction. Visualisation is also a powerful tool. You focus your attention on any specific non-painful part of the body and alter the sensation in your mind, for example, imagine your hand warming up. This will take the mind away from focusing on the source of your pain.
Physical therapy including massage does not only have to be saved for when you are in pain. Having maintenance sessions will help regulate your pain levels. However during a flare-up pain can be relieved and your hypersensitivity reduced through therapy. There are many aspects to physical therapy treatment and how it can help manage your chronic pain.
The importance of physical activity when living with chronic pain cannot be overstated. Gentle exercise, as difficult as it may sound, should be a central part of your treatment plan. Exercise keeps stiff joints lubricated and muscles strong. It’s good for your mental and general health and helps maintain a good body weight. Get advice from your physical therapist about what activities you can do. Walking, swimming, gentle strength training, yoga and Pilates are all good ideas, even chair yoga could be an option if the thought of getting up off the floor is challenging.
Certain foods have anti inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties which can be a natural way of reducing pain and promoting cellular health. A healthy diet will also help with weight control as your activity levels may be less than in the past. A combination of good eating habits and exercise will help manage your weight and make you feel better about yourself which in turn may help you coping with the pain more easily.
Change of Scenery
Even if you are not feeling up to it, getting out of the house, getting fresh air, walking around the block, doing an errand or anything that takes you into a different environment can help reduce your pain.
Until you join a support group you won’t realise how helpful it can be to spend time with others like you in chronic pain. It’s extremely helpful to know you are not alone, it may be a relief to be able to talk with others who “get it” and who know what you are going through. Sharing stories, ideas, concerns, frustrations, and hearing the same from others can be helpful.
Ask for Help
This may be one of the hardest things to accept and do. Know your limitations and get assistance when you can, trying to do something you know is hard will affect you later that day or evening. It may be simple like asking for a chair if you have been standing at a party for too long, or consider using a wheelchair when at the supermarket or airport. Or simply getting someone to help with chores at home occasionally.
This may include acupuncture, hypnosis or Reiki for example. You may not know what works for you until you try it.
Pain management is often interpreted like a 3-legged stool. The legs being interventions, (including specific coping techniques, yoga, physical therapy, and exercise for example), medication and counselling. Without all three legs the stool will fall. As you learn to pace your activities, reach goals, relax, and find ways to cope with pain, you will begin to see the bigger picture, that pain does not have to be at the centre of your life.
At the Putney Clinic, we run regular yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi classes which are a great way to start exercising gently and building strength. No membership is required and anyone can drop in to these classes. Click on the class timetable link to view the class schedule and to book online.
To find out more, do check out the Putney Clinic’s Osteopathy Services, Physiotherapy Services and Massage Services, contact us on 020 8789 3881 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your needs and find out how we can be of help.