September 23, 2009
Simple Techniques Can Help Patients Take Control of Pain Issues
Augusta, GA—When you’re struggling with chronic pain, sometimes it feels like your life is out of your control.
But you can take that control back. “Pain is a tough symptom, particularly chronic pain, and many patients feel their only recourse is chemical interventions,” said Dr. John Nicholson, a physiatrist and pain specialist with the Walton Pain and Headache Center. “However, there are a number of simple things that patients can do to take control and feel better, not just emotionally but also physically. It’s just a matter of taking that first step.”
Exercise is sometimes a catch-22. Some pain sufferers worry that working out will make their pain worse, while others who are feeling good worry about rocking the boat and bringing the pain back.
By working with a physician and physical therapist, pain patients can ease into an exercise routine designed for them and their needs. For example, an aquatic therapy program is gentle on the joints while providing a challenging workout. And as patients gradually grow stronger, they will reap benefits of improved flexibility, movement and posture, as well as higher energy levels. In addition, building strength can actually help decrease pain.
Extra weight puts extra stress on your joints, while an unhealthy diet does little to improve your energy levels or mood.
Your physician can work with you or refer you to a dietitian to help you design an eating plan that will help you lose weight and improve your lifestyle. And while the word “diet” often has negative connotations, think of this instead as a “balance.” Most dietitians say there are no good or bad foods, but everything in moderation. This means a mix of colorful fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, olive oil, even (a little) chocolate. The goal is changing your lifestyle habits to embrace healthy eating and provide your body with the proper fuel it needs to keep you energized.
Proper Sleep Habits
Sleep can sometimes be a vicious cycle. Those with pain or depression related to pain may be unable to sleep, but then lack of sleep can make pain symptoms worse.
Establishing proper sleep habits can help encourage sleep. Some tips include:
- Set up a sleep routine, for example, turning off the TV at least an hour before going to bed, having “quiet time” with a calming book and going to bed at the same time every night.
- Reserve your bedroom for sleeping. Don’t work, worry, study or watch TV.
- Keep a notebook and pen next to your bed so you can jot down thoughts that are keeping you up. Then close the notebook and “put them away.”
- If you can’t sleep, don’t just lay in bed and toss and turn. Get up and do a quiet activity in another room (but don’t watch TV or get on the computer). Then try to lay down again.
Remember, appropriate exercise (complete exercise routines several hours before going to bed) can also help improve your sleep.
Those with pain understand that the effects of pain aren’t solely physical. And just as there needs to be balance in your diet, balance in your life can help you enjoy life more and cope better with pain.
This means not neglecting your overall health, but also not pushing yourself too hard. Pain often leads to stress, which can then lead to depression and anxiety. Simple techniques such as visualization can help you break the bad habit of bad thoughts, and instead help you focus on the positives in your life.
“When you break pain down, it’s physiological, chemical, metabolic, but there are also emotional issues,” said Dr. Nicholson. “Taking that first step, literally, can help patients feel in control again and, in turn, that improved fitness and enjoyment of life can help patients feel better physically too.”
Remember, most know their limits when it comes to pain. If you are experiencing pain that limits your abilities, consider an evaluation by a physician who specializes in pain.
Media Contact: Danielle Wong Moores, PR Specialist, 706-434-0150
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