On this page, practical
strategies for managing pain are discussed, such as learning to
sleep, and the practical benefits of exercise.
learning to relax
The ability to relax
is absolutely essential in managing pain, as in essence - relaxation
and pain are at opposite ends of the wellness
It is generally accepted
that there is a direct relationship between pain and anxiety.
Anxiety can easily increase the severity and intensity of the levels
of pain experienced, as well as also causing physical tension, which
in itself can generate pain. As a result, 'relaxation therapy'
is among the most commonly prescribed psychological treatment
methods for chronic pain sufferers.
Although it can be very hard to relax when faced with chronic
pain, with practice it becomes easier and more effective.
Being able to let go of tension can often produce a sense of
wellbeing, which can reduce the level of pain
intensity. One easy and practical way to reduce levels of
tension is by practicing deep breathing exercises.
breathing is related to the body's panic alarm, and whenever air
intake becomes slightly restricted, heightened levels of anxiety
soon follow. Heart rate and blood pressure subsequently
increase, which if left unabated can lead to a state of extreme
agitation or panic. Conversely if attention is paid to taking slow,
deep controlled breaths, a calming effect will occur on the body.
do not breathe effectively so that the body 'relaxes' with each
breath. It is normal for the body to draw in air from two
areas of your lungs, however if a stressful situation exists, short
gulps of air from the upper part of the lung are drawn in.
These short breaths stimulate the bodies 'fight or flight',
adrenaline response, which increases the heart rate in preparation
for any forthcoming stress.
Concentrated, slow and deep breathing from the diaphragm or
abdominal area causes a lowering of the blood pressure and slows
down the heart. By making a conscious effort to breathe both
from the upper then from the lower part of the lungs, a higher state
of relaxation can be achieved. Deep
breathing is part of a behavioral approach to treating chronic pain.
Chronic pain sufferers must accept the fact that the pain has
changed their life forever, and that they need to make personal
changes along with it. Denying these changes is counter
productive and can easily result not only in more pain, but a lower
quality of life for the sufferer and their
The use of relaxation tapes has proved to be beneficial for
chronic pain sufferers. For details of how to purchase
recommended Amazon.co.uk music, please click here.
Research as shown those practice relaxation exercises at
least 5 times per week do show long-term benefit in both physical
and psychological wellbeing. Combining frequent use of
relaxation techniques with other pain management strategies can
allow chronic pain sufferers to gradually achieve reductions in the
medication they take.
too long ago, it was common practice for people with chronic pain to
be told by medical staff to avoid physical activity because of the
concern that it could damage joints, muscles and increase levels of
research has shown that exercise can actually help reduce pain and
When people become
inactive, they lose muscle tone and strength, and subsequently their
cardiovascular system works less efficiently. This inactivity increases
the risk factors of heart attack and stroke due to high blood
pressure and high levels of cholesterol.
Exercise can have a beneficial effect on any
structural problem in the body which is causing pain. In cases of lower back pain,
regular exercise and strength training can help build up the Erector
spinae muscles, which will provide a natural brace for the back and
therefore potentially reduce stress on bones and can contribute to
Exercise can also have an effect on the actual
experience of pain.
During physical activity the body releases endorphins that
can block pain signals from reaching the brain. The more endorphins that are produced by the body, the
less the need to rely on external forms of pain management, such as
Participating in a
regular exercise programme can provide benefits of:
- Increased levels of energy.
- Potential improvement in the quality of sleep.
- Weight loss and reduced stress on joints.
- Potential increase in bone mass and the potential
risk of injury.
- Reduction in levels of stress.
key to achieving many of these benefits is to include flexibility,
strengthening and aerobic (cardio-vascular) exercises into the
regular exercise programme.
include simple stretching movements. Such exercises keep joints
moving through their full range of motion. They also prevent
muscles from shortening and tightening, which can increase the risk
Strength training helps
in the development of stronger muscles. Stronger muscles make it
easier to carry out life's daily activities.
Strength exercises also
help to preserve and increase lean muscle mass, which helps to burn
more calories and therefore is beneficial in weight loss and in
reducing stress on joints.
exercises works the heart, lungs and muscles, by increasing the
heart rate, blood pressure and need for oxygen. Such exercise
helps the body work more efficiently and can reduce the risk of
cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, high blood pressure
and high cholesterol. Aerobic activity also increases stamina so
that fatigue is lessened during daily activities.
you decide to begin an exercise programme:- It is easy to do more harm than good
by over exercising or by poorly exercising. Join a reputable
gym, which provides induction, exercise programmes and regular
you get started
would be a sensible precaution for any chronic pain sufferer to talk
with their GP before starting any type of physical activity
is particularly important to see your GP if you:
high blood pressure
diabetes or heart, lung or kidney disease
a man age 40 years or older or a women age 50 or older and haven't
had a recent physical examination
a family history of heart-related problems before age 55
unsure of your health status
previously experienced chest discomfort, shortness of breath,
dizziness or loss of consciousness during exercise or strenuous
are starting an exercise programme, these tips may help:
Set simple and
achievable goals. People who can stay
physically active for 6 months usually end up making exercise a
Initially, do a little
bit at a time and then rest. When you first start you may
experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) from exercising
muscles that are not used to exercise. But after a few days
muscle strength and joint flexibility improve and chronic pain may
begin to lessen in severity.
Add variety to prevent
boredom.. For example, try
alternating walking with swimming. On days when the weather
is pleasant, perform stretching exercises outside.
Exercise with others.
with people who have similar fitness levels can make exercise more
rewarding and enjoyable.
you're especially busy on a certain day then adapt exercise to
accommodate your schedule.
Track your progress.
Record what you do
each time you exercise, how long you do it and how you feel during
and after exercising. This can remind you that you're making
on developing an internal reward that comes from feelings of
accomplishment. After each activity session, take 2 to 5
minutes to sit down, relax and savour the beneficial feelings that
Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist
and co-director of the Sports Medicine Center at Mayo Clinic,
Problems with sleep
are a common feature of chronic pain.
Often sleep problems
or difficulties can be aided by using a diary to effectively
Therefore a journal tool has been provided, which can be
pasted and printed out.
This should be kept for 7 days. However, to be
effective this needs to be accurately completed, as this information
can help in evaluating sleep habits and to begin to appreciate how
they may be related to chronic pain.
- please paste and print in any word processor.
consume any alcohol, caffeine or medication yesterday? If so, what was it? How much? and when did you
take it? (Please note)
The later you consume alcohol or stimulants the likelier
you are to find your body over stimulated and less likely you are to
Did you take a nap
yesterday? If so, how
long did you spend asleep?
How long did it take for you to drop off? (Please note) The
closer you nap to bedtime, the likelier nighttime sleep will be
How many drinks did
you have after 6pm (Please note) The greater the volume, the
more likely sleep will be
How would you
describe your mood yesterday and how well did you cope? (Please
note) There is a direct
correlation between sleeping badly and depressive thoughts and
How long did it take
you to fall asleep last
How long did it take
to fall asleep last night?
How many times did
you wake up during last night?
For how many hours
did you sleep last night overall?
What time did you
wake up this morning?
How did you feel
when you woke up this morning?
There are several
minor remedies which can potentially alleviate some problems
relating to sleep.
from consuming alcohol, nicotine or caffeine after 2pm.
- Try to
use the bed solely for the purpose of sleep and sex.
fluid intake close to bedtime.
- Go to
bed at the same time each night.
- Get up
in the morning at the same reasonable time in the
to follow relaxation exercises and breathing exercises when you
are in bed.
- If you need to
take a nap during the day, do so, but not so late that it might
interfere with nighttime sleeping.