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Chronic Pain: A Life-Changing Diagnosis
A chronic pain diagnosis changes your life. After you get over the initial shock of your diagnosis, you have to work toward acceptance and consider changes to make in your daily life. Managing chronic pain symptoms safely is a lot more work than simply popping a pill.
For many people, medication is not really an option. Painkillers (especially opioids) are extremely addictive, and those with a history of substance abuse can’t risk falling back into a life-threatening habit. The country’s current opioid crisis has led to fewer and fewer doctors willing to prescribe the drugs. However, for many people, medication is still a viable option for pain management. That does not mean they are without risk of becoming addicted. Those who choose to take painkillers must still be ever-mindful of the signs and symptoms of addiction, including:
Irritability and sudden mood swings
Loss of interest in school, work, or other activities
Lying and deceit
Changes in appetite
Even if you are allowed to take opioid painkillers to manage your chronic pain, it’s still important to make changes in your lifestyle that help manage symptoms. Along with your prescribed medications, healthy habits and activities can make your life more enjoyable and the pain less apparent as you move forward.
Lifestyle Changes for Managing Chronic Pain
One of the most important things a person with chronic pain must do is find healthy ways to cope with stress. Stress is one of the largest contributing triggers for pain, and while you can’t live a life without stress, you can improve how you deal with it. To cope with stress, consider the following:
Make your health a priority, which means eating healthy meals, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep.
Take time out every day to relax.
Talk about your feelings with a loved one or professional counselor.
Avoid turning to drugs or alcohol to escape stress.
Create a routine in your day-to-day life.
Find an activity you can turn to when stress begins to feel overwhelming.
Spend more time with friends and family.
Many of the healthy coping mechanisms used to deal with stress can help with chronic pain in other ways. For instance, exercise and physical therapy is commonly used in the place of opioids when it comes to treating chronic pain. Additionally, consuming foods that aid in reducing inflammation in the body can help prevent pain. An anti-inflammation diet includes less processed foods, drinking plenty of water, and using more whole ingredients like fruits, nuts, fatty fish, and green leafy vegetables.
Activities that aim to alleviate stress and anxiety help many people deal with the debilitating symptoms of chronic pain. Massage therapy, for instance, helps reduce tension in the body caused by stress while helping relieve pain. Gentle exercises like yoga and tai chi combine the benefits of meditation with physical activity.
Alternative Medicines and Chronic Pain
Other alternative medicines like acupuncture, hypnosis, and chiropractic care help people to varying degrees.
Acupuncture is considered an ancient Chinese healing practice that uses pressure points in the body in an attempt to balance the “chi” or “lifeforce” in the body which is said to help with issues including pain.
Hypnosis, in particular hypnotic analgesia, has been proven effective for some people in various controlled studies.
Chiropractic care involves manipulating the spine in order to relieve pain and pressure throughout the body.
While these methods work for some chronic pain sufferers, they do not work for all. Consult your doctor about your options before trying alternative medicine as a resource for chronic pain management.
Chronic pain is a life-changing diagnosis. While some doctors prescribe painkillers and opioids as a means of controlling pain, the risk of addiction and abuse has lead to less and less physicians being willing to do so. Even if you do take medication, lifestyle changes are necessary for the management of chronic pain. The key is finding healthy ways to cope with stress. Pursuing a healthy lifestyle and reducing stress help alleviate symptoms. Other alternative medicines like acupuncture, hypnosis, and chiropractic care show promise for reducing pain but are not a universal fix for everyone.
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