Anyone who suffers from persistent pain knows how much it can severely impact your health and wellbeing. Approximately 1 in 6 Australians experience chronic pain. But there is evidence that taking an active approach to managing your pain can result in experiencing less disability because of chronic pain.

Chronic pain is complex. It is associated with many conditions including arthritis, migraines, fibromyalgia, nerve damage, spinal cord injury and many other types of disabilities. But it can also exist without an established underlying cause. Chronic pain is influenced not only by physical factors but also by psychological and social factors.

But there are many ways you can actively manage your pain. From diet and sleep to mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy.

Pace yourself

Chronic pain can be exhausting. As a result, it’s important to pace yourself. Where you can, spread your tasks across the day. And schedule in regular rest breaks. Be honest about what is a priority and what isn’t and try to conserve energy for what really matters. Establishing a routine can help you to pace yourself by providing set times for different activities.

Keep moving and relax

Some moderate daily exercise can be useful in managing chronic pain. Even a walk around the block or some gentle stretching can help to both condition your muscles and lessen pain. However, if you’re just starting to get back into exercise, be sure to speak with your doctor or physiotherapist first. While moving is good, so is relaxing. Try some mindfulness, meditation, yoga or deep breathing techniques to relieve muscle tension.

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Eat well and sleep well

Maintaining a healthy weight and ensuring you get enough rest are both useful in helping you to cope with chronic pain. So, if you’re having trouble sleeping, try removing all stimulants like television and smartphones from your bedroom. In addition, a night-time routine that gets you ready for bed can also be helpful. But most importantly, if you’re struggling to get to sleep or you’re worried about your diet, speak to your doctor.

Cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for chronic pain utilises similar techniques that are used in any CBT intervention, however, the focus is on the psychosocial factors that influence a person’s pain. Therefore, the first goal is to help people alter their perceptions of their pain. The task of the therapist in this instance is to help people see their pain as something that they can learn to manage, rather than something that is overwhelming to them.

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Support

Living with chronic pain can be isolating. But it doesn’t have to be. Consider joining a support group or online community. Talking with people who have similar experiences to you can be helpful. And they may even be able to offer you tips and advice. If you need more structured support, speak to a counsellor or psychologist.

Psychology has come a long way in helping people manage persistent pain. For example, psychological factors such as mood, beliefs about pain and coping style have been found to play an important role in an individual’s adjustment to persistent pain. In many cases, people respond well to psychological interventions.

Chronic pain resources:

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