Pain can affect every area of your life. It may alter the way you go about your days, influencing everything from the thoughts you have to the amount of sleep you get. In addition to causing physical discomfort, pain can increase stress and frustration. It can also drain motivation, reduce activity levels and lead to fatigue.
However, lifestyle decisions can play a major role in pain relief and there are several changes you can make to your lifestyle if you're looking to help keep pain at bay. You can start by sticking to a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight. It's also important to reduce everyday stress, stay physically active and get enough sleep.
How can stress management help with pain?
Pain and stress are inextricably linked: pain can be a source of stress and when you feel stressed, your body may respond in ways that increase your pain, such as tensing muscles or gritting teeth. You can avoid this cycle by learning how to handle everyday stress more effectively.
Begin by identifying triggers to work out what causes your stress. Potential sources include your work life, home life, relationships, poor health habits, perfectionism or negative thinking.
Once you have identified your triggers, consider ways to alleviate them. For instance, if you're stressed because you're inundated with obligations, find a way to cut some of those commitments out. This might be by no longer staying late at work, so that you have more time to focus on your physical wellbeing.
Going on with life as normal as much as possible is the best way to combat your pain. Staying in work provides a distraction, and keeps you active.
Meditation and mindfulness techniques can also help you to relax the body, calm the mind and relieve stress. These include methods such as breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation or visualisation. If stress is interfering with your everyday life, you should visit your Doctor.
Why is it important to stay physically active?
Exercise can work as a natural painkiller by encouraging the production of endorphins in the body. Aerobic or cardio exercise, which uses large muscle groups and increases heart rate, will release these feel-good chemicals that can help to relieve pain. Recent research supports the benefits of physical activity for the management of chronic pain.
Before starting an exercise programme it's helpful to talk to your doctor. This is especially important if you're over 40, have been sedentary for some time or have chronic heart problems. If you have pain from an injury or recent surgery, or if you have a physical disability or chronic condition, be particularly careful when exercising to avoid harming yourself.
What are some techniques for a good night's sleep?
Pain can often interfere with sleep, which is why it's important to take action to improve sleep quality. The following may help to regulate your sleeping pattern and improve your sleep:
• Practice relaxation by sitting quietly, reading or listening to soothing music before you go to bed
• Sleep on a schedule by creating a set routine, rather than forcing sleep
• Watch what you eat and drink in the evening, as certain food and drinks (like caffeine or heavy meals) can interfere with your sleep
• Practise good sleep hygiene by keeping your bed and room comfortable
• Find ways to help reduce everyday stress by keeping track of your triggers and identifying how to reduce each one
• Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation
• Stay physically active with aerobic exercise. Exercise could be as simple as a 30-45 minute brisk walk