Anyone who has suffered from chronic pain will tell you it can wreak havoc on your life. Chronic pain is defined as any pain that persists for three months or longer. Causes can range from injury or trauma to side effects from another condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or migraines.

Chronic pain can negatively affect not only your day-to-day life, but also your emotional well-being. When dealing with pain for prolonged periods of time, you can experience anxiety, depression, weight gain and reduced quality of life. While medications have their purpose and can help manage symptoms or flare-ups, those come with their own side effects: sedation, nausea, constipation or physical dependence. Even OTC medications can cause ulcers and liver damage if used excessively.

Here are three things that can help when dealing with chronic pain:

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Diet, exercise and sleep are more important than ever when your body isn’t functioning optimally. If you are suffering from pain, this is the time to feed your body with healthy, quality foods. Why? A lot of foods we consume daily are known to cause inflammation (think dairy, grains, fast food). If you are already suffering, why add fuel to the fire? Focus on fresh, whole foods with lots of fruits and veggies.

Exercise is also key to managing chronic pain. Movement increases circulation and releases endorphins that help promote a sense of wellness. Try to move your body when you feel up to it.

Get good quality sleep, too. Our body needs sleep to recover, so this is vital in managing pain!

Keep Searching for Answers

Dealing with chronic pain can be frustrating for many reasons, but especially when a cause can’t be found. You may start to feel like it’s all in your head, or worse – have people think you’re making it up. Get a second or third opinion if you feel like you aren’t being taken seriously or you want an answer besides “There’s a pill for that.” Don’t be afraid to keep searching for answers, and don’t stop until you get what you’re looking for. Often times, just knowing WHY you are in pain is a source of relief.

Be willing to try alternative therapies. There are so many advances in medicine and alternative treatments available that weren’t options five, 10, 15 years ago. Things like acupuncture, massage and dry needling can be great tools to help alleviate symptoms. Do your own research to find what alternatives are out there and try these methods until you find what works for you.

Controlling Your Mindset with Chronic Pain

Mindset is probably one of the most important, and most difficult, things to keep up when dealing with pain. It helps to remember that better days are ahead. When you do have a good day, cherish it, and allow your body the rest it needs when you are suffering. Mindset isn’t so much wishing the pain away as it is knowing this too shall pass.

This article was authored by Jenell Consorti, Business Office Manager at Cary Orthopaedics’ Davis Drive Physical Therapy office and a Licensed Massage and Bodywork Therapist.