Written by Kylie Lucas, Pharmacist.
If you are living with pain, you’d undoubtedly know that it can often affect other aspects of your life, including your sleep, your work, your mood and your relationships. Controlling your pain, through a variety of pain management strategies can play a crucial role in helping you to feel more comfortable as you go about your day-to-day life.
If you’re thinking about taking a new approach to your pain management, below are some points worth considering.
Understand your pain
Take the time to learn about pain and different approaches to managing it. Keeping a “Pain Diary” to record your pain can help you to understand what makes it better or worse. It can also help you to assess whether changes in your medications or other therapies are making a difference. The National Prescribing Service has a simple version available which you can fill out and take to your appointments.
Set some small goals for a healthy lifestyle
Picture where you would like your health to be a few months from now, even a few years from now. What are some little steps you can take to work towards that?
Small goals are more achievable and easier to maintain. Your goal might be to lose two kilos in a month or to go for a 30-minute walk three times a week. Write down your goal and put it somewhere you will see it every day, such as on your fridge or your bathroom mirror. Don’t be dismayed if you go off track – it’s normal. Just remember your goal and start afresh!
Have a “game plan” for your pain
A Pain Management Plan can be a really helpful strategy to help you live well with chronic pain. A written plan clarifies what to do when your pain flares up, as well as everyday strategies to manage your particular pain condition. Your health care team can help you with this – which may include your GP, specialist, pharmacist, physiotherapist, and psychologist. Strategies such as the use of heat packs, TENS machines, specific exercises and different medicines are just some of the solutions that may be put in place.
Staying active is important for our physical health and also for our mood. Exercise can help our strength, flexibility, and mobility which are all valuable factors in helping us to enjoy our daily activities. It will also help you to maintain a healthy weight, which is particularly important with conditions such as knee or hip pain, or arthritis. Some people report feeling worried that exercise might increase their pain; however, with the right advice and the correct choice of exercises, you may find it ease your pain.
Try a new activity
Why not try an activity that you haven’t tried before? Not only is it a good way to meet new people but it comes with the added benefit that it may ease your pain. Some great suggestions are water aerobics or hydrotherapy as they are gentle on the joints. Yoga and tai chi are also great for building strength and balance, whilst focusing on the breath and reducing stress and pain. Relaxation techniques such as meditation or mindfulness can help manage anxiety and tension, which both have an impact on pain management.
Look after your mental health
Persistent pain can really get you down, but you should never feel like you are alone. Speak to your family and friends about how your pain makes you feel or join a support group (either in person, by telephone or online) where you can learn from other’s experiences. You might choose a support group specific to your condition (eg Arthritis Australia has discussion groups at My Joint Pain), or you may prefer a pain forum.
If you think that your pain is contributing to your anxiety or depression, make sure you inform your doctor. Your pharmacist is also an important part of the network of health professionals within your community. They can provide you with advice on how to manage your pain and connect you with people who can help.
This post was written by Kylie Lucas. Kylie has been a pharmacist for over 10 years and works in a country town pharmacy in the south west of Western Australia. She lives on a farm with her husband, daughter and lots of pet animals.