Managing Chronic Pain – Take a Load Off

When it comes to managing chronic pain, there are a lot of variables that can impact pain.  Being able to identify what certain physical activities lead to pain is a great starting point, but do you just stop altogether?  Do you keep doing that activity anyway? Do you cut back a little? If so, how much? 

These questions don’t have any concrete answers, but there are considerations that can help you better adjust your activity in managing chronic pain.  

  • Consider how your pain changes – In determining how much you can “push through” something, consider if the intensity of pain changes quickly and if the change lasts.  If pain can be changed quickly, this matters. Quick increases in pain usually mean you should limit that activity or movement. If your pain increases and lasts for a while, it’s better to limit that aggravating activity.  If the opposite is true, meaning that your pain can be quickly reduced and/or it only lasts for short periods of time after the activity/movement, it’s ok to push things a little more. 
  • Plan ahead – Once you figure out how your pain reacts, you can plan ahead a bit.  The big idea here is to get ahead of your pain. If you know your pain always gets worse after a certain activity or period of time, have a plan before and/or after the activity to alleviate that symptom.  For example, assume that running is your issue. Right now, you can run 1 mile before your pain worsens and you can run 2 miles before the pain is so bad you have to stop. You could try alternating between running and walking to increase the distance.  You could try cross training – running a quarter to a half mile at a time then doing other exercises in between the bouts of running (think things like push ups, lunges, squats or even weight training if you’re at a gym). For activities that are harder to avoid such as tasks at work or a prolonged position/activity, you should be able to take a short 1-2 minute break and work in some stretching or relieving positions before and after pain starts.  
  • Be proactive – When chronic pain exists, there’s something going on that your body doesn’t like.  Keep in mind, this might not be just physical – your diet, amount of regular exercise, sleep habits, and psychological health all matter. Addressing these aspects can go a long way in reducing your pain.  With regard to regular exercise, consider making it specific to the things you’re having the most issues doing. If someone struggles with squatting at work, it can help to get stronger at squatting. Being a “better” runner doesn’t necessarily mean running faster or longer when you might have some issues with your running gait, cadence or breathing patterns.  Find the things you are bad at and get better at them. Here is another article from our blog that discusses this idea through a fitness-focused lense, but it can apply to non-exercise concepts as well. 
  • When necessary, take time off – There are times where you do just need to let things recover.  If your pain is getting worse or not improving, it means you need to take a step back somewhere.  What you do with that time matters though. It’s still important to work on your weaknesses. Work on weaknesses at a level that doesn’t provoke your symptoms.  Take the runner example from above. This person might only run up to 1 mile, but in that run they’re working on issues specific to their running form and they might split up bouts of running with cross training.  

When it comes to managing chronic pain, it is challenging.  There’s a reason there’s a section for pain relief in every pharmacy.  A lot of other options exist, though. Improve what you can about your lifestyle, and if you can’t get it done on your own, get help!  See your primary care physician or a physical therapist and see what options are available to you.  

Have questions?  Feel limited in what you’re able to do?  The staff at Limitless Physical Therapy in Eugene, OR can show you how to discover your future without limits.  Follow us on Instagram and Facebook!

***The above information, including text, images, and all other materials, is provided for educational purposes only, and not as a replacement or supplement to professional medical advice.  Please contact a certified healthcare professional or your primary physician for any personal concerns.

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