Care Plan for Chronic Pain: Pain Management Tips
What is your care plan for chronic pain? I have had migraine my whole life and lived with chronic pain along with it. My head is the main spot for pain, in my case. It changes locations from intense swelling and throbbing in my occipital (back of the head) to face pain consisting of pressure behind my eyes and shooting pain down my jaw. My neck and shoulders hold a ton of tension making my posture bad while my entire body aches. I often find I’m clenching my jaw, fists, legs and muscles when I don’t even know it. It feels like I’m in fight or flight mode with my pain either battling or succumbing to it.
There are so many ways to manage pain without medication, or additionally to it. I find that because each migraine attack is different so is my pain and my management of it. Having a variety of options is helpful since nothing works the same every time.
Care Plan for Chronic Pain
Using the powers of the mind to produce changes in the body can help all types of chronic pain. By reducing stressful and pain-inducing emotions such as panic and fear, it can refocus attention on subjects other than pain. Have you tried: relaxation training, controlled breathing, meditation, bio feedback, visual imagery or hypnosis?
Relaxation training involves concentration and slow, deep breathing to release tension from muscles and relieve pain. Learning to relax takes practice, but relaxation training can focus attention away from pain and release tension from all muscles. To learn these skills, relaxation apps and videos are widely available.
I have found this hugely helpful especially as a migraine attack spikes. Before I knew how to control my breathe, I used to panic knowing what was coming and now I focus on breathing….I sit in a relaxed, reclining position in a dark room and close my eyes. Slowing down my breathing and taking deep breaths, using the chest (and not the abdomen) allow me to calm down. I try to focus on deep breathes in and out and repeating for several minutes.
Meditation focuses the mind on something specific (such as breathing or repeating a word or phrase) to quiet it. It requires relaxing the muscles, clearing your mind and taking slow breathes that will help occupy your mind and reduce pain. Practicing “mindfulness” is an excellent way to build mental strength and reduce stress levels that can accelerate the symptoms of pain.
Biofeedback is taught by a professional who uses special machines to help control bodily functions, such as heart rate and muscle tension, brain activity and skin temperature. It can be used to reinforce relaxation training and once mastered can be practiced without the use of the machine.
Visual imagery and distraction
Mental Imagery (guided imagery) involves concentrating on mental pictures of pleasant scenes or events or mentally repeating positive words or phrases to reduce pain. It is a form of mental escape that can help you feel peaceful while involving calming, peaceful images in your mind.
Distraction techniques focus attention away from negative or painful images to positive mental thoughts. This technique may include simple activities, such as watching television or a favorite movie, reading a book or listening to a book on tape, listening to music, or talking to a friend.
Has anyone tried this? I haven’t and I’d love to hear your experience! This technique can be used in two ways to reduce the perception of pain. Some people are hypnotized by a therapist and given a post-hypnotic suggestion that reduces the pain they feel. Others are taught self-hypnosis and can hypnotize themselves when pain interrupts their ability to function. Self-hypnosis is a form of relaxation training.
Care Plan from a Professional Therapist
These practices rely on professionals to help manage pain. I find these options to be super helpful but also expensive. Insurance doesn’t cover it or not enough and I end up quitting because of the cost. I will say that it is such a treat for me and really helps though.
Some examples may be massage (my favorite!!!), reiki, physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation or a clinical psychologist.
Reiki is when practitioner moves her hands over the energy fields of the client’s body to increase energy flow and restore balance.
Psychologists can help chronic pain sufferers work through daily struggles and offer strategies that will help manage pain, improve mood and sleep, as well as recognize how unhelpful thoughts feed into the pain cycle.
Lifestyle Changes for Chronic Pain
- Don’t drink alcohol, which can worsen sleep problems and is triggering and I don’t smoke.
- Get adequate and consistent sleep the best I can.
- Eat a healthy diet with anti-inflammatory foods, and take supplements like ginger, turmeric etc.
- Reduce stress by using the techniques we discussed above.
- Exercise to raise endorphins, serotonin and dopamine which can increase my pain threshold. Movement and activity will stimulate your circulation which may also help. I like yoga, Pilates and walking. I’m interested in Tai chi which is a slow flowing Chinese practice that improves balance but have yet to try it.
Devices and Products
Some examples may be TENS unit, GammaCore, Cefaly, Nerivo for migraine treatment. I don’t use any of those anymore. I tried the tens unit years ago and found that it just sat in my closet among other failed products or drugs. So I tend not to try them although so many have found relief. I love heat and ice. I use heat to soothe my neck and shoulder muscles along with warming my cold toes, fingers and nose. Sometimes, I use it for sinus pain also. I use ice for my aching heat to freeze trigger points and numb my head.
I have found CBD and Hemp products to be hit or miss. Cannabis has been studied to be helpful but is all a learning process which holds stigma and legality issues.
Support Care Plan Chronic Pain
I see my neurologist who provides me with medication I may need. I’m the type that needs medication and many different therapies. I find that support groups (like the Healthline app) allow me to meet others living with chronic pain and feel less alone. I love meeting people there and chatting. It’s a relationship that I nurture from the comfort of my home and still feel connected. Additionally, I connect on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
I now work to have a positive work environment. Having a comfortable workspace and control to reduce stress allows me to have control over pain and work more effectively. This has taken me years to figure out! A toxic work environment makes me VERY sick. Above all, I try to have healthy relationships. I have found that honest and supportive friendships and family relationships eases stress and encourages self-care.
Final Thoughts on Care Plan for Chronic Pain
In conclusion, being in chronic pain is exhausting, frustrating and often defeating. Mentally, dealing with it is as hard as physically dealing with it for me. I get frustrated when all these techniques don’t add up to relief. Having a care plan for chronic pain gives me control. When it works and feel like I’ve lost everything when nothing works. Living in pain and trying to manage it is not linear. I have good days and bad days. I have days I find relief and days that nothing works. The only thing I can control is how I react to it…..