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Managing long-term pain

Long-term pain, also called chronic pain, may require several approaches to help relieve, manage and live with the symptoms.

When investigating long-term pain:

  • Your GP may ask you to rate the pain on a scale from 1 to 10.
  • You also need to report whether it is possible to go to work, go shopping, exercisesleep, or have sexual intercourse.
  • Sometimes, the only measure of effectiveness of treatment is that you can do certain things that were not possible before the treatment started. This is what your doctor needs to know in order to make decisions about your treatment.
  • If nothing else works for your pain ask your GP to refer you to a pain specialist or a pain clinic.

Here are some tips on living with chronic pain:

1. Learn deep breathing or meditation to help with chronic pain.

Deep breathing and meditation are techniques that help your body relax, which eases pain. Tension and tightness seep from muscles as they receive a quiet message to relax.

Although there are many ways to meditate, the soothing power of repetition is at the heart of some forms of meditation. Focusing on the breath, ignoring thoughts and repeating a word or phrase - a mantra - causes the body to relax. While you can learn meditation on your own, it helps to take a class.

Deep breathing is also a relaxation technique. Find a quiet location, a comfortable body position and block out distracting thoughts. Then, imagine a spot just below your navel. Breathe into that spot, filling your abdomen with air. Let the air fill you from the abdomen up, then let it out slowly, like deflating a balloon.

2. Reduce stress in your life, as it can intensify chronic pain.

Negative feelings like anxiety, stress and anger can increase the body's sensitivity to pain. By learning to take control of stress, you may find some relief from chronic pain.

Several techniques can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Listening to soothing, calming music can lift your mood and make living with chronic pain more bearable. There are even specially designed relaxation CDs for this. Mental imagery relaxation (also called guided imagery) is a form of mental escape that can help you to feel peaceful. It involves creating calming, peaceful images in your mind. Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique that promotes relaxation.

3. Boost chronic pain relief with the natural endorphins from exercise.

Endorphins are brain chemicals that help to improve your mood while also blocking pain signals. Exercise has another pain-reducing effect: it strengthens muscles, helping to prevent re-injury and further pain. Plus, exercise can help keep your weight down, reduce heart disease risk and control blood sugar levels - especially important if you have diabetes. Ask your GP for an exercise routine that is right for you. If you have certain health conditions, like diabetic neuropathy, you will need to be careful about the types of activities you engage in; your GP can advise you on the best physical activities for you.

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