9 tips for managing long-term pain
Chronic pain is pain that is persistent and stays with a person in the long-term.
Depending on the causes of this pain, how severe it is and the person's own circumstances, managing the pain may require a variety of approaches.
The main approach will be medical treatment from your GP or a specialist - such as painkillers and physiotherapy.
However, other approaches at home, work and daily life may help too.
Here are 9 tips to help relieve, manage and live with the symptoms of long-term pain.
If you are already in pain, it may sound odd to suggest doing exercise, however, the NHS says that doing some activity is usually better than resting. Consider options that won’t be too much of a strain, and can fit in with your life - on the good days and the not so good ones. Good choices include swimming, walking, yoga or an exercise bike. Don't overdo it, and ask your doctor or physiotherapist for recommendations that are right for you.
Exercise can help take your mind off pain and releases brain chemicals called endorphins that lift mood and may also help to block pain signals.
Keeping active also reduces the risk of developing other health conditions - some of which could make pain worse.
2. Keep working if you can
It may be hard to get up and head to work when you're in pain, but experts say it shouldn't make the pain worse and could distract you from it.
Talk to your doctor and employer about phasing in a return to work if you've been off sick - and any changes to the job or work pattern that may help. A company's occupational therapy department may be able to help with this if it has one.
3. Join a support group
Sharing your experience of long-term pain gets you in touch with other people who are going through what you are going through. You may be able to share tips - or it can just help to talk to people who understand. NHS schemes such as the Self-Management Programmes (SMP) and NHS Pain Management Programmes (PMPs) may also help.
4. Take care of yourself
Try to eat healthily, get enough sleep and feel good about keeping up with personal hygiene.
Stress can make pain symptoms worse - so try to relax. Consider techniques like deep breathing exercises, massage or meditation to help with long-term pain.
Some people find special relaxation recordings help.
Some approaches may be done through a therapist, like guided imagery or biofeedback.
Your GP may be able to help with recommendations.
6. Alcohol only in moderation
Alcohol can make it harder to sleep, which in turn can make pain symptoms worse.
7. Don't smoke
If you smoke, quit. Smoking can make pain worse and increases the risk of other health conditions developing.
8. Track your pain
Keep track of daily pain on a scale of 1 to 10. Note down anything that seemed to make things better or worse. Use these notes for a discussion with your doctor at your next appointment.
9. Distract yourself
Without distraction, the brain can focus on pain. Hobbies, interests, cinema trips or just chatting with friends can keep your mind busy and off the pain.