Stress and Pain

Stress management among chronic pain sufferers is essential to overall health.

Chronic pain is bad enough on it’s own. There are certain triggers – stress, diet and inactivity – that can exacerbate the problem. It can turn into a vicious cycle of pain and distress, and this can eventually lead to depression or worse. People who suffer from persistent, long-term pain certainly face challenges in their everyday life that can make it hard to cope. Conditions such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis or other forms of arthritis can take their toll when patients suffer physically and emotionally. Relaxation techniques can help patients reduce the amount of stress and anxiety they feel.

Relaxing might not seem like an easy feat if you are in pain. But it can help patients to refocus their energy and attention, which can be powerful coping mechanisms. Relaxation won’t completely erase the pain but it can help patients cope better. In turn, this can help the pain from getting any worse.

Deep breathing is one example of a relaxation technique. This involves taking deep breaths, holding them for a few seconds and concentrating on each inhale and exhale. This type of distraction can help to lessen the perception of pain. Guided imagery helps people to take their mind off the pain by thinking of other things. Just picturing a relaxing or happy scene in your mind can make such a difference in overall mood. It’s the same sort of concept as daydreaming. Allowing your mind to wander to a “happy place” may sound silly, but the effect it can have is undeniable. Tensing the body or certain areas of the body can also reduce stress and tension. Tensing up the body, holding that tension for a short time and releasing, can do this.

Other important stress-reduction techniques include yoga, exercise or gentle stretching, which can steady the mind and body. The last thing many chronic pain sufferers want to do is be physically active. In the past, many doctors and pain specialists recommended rest for people in chronic pain. This thinking has changed, and patients are now advised that exercise is an important component of pain management. Massage and meditation can provide powerful benefits for sufferers, helping them feel better physically, mentally and emotionally. People who find themselves slipping into depression or withdrawing from life because of pain can find ways on their own to relax and deal with pain. Stress management, along with proper nutrition, exercise and rest, can compliment any medical approach to pain.

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