Pain is the main symptom of many conditions and arthritis is one of them. It can increase during a flare up and then subside at other times. However, for anyone who is dealing with chronic pain it never goes away.
The nerve endings are normally responsible for sending pain signals up through your spinal cord to your brain, where pain is perceived. It’s important that arthritis sufferers find ways to manage their pain.
All pain is not the same. There is acute pain and chronic pain. Pain is defined as chronic if it lasts for more than three months and it is persistent or intermittent lasting more than 12 hours a day.
The Pain Cycle
Pain means something different to different people. Not everyone experiences pain the same way. What works for one person won’t work for someone else. Medications are just one factor in your overall strategy in coping and reducing your pain, daily living activities, improving your function, and dealing with emotional stress caused by chronic pain.
Pain cycle = Disease pain leading to tense muscles to stress to fear/anger/frustration to depression to fatigue.
Understanding the pain cycle helps you to recognize there are different ways to break it. There are a few cognitive techniques that are be used to help you manage your pain.
1. Distraction – Can be used for short painful outbreaks like when you climb the stairs or open a jar. The mind is unable to focus on more than one thing so if you can get your mind focusing on something else it can distract it from the pain.
2. Reduce Your Stress – Reducing the amount of stress you are under will help to manage your pain. Guided imagery, deep breathing and vivid imagery are ways to help lessen the stress in your life.
3. Relax Your Muscles – The less tense your muscles the less pain in your joints. Releasing tension in your muscles can help you to sleep better.
4. Manage Your Fatigue – Pain can tire you out and cause fatigue to increase. Fatigue management will help you break the pain cycle by rejuvenating your mind and body. Getting a good night’s sleep is a good place to start.
a. Establish a ritual at bedtime and always do things in the same order every time
b. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time.
c. Never put pillows behind your knee(s) as it can cause blood flow restriction.
5. Physical Activity – The pain may make you want to avoid physical activity but if you establish a regular routine, you will be able to improve your flexibility, energy and strength, which in turn can help to reduce your pain.
6. Complementary and Alternative Therapies – There are many therapies that you can use such as herbal remedies, acupuncture, chiropractor, massage, etc. These treatments can help to reduce your pain significantly.
7. Hot and Cold Therapy – Hot packs, warm showers or baths can help to relax your muscles. Cold can help to reduce inflammation.
Pain isn’t easy to manage and getting it under control yourself, so having a pain management team working with you can be very effective.