8 Lifestyle Changes to Help With Chronic Pain

Try these lifestyle changes to help you reduce and manage chronic pain.

Chronic pain can stem from multiple health issues – car accidents, sports injuries or conditions such a migraines, diabetes, cancer or arthritis.

Programs such as the USC Lifestyle Redesign Program can helps you incorporate lifestyle changes to optimize your overall health and manage your pain, headaches, stress and anxiety. Here are a few lifestyle changes that can help you find relief for chronic pain.

1. Get more sleep

Lack of sleep leaves you tired, which can make it more difficult to manage pain. To get more sleep, follow these steps:

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  • Develop a regular sleep routine. Getting ready for bed at the same every time tells your body that it is time to relax.
  • Keep your bedroom clean and neat. A calming room promotes more restful sleep.
  • Avoid bright lights. Don’t use electronic devices in bed. The light on these devices can cause insomnia.
  • Avoid excess caffeine, large meals right before bed, alcohol and smoking.

Eat a healthy diet

Chronic pain can be alleviated by eating healthier. Eating more fruits and vegetables can lead to weight loss, which lightens the stress on your joints and helps you move more easily.

Some foods, such as dairy, wheat and processed foods, increase inflammation in the body and can trigger headaches or migraines. If you learn to identify which foods you should avoid, it can make a difference in managing your pain. A healthy diet also increases your energy level and improves your overall feeling of well-being.

3. Hydrate

Do you drink enough water? The benefits of drinking the recommended eight glasses each day are overwhelming.

Water keeps you hydrated and aids in flushing out toxins, improving your mood, relieving fatigue, and staving off headaches and migraines. It may sound simple, but drinking a few extra glasses of water throughout the day can help you find some relief.

4. Get off the grid

Do electronic devices rule your life? The hours you spend hunched over a computer at work or managing your social posts may be causing eye strain and poor posture, which can lead to pain. “Poor posture can increase your stress levels because your chest is compressed, which causes your lungs and heart to work harder,” says Rose Taroyan, MD, MPH, clinical assistant professor of family medicine.

Try turning the off your devices at a set time every night. This will help you relax before bed and give your mind and body a much needed rest.

5. Meditate

Meditation is more than just a fad. Various studies have shown meditation can help with everything from lower-back pain to depression.

Another benefit of meditation is that it may allow you to manage pain without taking more medications. One study found that mindfulness meditation helps you manage pain by stimulating similar same parts of the brain as opioids – all without the potentially dangerous side effects of those drugs.

To start meditation for pain management, concentrate on taking a deep breath, filling your abdomen with air and releasing it slowly. This slows your mind so that you can relax. Next, identify where you feel pain; focus your mind on the pain in that area; and see if the pain sensation changes. If your mind wanders, gently redirect it toward a focused awareness of your pain.

6. Exercise

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) a week, which is less than 30 minutes a day. Besides boosting your self-esteem and losing weight, exercise keeps your joints and muscles in shape, which actually lessens pain and allows you to do activities you love with greater ease.

7. Find a support group

A support group is a great resource for you to share your experience and learn from others that are also dealing with chronic pain.

8. Get a massage

A massage relieves stress and tension in your muscles and focuses on soothing the source of pain. Massages are often prescribed for a back or neck injury.

These lifestyle changes will help you take control of your health and better manage your pain.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and looking for exceptional care from some of the top specialists in the world, schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.

By Heidi Tyline King