Chronic or long-term arthritis pain
In our day-to-day lives, each of us faces physical and emotional demands which can seem overwhelming if you have long-term pain. This can lead to increased stress levels which can in turn increase pain levels, making you unable to enjoy those little things in life. It can seem like a vicious circle. Here are some suggestions on how to break the circle.
1. Do more exercise
Exercise releases chemicals, called endorphins, into the body. These are the ‘feel good factor’ chemicals which will help lift your mood and give you more energy. Exercise can also be good for strengthening muscles which help support joints and can increase mobility.
2. Relax and learn how to meditate
Arthritis can cause muscles to become tense and this will make them painful to move. The purpose of relaxation is to release muscle tension throughout the body. Learning to relax properly is a skill that has to be learned. There are many good books on relaxation and meditation techniques so check out your local library or bookshop.
3. Control your breathing
Often when we are in pain we tend to tense up and breathe shallowly. This is not a good way to manage pain. It may seem to help in the short term, but eventually it can lead to further pain. Learning to breathe deeply and from your diaphragm will help you ‘go with the pain’ and be more in control, which lessens the fear of pain. Pilates, Tai Chi or Alexander technique classes all show you how to regulate your breathing and have the added benefit of mixing with others.
4. Improve your sleep pattern
A poor sleep pattern is a common complaint from individuals with chronic pain. Lack of sleep can increase stress levels and inflammatory hormones, which make pain worse. Strategies for improving a poor sleep pattern include:
- Practise meditation which can reduce stress levels
- Try and avoid napping during the day
- Develop a sleep ritual which relaxes you before bed
- Avoid stimulating drinks in the evening and change your bedtime drink to a calming herbal infusion or a warm milky drink.
5. Try physical therapy
Some physical therapies have been shown to improve and provide pain relief from arthritis. Soft tissue work and massage can relax the muscles and decrease tension. Our Associated Practitioners are qualified in soft tissue techniques and will use these techniques as part of their treatment plan. Our practitioner in our clinic in London is also qualified in acupuncture. Studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, but not necessarily in rheumatoid arthritis.
6. Set yourself goals and develop an action plan
Set yourself a goal each day, as something you want to achieve and then plan the steps you will need to take to achieve this. Your goal doesn’t have to be large – it could be something as simple as:
- Contact a friend
- Ask yourself: what do I need to do to achieve this?
- Decide the best way of making contact (phone, email, text, letter or meeting them face to face).
- What do you need for your method of contact and how do you get it?
- What do you want to say – a general chat or something specific, arrange a time to meet?
- Once you have a plan of action you can take the first step to achieving your goal.
Having a set of small goals that you are able to achieve is a good way of focussing on something positive rather than thinking about your arthritis. It may bring you pain relief as well as helping you manage long-term pain.
7. Change the way you think
Pain management using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has recently gathered favour with the public. CBT offers an understanding of behaviour, thoughts and beliefs and how these can be modified to affect the pain experience. In other words: