If you’re dealing with chronic pain on a daily basis, you’re not alone. More women than men experience chronic pain, and it’s most common among women ages 50-54. For men, chronic pain is most common among those in the 55-59 age bracket. The most frequent cause is injury, followed by musculoskeletal conditions, headache, cancer, surgery and non-specified lower back pain. The cost of chronic pain to the Australian economy is approximately $35 billion a year—the equivalent of almost $11,000 for every person with the condition. Here are 7 Ways to Improve Your Lifestyle and Deal with Chronic Pain.
Dr. Christine Bennett, Chair of the Medical Advisory Panel or Bupa Australia, notes the pervasiveness of chronic pain—and the toll it takes on those who have it:
"One in five Australian adults suffers from chronic pain. As well as posing large costs for the healthcare system, the human cost on individuals and families is also significant. However, there are positive steps you can take manage chronic pain and improve your quality of life."
The Surge in the Use of Opioids to Control Chronic Pain
The use of medications, including opioids, to control chronic pain is surging, according to research published by The Lancet. Approximately 4 times as many Australians are using opioids like morphine, codeine and oxycodone as compared with just 10 years ago. Among the reasons for the increase are an aging population, greater public acceptance and the increasing willingness of physicians to prescribe these drugs.
There Are Alternatives to Medication
Understandably, many people who experience chronic pain are hesitant to use opioids and other pain killers. Some are concerned about the possibility of accidental overdose—a concern which is not unfounded. According to Medical Press, the rate of accidental death from opioid overdose is on the rise—for example, the rate of accidental death among those in the 35-44-year age bracket has more than doubled since 2007.
Fortunately, there are effective alternatives to medication to improve your lifestyle and deal with chronic pain.
Here are 7 Ways to Improve Your Lifestyle and Deal with Chronic Pain
Deep breathing and meditation are proven ways to relax your body and ease pain. Among the most effective forms of meditation are those which involve repetition of a word or phrase, focusing of the breath and ignoring intrusive thoughts.
- Practice deep breathing:
Like meditation, deep breathing is an effective relaxation technique. Simply find a quiet location, block out distracting thoughts, focus on a spot just below your navel, and breathe into that spot. It’s helpful to inhale slowly for 2 seconds through the nose and exhale slowly for 4 or 5 seconds through the mouth.
- Find ways to reduce stress:
Stress, anxiety and depression intensify the experience of chronic pain. You can reduce stress by listening to soothing music or relaxation tapes, or through so-called “guided imagery, which entails creating calming, peaceful images in your mind.
When you exercise, your body releases brain chemicals called endorphins which both improve your mood and reduce pain. Before beginning an exercise regimen, you should consult with your doctor to prevent injury or cause other health problems.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco:
It’s a myth that drinking will help you sleep—in fact, alcohol tends to exacerbate the inability to sleep due to chronic pain. Smoking, in addition to increasing the risk for cancer and heart problems, tends to worsen the pain associated with poor circulation.
- Join a support group:
When you feel lonely, your pain tends to increase. Joining a support group of other people experiencing chronic pain reduces your feelings of isolation and loneliness, which is often effective in making your pain more tolerable.
- Learn biofeedback:
Biofeedback is a process in which you wear special sensors which let you “hear” and “see” bodily functions like muscle tension, pulse and body temperature on a monitor. Eventually, you can learn how to exercise greater control over those functions, and to have better control over your pain.
Dealing with chronic pain is just one of the challenges which older people in Australia face every day. To learn more about the ways our training videos use the power of storytelling to engage, inform and inspire learning in Aged Care organisations, contact us today.