5 Strategies to Help Decrease Your Daily Pain
After a surgical procedure or an acute injury that causes pain, we all hope to return to
our daily lives as if nothing ever happened. Unfortunately, not all experiences with pain are so
neatly isolated. For many people, pain is a part of their daily lives. How can one cope when pain
refuses to subside? While there’s no universal solution or “quick fix,” there are many generally
helpful strategies that can make a difference. If you’re looking to decrease your daily pain, try
following these five suggestions.
1. Follow your pain management plan, and don’t be afraid to supplement for flare-ups
If you suffer from daily pain, it’s important not only that you speak with a physician to
determine a pain management plan but that you diligently follow it. If your plan includes
medications such as opioids, NSAIDS, or marijuana products, keep a set schedule for when you
take them. Taking medications regularly maintains a steady concentration of the active
ingredients in your body throughout the day, as opposed to the highs and lows you could
experience when taking them on an irregular basis. If your plan includes exercise or physical
therapy, it’s similarly important to stay in the habit of performing those activities regularly to
maximize their benefits.
When flare-ups occur, other options may provide relief on top of your existing plan.
These include over-the- counter medications, like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and acetaminophen
(Tylenol), and cold/hot compresses. Before using these supplements, however, make sure it
won’t cause any negative side effects. Those with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS),
for example, should avoid applying ice as it can worsen symptoms. If you aren’t sure, consult
2. Practice mindfulness
The battle against pain is equal parts mental and physical. On days when pain is
winning, it’s natural to feel resentment, sadness, or even rage. Rather than succumbing to those
feelings and being consumed by the response to pain, taking a step back and looking at them
for what they are can bring relief – though it certainly takes practice! This practice of
mindfulness helps mitigate the negative effects of these emotions by cultivating a less
judgmental and more reflective awareness of the self. The “Leaves on a Stream” exercise,
available in guided video form online, is a popular form of mindfulness that involves visualizing
thoughts floating down a stream.
3. Put yourself first
Some days are just going to be worse than others when it comes to pain management.
On these days, it ultimately falls to you to make the decision on what you can or can’t do. If you
aren’t feeling your best, don’t push yourself! Instead, focus on recovering and getting back up to
your best as soon as possible. It’s better to take time to improve than to push forward and risk
another bad day or worse.
4. Engage your mind
This concept is like mindfulness in that it takes a mind-over- matter approach to
managing pain. Though chronic pain obviously limits the activities one can do and interferes
with concentration, doing something that engages your mind as much as possible can provide a
distraction. Reading, playing video games, or coloring are all engaging activities, but you know
yourself best and should find something you enjoy.
5. Keep yourself adequately rested and hydrated
One unfortunate quirk of our biology is that a lack of sleep can make pain worse, just as
intense pain can make it difficult to sleep. This cycle is well-known amongst those who suffer
from chronic pain, and it can be difficult to break from. Planning a regular sleep schedule and
bedtime routine can make it easier to fall asleep at night, as can supplements such as
melatonin. Refraining from using electronic devices close to bedtime or at least filtering their
displays to warmer colors will also help you fall asleep sooner.
It’s also important to stay hydrated throughout the day. Not “8 glasses of water a day”
hydrated – that “rule” has been debunked – but rather sufficiently hydrated that you don’t find
yourself overly thirsty throughout the day. It may seem irrelevant, but dehydration can cause
headaches and a bevy of other symptoms. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to be proactive