According to the National Institutes of Health, chronic pain affects 20 percent of American adults and costs our society about $560 billion dollars annually.
Chronic pain covers a large spectrum of issues. It can be related to your joints, muscles, bones – even your mental and emotional health. It’s difficult to point to a single cause. Sometimes it develops after undergoing surgery. Other times it’s a symptom of other chronic conditions, such as arthritis or fibromyalgia. It can even be brought on by behavioral health issues. It’s unique to each person and that’s what can make it difficult to treat.
Successful management of chronic pain is about finding the right solution for the individual patient. Treatments generally fall into four categories:
- Medication – This includes opioid and non-opioid medications to manage and relieve pain.
- Integrative medicine – This approach focuses on treating the mind and body. It may include acupuncture, biofeedback, Reiki, guided imagery, mindfulness therapy or hypnosis. Sometimes supplements and a focus on nutrition are also used to manage pain.
- Behavioral health – Although you might feel low back pain, the root of it may be emotional, not physical. A therapist can help you work through your emotions and feelings to resolve physical pain.
- Surgery and injections – Depending on what’s causing your pain, surgery or injections may be the best option. Your doctor can help you decide if this path is right for you.
There are also lifestyle changes you can make to relieve pain:
- Maintain a healthy weight – Aim for a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. Staying at a healthy weight can help reduce physical stress on your body.
- Get moving – Often, people with chronic pain are afraid of movement but being inactive can actually worsen pain. Low-impact exercise, such as walking, yoga or gentle stretching can get your body moving without causing pain.
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet – Focus on putting more green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts and fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines) on your plate. These foods can help reduce inflammation and decrease pain.
- Reduce stress – Taking a meditation class or doing deep breathing exercises can help you feel calm and relaxed.
- Build your support system – Consider joining a support group for people with chronic pain. Being able to confide in others can help you feel less alone in your journey.
Edward-Elmhurst Health is one of the only hospital systems in the area that offers integrative medicine as an option for treating chronic pain. We provide the full range of treatments to help people get back to their daily activities without being limited by pain.