It is thought that many people in the UK live with a condition that causes chronic pain. Whether it be a diagnosed medical condition such as arthritis or diabetes nerve pain, or simply unexplained back pain, whatever the cause, it is important that it is taken seriously. The NHS offer advice on living with chronic pain which should help you go about your everyday life.
If you suffer from back pain the worst thing you can do is lie in bed or rest for long periods. While this may be the most tempting option, inactivity will actually make the pain last longer as the longer you are still, the weaker your back muscles will become. Both NHS and NICE guidelines instead suggest staying as active as possible to combat pain.
Low impact exercises such as walking, swimming, yoga, Pilates, or cycling are several options that you can take that won’t put too much strain on your body. You should do these exercises little and often, even on days when you experience pain, to make stretching and activity part of your daily routine. This will not only improve your physical wellbeing, but also your mental health, as it may help you feel in more control of your condition. However, make sure that you don’t overdo it on good days as this may become detrimental in the long run.
Go to work
NHS guidelines recommend that you also try to go about your daily activities as much as possible, which includes going to work and completing household chores. Being at work will distract you from the pain and will improve your mental wellbeing, as research shows that you are higher risk of depression when you are unemployed and inactive.
If you are having difficulty completing tasks because of pain, you should talk to your supervisor about any arrangements that can be made to make this easier. If you work in an office where you are sitting for most of the day, you should also consider adjusting your posture and making an effort to regularly move around. NHS health experts recommend breaking up sedentary time every 30 minutes for at least one to two minutes.
Completing household chores
If you can, then you should continue to go about your household chores as they also provide exercise and distraction from the pain. However, you should take care when bending and lifting heavy objects. When lifting keep your feet apart for balance and try to keep your back straight and to avoid bending and twisting. Remember to know your own limits – if something is too heavy or painful seek assistance.
Practising breathing and relaxation techniques is another way to combat chronic pain. This will help you feel more in control and can reduce any anxiety and muscle tension that may be worsening your discomfort.
Often a course of physical therapy will be recommended by your GP. For persistent pain, this may involve stretching, manipulation and pain relief exercises that can make daily tasks and activities such as walking up the stairs and making the bed more manageable.
NHS Choices stresses the importance of using pain killers carefully as they have side effects. However, using over the counter pain killers to reduce your pain such as paracetamol or ibuprofen is safe, as long as you don’t have a condition that prevents you from using them. Discuss with your physiotherapist if there is a good alternative, such as using ice and heat to reduce inflammation.
If you do take any medication, it is very important to take them at the recommended dosage and frequency. If you are in any doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist.