Millions of Americans who have some form of arthritis or a related disease suffer from pain that is chronic. Pain is treated as chronic when it persist three to six months or longer, but chronic pain can be considered its own disease.

Is it Acute or Chronic Pain?

You can take control once you have identified the type of pain you have:

Acute pain may be brief or last for a while. It usually comes on suddenly and goes away once the cause has been treated.

Chronic pain is persistent and ongoing, lasting for months. Usually it begins with an injury or infection. Chronic pain may also be psychogenic, meaning it is unrelated to injury but it affects your physical and emotional well-being.

4 Point Chronic Pain Management

  1. Get a comprehensive medical evaluation from your primary care physician to review your physical condition, psychological responses and the current status of your medications.
  2. Manage your medications prescribed by your physician to address severe pain.
  3. Enroll in physical therapy to address weight gain, loss of strength, reduced stamina and limited activity, which can commonly occur with chronic pain.
  4. You may benefit from stress management techniques like psychological health care, lifestyle management, family counseling and biofeedback to deal with chronic pain.

Additional Chronic Pain Management Tips

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration aggravates chronic conditions like headaches and back pain. You may want to pass on foods that are high in sodium or caffeine as their diuretic effect makes them poor sources for hydration. Conversely, drinking lots of water can help keep you hydrated, but it’s best to consult with your physician for before making any major changes to your diet.

Foods to Eat and Limit

Inflammation often causes pain, and certain chemicals in foods may exacerbate it. Foods that may ease inflammation include leafy greens, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, turmeric, asparagus, and low-sugar fruits like pineapple, cherries, cranberries and soy products.

Some foods that may increase inflammation:

  • processed foods
  • high-fat red meat
  • wheat products

Stretching, Yoga and Relaxation

People with chronic pain feel especially painful and stiff when they get out of bed.  So before you get out of bed in the morning roll on to your back and gently stretch out your arms, back and legs. Take relaxing long breaths and practice stretching movements every day to help you to loosen up a bit.

With chronic pain it is helpful to calm the mind and ease stress. Stress causes muscle spasms, leading to chronic pain, so practicing yoga postures trains your body to be flexible, while breathwork and meditation helps your body relax. Yoga may not be your cup of tea, but try to find a physical activity that relaxes you and does not aggravate your condition.

Keep a Pain Log

Keep a record of your medication, whether it helps reduce your pain and the times when your symptoms are worse. Keep a note of when you take medication and its effectiveness. You may be surprised to find that a certain medication is not effective for you, or that the side effects are greater than the benefits.

Try to be positive in your thinking and focus on the improvements that you’re making in managing your pain. You can start the process of healing by taking steps to proactively manage both the psychological and physical effects of chronic pain. If you think chronic pain is affecting you psychologically, talk to your physician so you can begin treating all of the symptoms and chart your unique path toward recovery.

The Illinois Bone & Joint Institute has more than 90 orthopedic physicians, and 20 locations throughout Chicago.