Over time, it's easy to fall into some counterproductive habits when dealing with chronic pain. Take a look at this list to see if your routine could use some tweaking:
1. Catching sleep whenever you can. Chronic pain can throw a wrench into your sleeping routine, but frequent naps can make the problem worse. By napping off and on, your body fails to develop a clear day/night sleep cycle that results in deeper, more refreshing sleep. Relaxation therapy or cognitive behavior therapy, plus following a set of healthy guidelines known as sleep hygiene, may help you drift off and get the quality sleep you need. Addressing a treatable disorder, such as restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea, can also make a huge difference.
2. Avoiding exercise. No one expects you to go mountain climbing, but working small amounts of exercise into your day is crucial to maintaining strength and flexibility—and boosting your mood. If you haven't worked out in a long time, it might be best to start with just a few minutes of light exercise, such as walking or stretching. If exercise leaves you in agony or exhausted, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the best type of exercise for your condition. Many people with chronic pain find they can exercise more comfortably in a warm therapy pool. You don't need to know how to swim to join in.
3. Trying to do it all. Do you struggle to take care of all the household and family responsibilities yourself, despite your pain? Learn to accept others' offers of help. Have a few simple tasks in mind the next time friends offer to pitch in. For example, most people would be happy to pick up a few groceries for you the next time they're at the store, or change a hard-to-reach lightbulb. If your budget allows, hire someone to help with the heaviest chores.
4. Procrastinating on filling painkiller prescriptions. New laws requiring a new prescription every time you need a refill can leave you stranded if the doctor is not available and you've waited until the last minute to make an appointment. Make friends with your pharmacist, and ask about any restrictions you may not know about. Some states, for instance, have strict laws requiring people to carry painkiller medication in the original bottle from the pharmacy—no putting a few pills in your pocket anymore.
5. Trying to ignore your depression. Sleep deprivation, social isolation, and financial stresses are just a few reasons people with chronic pain may be more likely to be depressed. Unfortunately, depression can make it more difficult to take an active role in your treatment. If you have persistent symptoms of sadness or anxiety, a change in appetite, or lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed, talk with your doctor about treatment for this serious but treatable condition.
There's no handbook for living with chronic pain. Drawing support from others in a similar situation, any time of the day or night, can be helpful. Check out our forums at Spine-health.com or Arthritis-health.com for support from others in your situation.