The first step in coping with chronic back pain or neck pain is to get a comprehensive medical evaluation and an accurate diagnosis. Pain is often a warning sign that something is wrong and needs medical attention.
However, for many the problem is often feeling that you have no control - it is frustrating to wait for the injection to work, to have to rely only on pain medication, to hear doctors say their is not much more they can do... whatever your situation, if you feel you want to be able to more proactively participate in your journey, here are a few ideas you can try.Not all techniques work for everyone, and many do not have a lot of clinical research to back them up, but they are non-invasive and inexpensive (or free) to try and may help.
Harness and your powerful mind
A number of psychological tools and techniques that have been shown to help cope with the chronic pain. All of these techniques make use of 4 types of skills:
- Deep muscle relaxation
- Distracting your attention away from pain signals
- Thinking about images or sounds that are pleasant to you
- Attaining detachment and distance.
Several techniques are simple and can be done anywhere, anytime—during breakfast, during your morning commute, etc. For example, silent counting is a good way to deal with chronic pain episodes. You might count breaths, tiles in the floor, or even mental images.
Another example is sensory splitting, in which you divide a sensation into parts. For example, if the pain feels hot or tingling to you, focus on the heat or tingling and not on the hurting.
Everyone needs to be understood. When dealing with chronic pain, it is uniquely difficult to adequately convey what you're going through as no one can see your pain. If you feel lonely, misunderstood, overwhelmed - consider reaching out to others who are experiencing similar challenges. Many hospitals have chronic pain support groups - so if you prefer to connect in person this may be an option for you. To gain access to a larger support group that is always active, consider participating in an online forum. Others in your situation can empathize like no one else. They may even have helpful experiences or insights to share with you. Spine-health.com has a very active Back Pain Forum
Relax and strengthen with yoga
While yoga is not for everyone (get your doctor's OK before trying it), many aspects of yoga make it ideal for helping lessen chronic back pain. Studies have shown that people who practice yoga just twice a week for 8 - 12 weeks can make significant gains in strength, flexibility, and endurance. All three gains are an essential part of most back pain rehabilitation. Moreover, the breathing and meditation aspects of yoga induce a relaxation response that decreases pain.
Eat right and get enough sleep
Good nutrition can aid your healing process. Your diet should include adequate protein as a source of the building blocks of soft tissue healing. Additionally, fresh fruit and vegetables supply the vitamins and trace elements necessary for effective healing. A vitamin supplement may also be helpful.
Sleep is extremely important for the body to heal.
One of the best ways to help you sleep is to create physical weariness through active exercise. Chronic inactivity does not create a need for the deep sleep that is so important for physical and emotional healing.
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Stretch your hamstrings
One of the simplest things you can do to help keep your lower back healthy is to stretch your hamstrings (the large muscle in the back of your thighs). Tight hamstrings are associated with lower back pain. Your hamstring stretching routine should include applying even pressure to lengthen the hamstring muscle for 30-45 seconds at a time, one to two times each day.
When coping with a back condition, we encourage you to take care of yourself and include non-medical activities along with medical treatments to enhance your physical and emotional strength and manage the pain. Find some type of exercise and stretching that works for you and take time to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle to the extent that you can.