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Managing chronic pain.

Managing Chronic Pain (Realistically!)

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Realistic chronic pain management

We’ve had a number of requests to do a main feature on managing chronic pain, so here it is!

A quick (but important) note before we begin:

Obviously, not all chronic pain is created equal. Furthermore, we know that you, dear reader with chronic pain, have been managing yours for however long you have, learning as you go. You also doubtlessly know your individual condition inside out.

We also know that people with chronic health conditions in general are constantly beset by well-meaning unsolicited advice from friends and family, asking if you’ve heard about [thing you heard about 20 years ago] that will surely change your life and cure you overnight.

It’s frustrating, and we’re going to try to avoid doing that here, while still offering the advice that was asked for. We ask you, therefore, to kindly overlook whatever you already knew, and if you already knew it all, well, we salute you and will not be surprised if that’s the case for at least some readers. Chronic pain’s a… Well, it’s a chronic pain.

All that said, let’s dive in…

How are you treating your body right now?

Are you hydrated; have you eaten; are you standing/sitting/lying in a position that at least should be comfortable for you in principle?

The first two things affect pain perception; the latter can throw a spanner in the works if something’s not quite right.

Move your body (gently!)

You know your abilities, so think about the range of motion that you have, especially in the parts of your body that hurt (if that’s “everywhere”, then, our sympathies, and we hope you find the same advice applies). Think about your specific muscles and joints as applicable, and what the range of motion is “supposed” to be for each. Exercise your range of motion as best you can (gently!) to the point of its limit(s) and/or pain.

  • If you take it past that limit, there is a good chance you will make it worse. You don’t want that.
  • If you don’t take it to the limit, there is a good chance your range of movement will deteriorate, and your “safe zone” (i.e., body positions that are relatively free from pain) will diminish. You definitely don’t want that, either.

Again, moderation is key. Yes, annoying as the suggestion may be, such things as yoga etc can help, if done carefully and gently. You know your limits; work with those, get rest between, and do what you can.

For most people this will at least help keep the pain from getting worse.

Hot & Cold

Both of these things could ease your pain… Or make it worse. There is an element of “try it and see”, but here’s a good general guide:

Here’s How to Choose Between Using Ice or Heat for Pain

Meditation… Or Distraction

Meditating really does help a lot of people. In the case of pain, it can be counterintuitively helpful to focus for a while on the sensation of the pain… But in a calm, detached fashion. Without judgement.

“Yes, I am experiencing pain. Yes, it feels like I’m being stabbed with hot knives. Yes, this is tortuous; wow, I feel miserable. This truly sucks.”

…it doesn’t sound like a good experience, does it? And it’s not, but paying it attention this way can paradoxically help ease things. Pain is, after all, a messenger. And in the case of chronic pain, it’s in some ways a broken messenger, but what a messenger most needs is to be heard.

The above approach a) is good b) may have a limit in how long you can sustain it at a time, though. So…

The opposite is a can be a good (again, short-term) approach too. Call a friend, watch your favorite movie, play a video game if that’s your thing. It won’t cure anything, but it can give you a little respite.


Unless you already know this makes your pain worse, this is a good thing to try. It doesn’t have to be a fancy spa; if the nature of your pain and condition permits, you can do self-massage. If you have a partner or close friend who can commit to helping, it can be very worth them learning to give a good massage. There are often local courses available, and failing that, there is also YouTube.

Here’s an example of a good video for myofascial release massage, which can ease a lot of common kinds of chronic pain:


Some quick final things to remember:

  • If you find something helps, then it helps, do that.
  • That goes for mobility aids and other disability aids too, even if it was designed for a different disability. If it helps, it helps. You’re not stealing anyone’s thunder (or resources) by using something that makes your life easier. We’re not in this life to suffer!
  • There is no such thing as “this pain is not too much”. The correct amount of pain is zero. Maybe your body won’t let you reach zero, but more than that is “too much” already.
  • You don’t have to be suffering off the scale to deserve relief from pain

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