Why Your Chronic Pain May Be Flaring, and How to Find Relief

Man reading a newspaper.
Choose the health content that's right for you, and get it delivered right in your inbox

More time spent indoors, limiting your movements, has been challenging for many people. If you have chronic pain, stay-at-home orders or quarantine may have hit you even harder than most.

Your regular pain-relief treatments, from physical therapy to injections and more, might have been interrupted. American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM) guidelines note that stress and staying sedentary can also worsen your symptoms.

Please know that your pain care team is still here for you. The more you can maintain your pain treatments, the faster and more effective your relief will be. Here’s more on why you might be feeling worse, and how to move toward healing.

Your Pain, Explained

Pain has a purpose — to alert us that something is wrong and we need to seek medical care. Or, it may come after a major incident, such as a trauma or surgery. But with chronic pain, nerve signals go awry and aches linger far longer than they need to.

As many as 40% of Americans have chronic pain, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s one of the most common reasons for physician visits. And, it frequently limits people’s ability to work or otherwise move through their daily lives.

Many issues and conditions are related to chronic pain, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. These include:

Relief Is Available

While chronic pain can be severe and debilitating, it’s also treatable. Depending on the cause of your pain and how long it has lingered, your treatment plan may include:

  • Acupressure or massage

  • Injections

  • Lifestyle changes

  • Local anesthetics

  • Nutritional counseling

  • Pain medications

  • Physical therapy

  • Psychological counseling

  • Surgery

Pain During a Pandemic

Even if you already had an established treatment plan, recent changes in your life may have meant you missed some of your appointments. However, your pain may have increased even if you stuck to your plan.

Physicians know that stress often exacerbates pain, and there’s no doubt the pandemic and its effects have placed many people under strain. Isolation at home may leave you frustrated and fearful, and low on pain-relief supplies and information. Since anxiety, depression, sleep problems and pain often go hand in hand, you may have noticed a surge in all these symptoms.

Even if you were still doing your physical therapy exercises at home, you may have been moving less overall. This increase in sedentary time can cause stiffness, tightness or inflammation of your aches.

Why Staying Active Matters

To offset these mental and physical effects, the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend all adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity movement per week, plus two days of muscle-strengthening exercises. Ask your doctor what activity level is ideal for you. Every bit helps, and you can start small and increase over time.

Exercise benefits everyone but is crucial to those with chronic pain. Many types of pain are linked to tense, weak muscles. Light to moderate movement — think walking or gentle cycling — boosts the flow of blood and oxygen to tight or weak areas.

If you’re older or are otherwise at risk for balance problems, physical activity is especially important to reduce your risk of falls. You’ll also want to incorporate some moves that specifically target balance. These might include backward walking, standing on one leg or walking on your toes, the CDC notes.

In addition, physical activity relieves stress and can help you manage the symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. Movement simply makes you feel better, mentally and physically.

It’s not too late to resume being active if physical activity or physical therapy has fallen by the wayside. The sooner you start moving again, the less strength and endurance you’ll have to regain. Your physician or physical therapist can offer advice on the best way to move to control your symptoms.

Taking Control of Your Health

If chronic pain is a part of your life, we’re here to guide you toward relief. Talk to your physician about your symptoms and the best way to alleviate them. Because pain can sometimes suppress your immune system, it’s more important than ever to manage it.

Many pain treatments involve hands-on care. We understand you might feel nervous about coming into your physician’s office or the hospital right now. However, we want you to know we’re taking steps to keep you safe, including:

  • Masks for everyone. You and any visitors be asked to wear a cloth face covering, or be provided with a mask. Everyone involved in your care will also wear appropriate personal protective equipment.

  • Safe, separate care. People who have symptoms of COVID-19 will be treated in separate areas from those who haven’t.

  • Social distancing. Often, you’ll be able to check in virtually and wait in your car. When you do go inside, you’ll see seats placed far apart and markings on the floor indicating a safe distance.

  • Temperature screening. All patients, visitors and staff will undergo checks before entering the building. And many employees will receive additional screening for COVID-19.

Telehealth for Pain Management

In some cases, you may be able to schedule an online doctor visit to discuss your symptoms and treatment plan. And some pain therapies can also be delivered via telemedicine. These include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy and other types of counseling

  • Medication management

  • Physical therapy and other home exercise programs

Your provider will talk through all the benefits and risks of each treatment with you. Some aspects of your plan might look different now than before, as you work to manage new challenges and stressors while minimizing infection risk.

We’re Ready When You’re Ready

AdventHealth is committed to providing the latest information to help keep you and your family healthy. Learn more about new safety measures we’re using to protect you, visit AdventHealth.com.

Recent Blogs

A father playfully tackles his son as they play football outside.
Blog
5 Easy Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure
Female doctor talks with female patient
Blog
How Your OB/GYN Can Help Protect Your Heart
Blog
The ABCs of Infant Sleep Safety
A Mother and Daughter Walk Their Labradoodle on a Country Road.
Blog
8 Ways To Spring Into Good Health With Primary Care
Blog
Navigating the Post-Holiday Blues
View More Articles