Chronic pain can be a debilitating nuisance, but how do you avoid getting it in the first place? Our board-certified Doctor of Physical Therapy, Michelle Ramirez, shares five tips to keep you heathy, feeling great and free from chronic pain.
- Get Help Early
If you injure yourself and the pain doesn’t go away quickly, please seek help to avoid long-term damage and chronic pain later in life.
“The easiest way to avoid chronic pain is to seek help from a specialist immediately after suffering an injury,” explains Dr. Ramirez. “The mistake most people who end up with chronic pain make is they didn’t get help after an injury and they let it try to heal on its own. Without taking the proper precautions and doing physical therapy, it may become a long-term condition rather than a short-term injury.”
- Keep Moving
Staying active can actually help prevent long-term discomfort.
“Another mistake that people tend to make is taking it easy rather than continuing their exercise regimens. People can become afraid of the pain they imagine they’ll have if they exercise or move their previously injured area and this is called ‘fear avoidance.’ It’s important to overcome this fear of pain to heal properly which will keep the joint or other injured area properly flexible and strong.”
- Avoid the Chronic Use of Pain Medications
Long term use of pain medications, especially opioids, has many negative effects and does not treat the cause of your pain — it only masks it.
“Pain medications may make you feel more comfortable for a short period of time but as you come to rely on them, your tolerance for that drug will increase and you’ll end up requiring more to meet your expectations of pain relief. Pain medications do not help treat the causes of your pain and are often detrimental in the long term.”
- Try Different Modalities
Alternating methods of treatment are an excellent way to reduce pain and address the causes of your pain at the same time.
“By switching up the ways you treat your pain, you can decrease the healing time and reduce the pain at an increased rate. Some excellent ways of dealing with pain that you can alternate or use in conjunction are hot and cold compresses, massage, physical therapy, acupuncture, yoga, tai-chi, and meditation. You can actually find a lot of relief from pain by meditating. Yoga and tai-chi not only promote meditation but also stretching, which is very helpful as physical therapy for an injury.”
- Stay Engaged Socially
It’s important to stay socially engaged with friends and family and to not become reclusive or cut off from the people that care about you.
“Dealing with an injury can lead to an aversion to the social events you used to participate in, but it’s very important to not become reclusive because it can lead to a depressive state. Depression is probably one of the worst things that can happen to a person with an injury because it will create a sense of hopelessness relating to your injury rather than a sense of positivity and healing. Depression can keep you from exercising, bothering to try different treatments and new things, and coupled with pain medications can lead to very dangerous lifestyles.”