The importance of healthy daily habits for pain relief

May 6, 2020

man going on a daily walk outside with his dog When you are living with chronic pain, going to the gym or attending a yoga class can seem daunting. While doing these things is simple for many people, for others, it’s complicated and anxiety-inducing. Getting dressed, leaving the house, driving, interacting with others, and physical movement may be too much if you have chronic pain.

However, we know that the more active your lifestyle is, the better. It’s a very effective way to help manage pain and stay healthy. Sometimes small, daily habits can add up and make a big difference in eventually achieving larger goals. 

Daily habits for pain management

Whether you are suffering from back pain, joint pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis, migraines, or other conditions, focusing on a few daily habits and lifestyle changes can have a significant effect on your overall pain level and well-being.

Move your body. Going for a walk or stretching is probably the last thing you want to do when you are suffering from back, knee, or other forms of pain. But a sedentary lifestyle can make pain worse and increase your risk of developing other serious health problems. When you do not exercise, muscles get weaker, which may cause you to suffer from even more pain. Ask your doctor what kinds of aerobic exercises are appropriate for you, and remember that all forms of movement count. Activities such as walking to the mailbox, vacuuming the house, playing outside with your kids, and walking your dog throughout the day can make a big difference.

Connect with others. For some, dealing with chronic pain leads to isolation and loneliness, both of which can lead to depression. To avoid this, stay connected with people however you can. Leave the house for coffee dates, meet friends at the park, and attend events as you are able. If you are not able to get out as much, be sure you are talking on the phone, texting, or keeping up with people on social media so you don’t feel alone in your struggles and successes. 

Focus on what you eat. Cooking a healthy meal can be too overwhelming for some people with chronic pain. But healthy options that don’t require much preparation are available, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that fit in with an anti-inflammatory diet. This might mean nuts to snack on, whole grain bread for toast, already washed and cut up fruit, and ready to eat vegetables. These types of foods will help keep your body strong and help boost your defenses against pain. If you need assistance, ask a friend or family member to help you with shopping and simple food prep so you have what you need without having to resort to junk food or fast food. 

Know when it’s time to rest. As discussed, staying active is crucial if you have chronic pain. However, there is a fine balance. Doing too much can make you overly tired or make pain symptoms worse. It’s important to find the right daily mix of rest and activity. For you, this may mean making time for people and activities that boost your spirits and make you feel better. And it may mean saying no to those people or activities that are more draining.

Regularly take notes about your pain. Not only will this help keep you busy, but a pain journal can be a huge help to your doctor. Keep track of your daily pain by recording a pain score between 1 and 10 at the end of every day. Take notes about the activities you did that day and how you felt while doing them. Write down thoughts about what you ate and how you felt afterwards. Bring your notes to share with your doctor the next time you have an appointment

All of these daily habits can help you feel like you are more in control of your chronic pain. This feeling alone can go a long way in boosting moods, attitudes, and outlooks.