The right lifestyle modifications can help improve a person’s resilience against pain, positively impact their metabolism, and benefit their overall health and quality of life. Even the little things, like identifying and addressing negative thinking or getting another half hour of sleep per night, can have a large long-term impact. But how do these modifications compare to other pain management options?
A lifestyle modification is a change in behavior that a person can commit to for the benefit of their mental, physical, or even social well-being. Positive lifestyle modifications may be recommended by health professionals as a way to slow the advance of a disease, reduce the need for a formal course of treatment, or improve the outcome of a condition currently being treated.
Lifestyle modifications are recommended by doctors on a case-by-case basis. Lifestyle modifications are meant to target and address contributing factors that could be negatively impacting a person’s health or exacerbating their condition. In the context of chronic pain, it’s important to note that there are hundreds of potential causes for chronic pain conditions. Some lifestyle modifications are prioritized over others depending on a person’s condition, and the immediate contributing factors.
What Role do Lifestyle Modifications Play in Chronic Pain Relief?
Some chronic pain conditions are primarily inherited. Some are the result of another illness. Some may be due to an injury or accident. Lifestyle modifications do not replace other pain management options but can help address a person’s pain from a holistic perspective.
It’s important for lifestyle modifications to be person-specific, and achievable.
For example: when a person’s obesity has been affecting their health for many years, it’s not enough for a doctor to recommend a diet or ask patients to eat less.
Other, personalized, and more specific goals and directions would be needed to effectively address the contributing issue.
In the case of obesity, for example, we know that a growing number of people struggle with excess bodyweight. But what many people do not realize is that most people with a history of obesity have also tried – and in many cases, succeeded – to lose a significant amount of weight. Obesity has a prevalence of about 41 percent in the US – meanwhile, roughly half of all US adults actively worked on losing weight in the last year. The problem is that few people keep that weight off.
There’s a deeper problem here that a recommended diet cannot fix. Effective lifestyle modification requires long-term mental and social support, a day-to-day plan, and a holistic approach exploring some of the barriers to long-term behavioral modification. This goes for weight loss as it does for sleep hygiene, mindfulness, posture and ergonomic correction, and more.
Effective Lifestyle Modifications for Chronic Pain Relief
Lifestyle modifications come in plenty of shapes and sizes. It’s best to discuss a priority list of changes during and after treatment with your doctor for better recovery and pain-free living. These might include:
- A healthy and balanced diet, with a variety of foodstuffs.
- Regular exercise of any form, especially something fun.
- A consistent quality and length of daily sleep.
- Effective stress management techniques, both immediate and for the long-term.
- Staying hydrated throughout the day, especially in the hotter months.
- Staying within a healthy range for one’s body (this can be a wide range).
- Better body awareness and injury-prevention.
- Ergonomic adjustments at work to reduce physical stress.
- Hot-and-cold therapy, to reduce flare-ups of pain or address swelling.
- Practicing physical mindfulness, whether through a flow-state or exercise.
- Limiting or eliminating alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine.
- Frequent and healthy social engagement.
Remember, it’s crucial to consult with your doctor before making any significant lifestyle changes, especially if you have other underlying health conditions.
Embracing a Holistic Treatment Plan
Lifestyle modifications must be adapted to address behaviors and habits that are actively detrimental to a person’s treatment or may be exacerbating their pain symptoms.
But they don’t always act as an independent or effective painkiller. You can exercise and help reduce your joint pain in the long-term, but exercise alone is unlikely to cure rheumatic arthritis. Weight loss can help take stress off the body, but it does not mean that your symptoms of fibromyalgia will disappear.
However, when incorporated into a holistic pain management plan, simple and personalized lifestyle modifications can go a long way to amplify the benefits of your treatment and improve your quality of life.
Chronic pain is a complex topic. While most people are aware of how certain medications and non-surgical interventions can help address pain, many come to us with questions about lifestyle modifications and chronic pain. These questions include:
How important is weight loss in managing chronic pain?
Your weight may be a factor in your chronic pain, but it is rarely the only or most important factor. The combination of excessive bodyweight with a completely sedentary lifestyle is far more likely to amplify your chronic pain than bodyweight alone. Focusing on building a healthy, robust body rather than a thinner one is often far more productive.
Why does sleep play a big role in pain management?
We are still in the process of fully understanding how sleep can affect your mental and physical health, and exactly how much sleep is enough for any given person. What we do know so far is that missing even just an hour of sleep a night can massively decrease mood and increase pain perception. Furthermore, your chronic condition may be affecting your sleep quality. Getting a sleep study and seeking remedies to help improve your sleep hygiene can have a big impact on long-term pain levels.
Pain management can feel like a full-time job. Working with a specialized pain clinic can help you streamline your treatment plan and address your condition under one roof. Learn more about our long-term pain management options here at PMIR via our website. Give us a call at (877) 724-6349 or send us a message.