Supported self-management is the best way to improve your level of activity, reduce disability and keep pain to a minimum.
For people living with chronic pain, it is important to be surrounded by a supportive team. This can include family, friends and carers, as well as doctors and health professionals. There are also many support groups in Australia that connect people living with persistent pain.
If you would like to take an active role in your pain management, these three steps can help to keep you on track:
Acknowledge your pain. Everyone experiences pain differently – you may have to try a few different strategies before you find the best way to manage your pain.
Take the lead. No one knows your pain like you do. For the best results, you have to play an active role and take the lead in your pain management.
Try to stay positive. While it can take a while to find the best pain management plan, things can get better. One of the first steps can be changing that way you think about pain and learn not to react to it in a negative way.
There are many self-management strategies that can help with pain – it may take a while to trial them and find what works for you.
Moderate daily exercise will keep your muscles conditioned and improve your pain levels. If you haven’t been active in a while, start small and increase your activity over time. If possible, visit a physiotherapist and ask about a tailored exercise program.
Maintaining a healthy weight can improve symptoms of chronic pain, particularly for people with osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal or joint pain.
While some foods have also been found to help with pain, people living with chronic pain should consult with a healthcare professional such as a GP or dietician before undertaking a diet change.
A good night’s rest will help you cope with your pain. If you are having problems sleeping, try implementing a bedtime ritual, and keep your bedroom peaceful and relaxing.
If your pain is significantly impacting on your sleep, consult with your GP about potential solutions.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a psychological technique to help people deal with the factors associated with chronic pain, including depression. Your GP can refer you to a psychologist for help with CBT.
Mindfulness or meditation
Mindfulness is about learning to accept all your thoughts and feelings, including pain. It can help you live with pain more successfully.
When our muscles are tense, they increase pressure on nerves and tissues, which increases pain. To reduce muscle tension, you can use simple deep-breathing techniques, or take a yoga or meditation class, to learn techniques to use at home.
Chronic pain can be an isolating experience and you may benefit from joining a support group or online community. You may also consult a counsellor if pain affects your work or home relationships.
You can also ask your doctor or your Primary Health Network about free self-managing pain education courses in your local area.
Medication alone is not helpful for the management of persistent pain and people will often need to adopt other strategies for long-term pain management.
For persistent pain, self-management and adopting a multidisciplinary pain management approach is recommended. A holistic plan that incorporates biological, psychological and social factors will be the most beneficial to reduce the effects of chronic pain and improve ability and quality of life.
Some medicines can play a role within this holistic plan, such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. For more information about medicines, visit our Role of Medication page.