Tired of taking painkillers? Here are ten tips for easing chronic pain without them!

Betrayal is painful, especially when it comes from those who are meant to be close to you and you trust them to be responsible to protect you or at least not let you down. Imagine being betrayed by your own immune system as is the case in autoimmune diseases. In this blog post, Dr Houda Ounnas, a Harley Street, London GP suggests 10 tips for patients with chronic pain that do not involve the word painkiller.

Today is the World Autoimmune Arthritis Day, which is a global race around the world to unite community resources and raise awareness. Autoimmune diseases are hard, not only are they chronic, painful and unpredictable, but also they are associated with a huge emotional burden. I mean the very immune system that is meant to protect you from foreign elements causing you disease and discomfort, is the one attacking you ): If that is not betrayal, I do not know what is?

Now, I am not a rheumatologist or an immunologist, I am a general practitioner with an interest in mental health and in optimizing my patients physical and mental health efficiently and in harmony. I have built long term relationships with patients who suffer from those illnesses, and this article is based on my observations caring for those unfortunate patients through the journey.

On top of the pain, the necessary immune modulating drugs, the occasional much needed steroids with all their side effects, the list of pain killers that fluctuates as the illness does, those poor patients still have to deal with the mental and emotional burden this illness is inflicting on them and their families. I always explore the “why me” question with my patients. Some of whom have asked it, which is normal, some have accepted the illness for what it is.

It is ok to be angry or feel a sense of injustice. Chronic pain isn’t an easy condition to handle, but all is not lost, there are things in our control, we can do to help ourselves. Simple changes in our lifestyle, diet, and exercise routines can help ease off pain. In the next post, we explore exactly that!

Try these techniques to experience relief:

1. Manage stress: Stress can increase chronic pain and make it more difficult to manage. Try a variety of strategies to relax and reduce stress to see which ones work the best for you. Yoga and meditation are two stress-reduction strategies that can help.

2. Try breathing exercises: By simply focusing on your breathing, you can relax your muscles and reduce pain. Deep breathing exercises can also reduce blood pressure, eliminate stress, and decrease the heart rate.

3. Food! Avoid inflammatory food and add anti-inflammatory food: Fast food and processed food can increase inflammation in your body, so your chronic pain also increases. Foods with a lot of sugar and salt also contribute to inflammation and increased pain. On the other hand, nuts, leafy greens, fatty fish, berries, and other items can help you fight inflammation and reduce pain. They have antioxidants that fight damage on the cellular level.

4. Find fun distractions: Instead of concentrating on the pain, try distractions that help you forget about it.

Hobbies and activities such as watching your favorite movie or reading a new book can help. You may also want to try drawing or other ideas that help you fill your time and avoid thinking about the pain.

5. Increase your water intake: Dehydration can make chronic pain worse. 2-3 L a day is the recommended amount.

6. Focus on posture: Posture can help reduce the stress on your back and cut down on chronic pain. Consider the way you sit and stand. Experts recommend that you avoid slumping your shoulders and lowering your head. The spine should be straight, so circulation is better.

7. Choose a good GP and build a relationship with them: The nature of chronic illness, necessitates that your will have repeat prescriptions, fluctuations, ups and downs and coordination of specialist referrals and responding to requests. This is a multifactorial illness that affects different aspects of you and your life, and since it affects the whole of you, you need someone who understands the whole of you and who practices medicine holistically. You need to know you are supported by a doctor who understands both your physical and mental health holistically and who can offer you continuity of care and support you maintain your health by all means, and not just by medications. Who is better placed to be with you for this journey than your GP? That is way I say find a good one!

Researchers have found that talking about your health can reduce pain. The GP is the patients’ advocate, the way I view it, is that I am my patients’ friend who happens to have breadth of medical knowledge and is well connected to specialist colleagues, I can put them in touch with. That mentality is the reason I enjoy my job because I don’t think of it as such. I see consultations as a meeting of two experts, me in the disease, the patient in the illness. They benefit from my knowledge and professional experience and I learn from their personal experience of the illness.

8. Try massage: Massages can reduce chronic pain by improving circulation and blood flow. Massages help reduce back, shoulder, and neck pain. They can also help your overall health.

9. Find support: Health experts recommend finding support groups that focus on chronic pain. These groups give you the chance to meet others who suffer from chronic pain.

· They can offer advice and tips for managing pain. They can also provide doctor and clinic reviews or recommendations. By talking to others who have chronic pain, you can learn new techniques to deal with your pain.

· Chronic pain is linked to anxiety and depression. The social aspect of support groups can also help in coping with these side effects.

· Support groups are less formal settings, and online groups offer privacy and anonymity, so you can feel comfortable sharing your experience.

10. Cultivate your close relationships: These are your closest support system, and you should treat them as such. I know it can be hard when you are in pain to generate positive feelings. You might be angry, sad, frustrated or just in pain! Please remember that if you have a partner or a caring family member who is looking after you and standing by you during this illness, count them as a blessing or an asset. They are humans too and they have not betrayed you in the way, your immune system has. They are already suffering emotionally to see you suffer, they do not need more mental or emotional pain.

I acknowledge this is a sensitive topic, but it ought to be spoken about. I have also seen this from experience, where sufferers of chronic pain, unintentionally take out their negative feelings on their loved ones and supporting daughters, sons, husbands or wives. You have every right to be angry and to vent your emotions, just not at them! Try speaking to your partner or career about how you feel or letting them know when you are in pain and not willing to engage in any conversations. They will appreciate your appreciation of their loyalty and the mutual support will go a long way!

Even if you take medication for your pain, which you should! You can further reduce it with these techniques. Follow your doctor’s advice, reduce stress and inflammation, and find and cultivate support, and you’ll feel the pain relief you’ve been seeking.

Stay Healthy, Dr Houda Ounnas

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