Chronic pain is a huge problem in the US – affecting at least 1 out of every 5 Americans.¹ And yet, those who live with chronic pain are often silent. They practice “sucking it up” every day, even though their chronic pain has turned their world upside down.
Others provide comfort by saying they “understand chronic pain.” But if you have chronic pain, you know they’ll never truly understand what life’s like living with chronic pain.
At Brady’s Botanicals, we do understand. We know what it’s actually like living with chronic pain. We know that others may think they understand the pain you go through – but they haven’t even scratched the surface.
What you’re dealing with each day doesn’t stop. We also know, as you do, that chronic pain affects a lot more than what others may think.
How Living With Chronic Pain Affects Your Life
Chronic pain affects every area of your body, your mind, and your relationships. Chronic pain can determine whether or not you can work, enjoy social activities, or even take care of yourself.
You’re also living with endless social pressures and expectations.
Let’s say you’re having a good day and decide to get out of the house. You’ll probably wonder if others will think:
- You don’t look in pain so it must not be that bad.
- You’re out and about, so you must be fine.
This of course isn’t true for those living with chronic pain. You can’t touch chronic pain or point it out to others. It’s invisible.
You could also be weighing the consequences on how long it will take you to recover from your outing. How much will coffee with a friend cost you? 1-2 days of recovery? Maybe more?
It gets really depressing when you’re weighing whether seeing the people you care about is worth your time and suffering. You may find you’re no longer spending time with friends, or seeing your little nieces and nephews. You miss out on time with your partner. In fact, some of the most important relationships in your life are suffering because of your chronic pain.
This is how chronic pain takes control over your relationships, which then leads to persistent negative thoughts, low self worth, and unhappiness. Then this leads to symptoms of depression and anxiety on top of your chronic pain.²·³
But there is hope.
We’re going to go through treatment options for managing your chronic pain. But first, let’s go over the difference between acute pain and chronic pain.
The Difference Between Acute and Chronic Pain
When you get a little cut on your finger, it hurts. But once your body starts to heal that cut, with time, the pain goes away. This is what we call acute pain. This pain usually comes from inflammation, damaged tissue, an injury or accident, or a recent surgery.⁴
However, this is not the case with chronic pain. With chronic pain, you have an injury that will heal. But instead of the pain going away, the brain keeps sending messages of real pain to the affected area.
These messages can keep being sent to your body for weeks, months, and even years. The pain could be steady, or it could be the type of pain that wavers in intensity for no reason whatsoever. Either way, we know that chronic pain can occur in any area of your body.⁵
Here are some types of chronic pain our clients have experienced:⁶·⁷·⁸·⁹·¹⁰
- Postsurgical pain – pain that lasts 3 to 6 months after having surgery.
- Post-trauma pain – severe physical pain from a previously healed trauma.
- Lower back pain
- Cancer pain – this includes pain from cancer itself, and cancer treatments like chemo, surgery, and tests.
- Arthritis pain – the most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, and gout.
- Neurogenic pain – pain that’s caused by a damaged nervous system.
- Psychogenic pain – if your healthcare team can’t find a specific cause for your chronic pain, they may decide to diagnose you with psychogenic pain. Psychogenic pain is the idea that things like your beliefs, thoughts, fears, and emotions can cause, prolong, and make your pain worse.
What Causes Chronic Pain?
Sometimes the cause of chronic pain is obvious. For example, you may have just started chemo and are experiencing pain from your cancer or cancer treatments. Or you have a long-term illness like osteoarthritis. It’s in these circumstances, that chronic pain sometimes can’t be relieved by treating the underlying issue.
On the other hand, sometimes the cause of chronic pain is not so obvious. And when this happens, it could be because of an underlying health condition.
Here are some underlying health conditions that can cause chronic pain:¹¹·¹²·¹³·¹⁴·¹⁵·¹⁶·¹⁷
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – extreme fatigue that’s cause can’t be fully explained.
- Endometriosis – a painful condition that affects up to 10% of childbearing-aged women.
- Fibromyalgia – a painful condition that causes pain all over the body, problems sleeping, fatigue, and emotional and mental issues.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease – includes disorders like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- Interstitial Cystitis – causes pressure on your bladder and pain of the bladder and sometimes pelvis.
- Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction – a condition that affects the jaw joints, muscles, and ligaments. This can be caused by having an improper bite, trauma, wear and tear, or arthritis.
- Vulvodynia – this happens when persistent pain or discomfort is present in a woman’s genitals with no known cause. Vulvodynia makes getting intimate or sitting for long hours almost impossible.
How Do I Know If I Have Chronic Pain?
When you’re in pain for much longer than you think is normal or you’re hurting but you’re not sure of the cause – then it’s probably time to see your doctor. Just in case, here are some symptoms of chronic pain to look out for:
- Joint pain
- Burning pain
- Problems sleeping
- Achy muscles
In one study, a little over 60% of people said they had severe levels of depression in addition to their chronic pain.¹⁸ That’s why it’s a good idea to assess how you’re feeling and look out for any signs of mood problems like anxiety, irritability, and depression.
What Happens If Chronic Pain Is Left Untreated?
As soon as you start becoming curious of chronic pain, it’s best to get your healthcare team involved. If you don’t get support for your chronic pain, a few things could happen:¹⁹·²⁰
- Decreased Mobility – you may no longer be able to move around freely with no pain. This makes simple day-to-day activities nearly impossible to complete.
- Impaired Immunity – your immune system may not be able to protect you from viruses. And you may be more likely to get sick than those who are pain-free.
- Decreased Concentration – it’ll be hard to focus and things may easily distract you. So you might find it frustrating when the things on your to-do list keep increasing.
- Anorexia – you could develop an eating disorder. Not because you want to lose weight but because of the food disturbances with your chronic pain. This is because when we’re in pain, we may use food as a distraction or restrict ourselves when the pain gets too bad.
- Sleep Disturbances – 50-80% of people with chronic pain also have sleep problems like insomnia and sleep disorders. So you may find yourself counting more sheep than someone who’s not in pain.
Who’s at Risk for Chronic Pain?
It’s easier for some to get chronic pain than others. Here’s who’s at risk:²¹·²²
- People who have chronic (long-term) painful conditions
- Someone who feels depressed
- Smokers – in one study, 50% of people seeking treatment for chronic pain were smokers
- Obese individuals – 50% of people seeking treatment also reported mild to severe pain
- Those 65 or older
Those who have other people in their family living with chronic pain, have a higher chance of developing chronic pain. Children whose parents have chronic pain are particularly at risk. Also, people who have survived physical trauma are at risk of developing chronic pain.
When Your Chronic Pain Becomes Too Much
When the pain starts becoming unbearable, you need to know how to find relief and make it through. Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent chronic pain, yet. There are many treatment options for chronic pain though.
The options include:
- Medical treatment modalities
- Alternative treatments for chronic pain
- Lifestyle changes and tips for managing chronic pain
We’ll go over the possible medical treatment options first. When you go to see your doctor, they may recommend multiple interventions based on the severity of your condition. Here are a couple of routes you could try:
- Medication – your doctor may prescribe you medication like steroids, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, and much more to help with the pain.
- Physical Therapy – a physical therapist may work with you to help reduce pain and restore mobility.
- Nerve Block – helps manage pain symptoms and improve your quality of life.
- Psychological (Behavioral) Therapy – this includes psychological therapies like Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. It doesn’t help with pain a lot but it does help to improve mood and provide relief.
If you’re unsatisfied with the medical approach option, you could also consider approaching your chronic pain with alternative treatment options in addition to your current treatment plan.
7 Effective Alternative Treatment Options for Chronic Pain
Here are some popular alternative treatment options to consider if you’re dealing with chronic pain:
Alternative Option #1: Acupuncture
Acupuncture, an ancient practice, works by applying needles, pressure, and heat to certain points on your body. Some may find acupuncture to be a little too new age when they start talking about the energetic body and your chakras. Luckily, acupuncture has been proven through many studies to help relieve chronic pain due to headaches, back and neck pain, and osteoarthritis.²³·²⁴·²⁵
Alternative Option #2: Biofeedback
Biofeedback is a type of therapy used to prevent or treat conditions like chronic pain, high blood pressure, incontinence, and migraines. Supported by the idea that if you grasp the power of your mind and become more aware of how your body is feeling – you can take your health back into your own hands.
We’re not sure exactly how biofeedback works and researchers aren’t sure either. What they do know is that biofeedback helps you relax which helps relieve conditions caused by stress.
Alternative Option #3: Hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy can make a significant difference in the lives of those suffering from chronic pain. Hypnotherapy, often called hypnosis, isn’t mystical like you might believe – it’s psychological.
Hypnosis works by tapping into the mind-body-connection. Your thoughts and feelings affect your physical health. Much like how your physical health affects your mental health.
Hypnotherapy has been studied and proven to reduce chronic pain short-term in up to 70% of those who tried it.²⁶ Research also tells us that 71% of those with IBS said they had improved symptoms after a session of hypnotherapy.²⁷
So, hypnotherapy could be worth a try.
Alternative Option #4: Mindfulness
Frequently known as a great way to reduce stress and improve focus – mindfulness provides many benefits including reducing symptoms of chronic pain. In fact, one study showed that practicing mindful meditation helped decrease pain and depression symptoms and improved quality of life.²⁸
There are many modalities included within the mindfulness practice. Examples of these include mindful meditations and practicing yoga. We’ve of course come to know of the importance of yoga but what you might not know is that yoga:
- Helps relax your muscles which is great if you’re feeling tense
- Encourages you to practice deep restorative breathing
- Increases mindfulness
Plus, research tells us that yoga reduces the symptoms of depression and anxiety that often come from chronic pain.²⁹
When choosing to go with mindfulness as a treatment option for chronic pain, it’s always a good idea to work with a trained professional, like a psychotherapist. It’s also important to approach mindfulness with an open mind. It really is an effective tool to use to start getting relief from chronic pain.
Alternative Option #5: Music or Pet Therapy
- Music Therapy is often recommended as a therapeutic approach for those living with chronic pain. Studies have shown this therapy to be effective in making you feel empowered, socially engaged, and motivated.³⁰ Music Therapy has also been proven to decrease pain, depression, and disability.³¹
- Pet Therapy is another helpful alternative for treating chronic pain. It might surprise you that a pet can actually reduce your pain, brighten your day with smiles, and promote a sense of calm. This therapy is usually used in conjunction with other treatment options for chronic pain.
How it works is you have a visit with a trained animal (usually a cat or dog), and the pet’s owner or handler. The visit is a therapeutic one that promotes healing through the human-animal connection. One study reported that pet therapy helped 1 in 4 people with fibromyalgia.³²
If you’re particularly interested in approaching your chronic pain management creatively, then music or pet therapy are exciting yet relaxing options.
Alternative Option #6: Reiki
The use of Reiki – a Japanese energy healing technique – is a complementary health approach for chronic pain management. Even though there aren’t a lot of studies or research on the use of Reiki and its effectiveness as an alternative treatment to chronic pain, it has been recognized and used by major players in the healthcare industry, including the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic.
It’s important to know that there are things that Reiki simply can’t fix that western medicine can. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. It just means that Reiki works more on emotional energy blockages that affect your health. So if you choose to try Reiki – use it in conjunction with other treatment options while under the supervision of your primary care doctor.
Alternative Option #7: Relaxation Techniques
So how do you relax when you have chronic pain?
When you have chronic pain, it’s important to practice calming your body and your mind. Because when you calm your thoughts and relax your body, you can reduce stress, chronic pain, and improve your mood.
When you practice relaxation techniques every day you can experience relief from chronic pain symptoms in the short-term and long-term.³³
Here are a few examples of relaxation techniques to help calm your body and mind:
- Diaphragmatic breathing – using this technique you’ll practice breathing the way you do when you’re asleep or very deeply relaxed from a place of mindfulness.
- Progressive muscle relaxation – this technique includes tensing and relaxing your muscles. This works because it helps you get rid of tension stored up in your muscles. It also teaches you to notice what it feels like when you’re tense so you can proactively relax.
- Guided imagery – this mindfulness technique helps you go to your happy place and leave everything else behind. Guided imagery works by effectively distracting you from pain, stress, and worry.
Now, these alternative treatment options for chronic pain have been around for centuries so we know they’re helpful. It’s up to you to find out which options work best for your health, pain management, and overall well-being.
Easy Lifestyle Changes You Can Implement for Chronic Pain Relief
When you’re dealing with chronic pain, you’ll do just about anything to make your day a little easier. Here are some lifestyle changes you can start implementing to help ease the pain:
Reduce Your Stress Levels
Reducing your stress is the first big step you can take towards gaining relief from chronic pain. This is because stress causes pain and pain, in turn, causes stress. This can be a vicious cycle that you won’t want to get stuck in.
A good first step for reducing stress is identifying what exactly triggers you. Once you’ve identified triggers you can get to work on reducing them.
Reconnect With Nature
When you’re in a stressful environment, your blood pressure and heart rate rise. Your muscles become tense and your immune system starts to weaken.
That’s why when managing chronic pain symptoms, it’s so important to remove yourself from a stressful environment and make nature a part of your lifestyle. This could look like going for walks on a nature path, sitting outside, or making a garden. In the winter, you could adopt house plants in rooms of your house you spend a lot of time in.
Over time, houseplants will improve your mood, make you think more positively, and reduce the amount of stress in your life. For those who want to reconnect with nature but are isolated from doing so, listening to nature sounds is also a good option and a form of music therapy.
Get Better Sleep
It’s so much easier to deal with chronic pain after having a nice long night of restful sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, here are some helpful tips:
- Keep your bedroom cool, comfortable, and free of clutter
- Eliminate digital devices like your phone from your sleeping space
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
- Use your bed for sleep not work
It can take a while to get used to a sleep routine. Be patient and give yourself some time to get used to lifestyle changes. After a while, you’ll notice yourself starting to sleep better and longer. You’ll also be less irritable, and able to handle your chronic pain better than before.
Say Goodbye to Alcohol
Many people with chronic pain turn to alcohol as a coping strategy or management technique. We cannot express how important it is not to turn to alcohol. Not only does this lead to alcohol abuse and alcoholism, but it’s not doing your health any favors.
Sure, having that drink may feel good for a little while. But alcohol also messes up your sleep cycle and makes sleep problems worse. Plus, it’s better to deal with things like chronic pain instead of trying to push it down or trying to numb it with alcohol or other substances.
We’re all about using the power of nature to fuel and improve health at Brady’s Botanicals.
Eat a Healthy, Nutritious Diet
A lot of times, you can find relief from chronic pain by taking care of yourself and your body. You can eat nutritious foods like fresh fruits and vegetables which are packed full of vitamins your body and mind love. Plus, when you eat well you’ll have more energy, and that means you’ll have more motivation to exercise.
When you exercise, you’ll feel energized and you’ll reduce your weight, pressure on your joints, and overall pain symptoms.
We’re Always Here to Support Your Chronic Pain Management Strategy
We know that coping with chronic pain isn’t easy. It can be an intensely frustrating upward battle. It can make you angry at yourself, those you love, and life in general. There are so many treatment options out there, it easily becomes overwhelming. That’s why it’s so critical to be informed and be patient as you find what works best for you.
However, we also know from experience that the treatment options available to you sometimes aren’t enough. And that’s where we come in.
At Brady’s Botanicals, our specialty is helping people like you live healthier, better lives. Even when painful chronic conditions try to knock you down, we help you get right back up.
You can find peace and comfort in our always organic, vegan, whole-plant products. We use science to formulate our high-quality products that come from our farm, directly into your hands.
Navigating whole-plant products can be a confusing endeavor as well. That’s why we offer consultations for clients that have questions about what products would be the best fit for them, their needs, and their wellness goals. You can get your free consultation today with one of our endocannabinoid experts by calling (833) 692-7239 or emailing us here.
We can’t wait to help answer your questions on how you can live a life of freedom with chronic pain.