30 Expert Tips for Managing Chronic Pain

Chronic pain changes lives. It impacts self-image, affects others, and interrupts plans. It's a disease that sometimes the person living with doesn't understand and others don't accept. Being bedridden one day but unimparied the next can be difficult to explain to others. It's normal to feel angry when pain hinders you from activities you enjoy or the ability to take part in routine tasks. 

To help you navigate this difficult terrain, here are some tips, simple lifestyle changes and advice from our own experts. Contributors include Ted Jones, PhD, CPE; Thomas J. Purtzer, MD; Sean Mackey, MD, PhD; Roderick A. Borrie, PhD; and Susan McQuillan, MS, RDN, CDN.

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Keep moving in spite of the pain.

Keep moving in spite of the pain.

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The importance of physical activity when living with chronic pain cannot be overstated. Gentle exercise, as difficult as it may sound, should be a central part of your treatment plan. Exercise keeps stiff joints lubricated and muscles strong. It's good for your mental health and helps avoid gaining excess weight.

It is important to talk to your doctor or a physical therapist to learn what is suitable for you and your condition. Some options may include swimming, walking, strength training, or beginner’s yoga and pilates. Thomas J. Purtzer, MD recommends using a pedometer to start a regular walking program. “Oftentimes, patients have been told by numerous physicians that if they hurt they should do nothing but I advise them to do the exact opposite,” he says, “I advise them to make it a goal to walk at least 10,000 steps a day on a regular basis.”

One gentle form of exercise that is good for almost everyone is chair yoga. One study reported that Chair Yoga pain reduction was nearly ten times greater for chair yoga participants than for health education participants that did not engage in exercise. Click here for a chair yoga slideshow