Sometimes people get complacent when their chronic pain management is going well and they develop unrealistic expectations that they will always be this way. Unfortunately, when you live with an ongoing chronic pain condition you will probably experience times when your pain levels flare up. Sometimes you can determine why and other times it comes as a complete surprise and you don’t really know why. No matter why your pain flares up, you need to find safe effective ways to cope with the amplified symptoms and that requires having a good plan in place.
Below are several non-pharmacological (non-medication) ways that other people have learned to implement in order to manage their pain flare ups. This is followed by a list of alternative interventions for you to choose from. Some of the interventions below may seem to be similar to the craving management plan—but the focus is different and this plan can actually enhance your craving management plan.
You may already be implementing some of the examples listed below. The important thing to remember is you can always improve your ability to intervene in a way that helps you regain effective pain management. Sometimes the intervention does need to be pain medication or medical procedures, but changing your medication protocols should only be done with your healthcare provider’s knowledge and permission.
- Relaxation: When you are in a pain flare up your body’s automatic response often includes a reflexive tensing response. This problem leads to your being unable to relax the locus of the pain problems, which leads to increased muscle tension in these areas. You need to practice to consciously relax the affected muscles, enabling them to modulate your pain levels and bring the pain under your control without needing to increase your medication.
- Increasing Activity/Fitness: Many people experiencing pain flare ups become very sedentary, with strong avoidance tendencies for many types of activities. The two primary reasons for this are the pain itself, and your own predictions regarding the negative impact of activity. Therefore, it is crucial to return to more normal levels of activities and slowly increase your stamina for physical activities. The goal is to extinguish conditioned avoidance patterns.
- Diffusing/Reducing Emotional Over-reactivity: When you are experiencing intense uncomfortable emotions—especially about being in pain—your pain levels actually intensify. Your emotions become like an amplifier circuit that increases the “volume” of your pain. You need to practice specific methods of reducing this automatic process that occurs in the face of stressful triggers. You need to realize that you may not be able to eliminate these problematic emotional triggers but what you can learn are different methods of reacting and managing your feelings.
- External Focusing/Distraction: The more you focus on your pain the more you actually intensify your experience of the pain. You need to learn to shift and manipulate your focus of attention in a positive way, which will minimize your experience of the pain. This can be accomplished by changing how you think and feel about your pain. You can then find pleasant activities or tasks to take your focus off of your pain.
- Using Anything That Works: There are numerous interventions that you can attempt when your pain flares up. In addition to those listed above you can use breathing, muscle relaxation, visual imagery, music, cold/heat, stretching, massage therapy, stress management, acupuncture, acupressure, TENS Unit, journaling, hydrotherapy, etc.
Pain flare ups are only one roadblock to effective chronic pain management. To learn more about how to avoid sabotaging an effective chronic pain management plan, please check out my article Overcoming Obstacles for Effective Chronic Pain Management that you can download for free on our Article page.
If you’d like to receive training for helping people with chronic pain and coexisting disorders, including addiction, I’m very excited to announce we are presenting my Addiction-Free Pain Management® Certification Training in Sacramento on August 5-7, 2010. To learn more about this 3 day 20 hour training and my other upcoming trainings you can check out our Calendar page.
You can learn more about the Addiction-Free Pain Management® System at our website www.addiction-free.com. If you or a loved one is undergoing chronic pain management, especially if you’re in recovery or believe you may have a medication or other mental health problem and you want to learn more effective chronic pain management tools, please go to our Publications page and check out my books; especially the Addiction-Free Pain Management® Recovery Guide: Managing Pain and Medication in Recovery. To purchase this book please Click Here.
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