Managing Your Pain
Please note, pain can occur as a result of a number of different medical conditions or situations. While the information on managing and explaining pain may be of use, we always recommend you talk to your doctor or pharmacist before making any changes or decisions.
It’s important to have a good understanding of the pain you’re experiencing and the treatment you’re undergoing, so you can make informed decisions on how to best manage it. The ultimate goal when managing your pain is to improve your day-to-day function. And while the pain may never completely go away, it’s important you get back to what you need, want and enjoy doing.
To better understand what pain is and the steps you can take to help it, check out the video below:
What Can I Do?
Pain is complex and to effectively manage it, you need to tackle it from multiple different points. A good idea is to create a pain management plan with your health care professional, incorporating active self-management and healthy lifestyle choices. These will help tackle your pain:
No matter what you’ve got going on in your life, physical activity can lift your mood and flood your body with feel-good endorphins; even a leisurely walk around the block can help clear your mind.¹ More importantly, by keeping your body moving, you help prevent deconditioning which can contribute to your pain experience. If pain interferes with your movement, speak to a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist.
Plan your day
Writing down a weekly or daily plan can help you balance out tasks and focus on your goals. Plan what you need and want to do, and by when, prioritise activities, alternate heavier tasks with lighter or less stressful ones, break things up into achievable parts and always take time to rest when necessary. Remember, pain is felt less intensely if we are feeling happy within ourselves and are involved in activities that interest us.²
While easier said than done, relaxing and reducing your stress levels can help the nervous system wind down and calm your body.³ This, in turn, can help quieten your pain experience. Exploring different relaxation techniques and taking the time to practice is a great way to start.⁴ You might not feel the rewards immediately but give it time.
If you would like to learn more about managing your stress levels, your thoughts and emotions, talk to your doctor or explore some online resources like BeyondBlue.
Nothing beats a good night’s rest; without it, you might lack energy, find it difficult to concentrate and even jeopardise your safety. But when you’re in pain it can be one of the hardest things to achieve. ‘Sleep hygiene’ refers to habits that can help you improve your sleep. This is an important time for your body to recover and repair, so try your best to adopt good sleep hygiene.⁵
Some suggestions for good sleep hygiene:
- Avoid afternoon naps
- Reduce or eliminate nicotine, alcohol and caffeine (tea, coffee, cola or chocolate) before bedtime – instead try a warm, milky drink (milk contains a sleep-enhancing amino acid)
- Avoid screen time before bed, this includes TV, laptops and phones – download a blue light filter or if you use your phone at night, activate ‘night mode’
- Relax and slow down at least half an hour before bed
- If you can’t fall asleep, try doing something else relaxing for half an hour, like reading a book
- Turn your clocks around – it can be distracting to watch the minutes tick by⁶
If you have any questions about your sleeping habits speak to your doctor.
A healthy diet can regulate your mood and energy levels, with good nutrition providing the building blocks to create those ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain.⁷ Aim for a varied diet rich in good carbohydrates and proteins, fresh fruit and vegetables, essential fats (oily fish, nuts, etc.) and plenty of water.⁸ If you’re looking for expert advice in regards to your diet, speak with a dietician.
Cut it out
In the same way food has an enormous impact on your body and mind, so does alcohol. Mixing prescription opioids with alcohol can cause unwanted and dangerous side effects.⁹ Always follow the directions on medicine labels and avoid alcohol where warnings are given. If you’re not sure, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
Aside from being a great distraction, catching up with friends or family can make a meaningful impact on how you feel. Did you know our pain can drop when sharing a laugh with friends?¹⁰
Some of the treatments mentioned above take practice, so you might not feel the full benefit immediately. If you have any questions speak to your doctor.
 NPS MedicineWise (2018), Prescribing wellness: comprehensive pain management outside specialist services.