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Managing Pain without Medication: Brain vs. Body

by Ellie Devroy | Mar 27, 2019
Chronic Pain Seminar Image-approved-WEB

Living with chronic pain can be exhausting. Learning ways to manage your pain will help you feel better and regain control of your life.

Pain medication isn’t always the answer. There are many lifestyle changes that can help manage your pain by simply taking care of your body and mind on a daily basis.

Managing the Body

Stay Hydrated

Chronic dehydration causes headaches, fatigue, increased pain sensitivity, and a variety of other health problems. Men should try to drink at least fifteen eight ounce glasses per day and women should try to drink eleven glasses.  

Eat Well

Avoid foods that may increase inflammation in your body such as:

  • Processed sugars
  • Saturated and trans fats
  • Excess omega-6 fatty acids
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Excess alcohol
  • Mono-sodium glutamate (MSG)

Get Moving

Inactivity can lead to increased pain and cause stiff muscles, decreased mobility, and decreased strength. Check with your doctor to make sure the exercise you are doing is “safe.” Safe means that you may hurt, but you are not causing harm.

It’s important to pace yourself. Your brain says ‘go’ but if your body says ‘no’ it’s time to take a break. Consider participating in low impact exercises such as swimming, biking, or walking which causes less stress on your joints.

Get Enough Sleep

Poor sleep quality increases pain sensitivity and depression symptoms. Changing your habits that may disrupt sleep is a step in the right direction.

Try the following tips to improve sleep:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day
  • No caffeine after 2:00 p.m.
  • Do not use alcohol to help sleep
  • No electronics for one hour before sleep
  • Spend hour before sleep doing a passive, non-stimulating activity

Managing the Mind

Practice Self-Talk

What you tell yourself predicts outcome. If you believe the pain is going to hold you back from doing the things you love, it will. Having a positive mindset can go a long way.

Relaxation Techniques

Identify what already relaxes you. For example, spending time with family or friends, listening to music, journaling, or reading and work on incorporating those things into your daily life.  Other examples may include:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga or tai chi
  • Visual imagery
  • Progressive muscle relaxation

Be Social

Empathy from others affects our experience of pain. Avoid isolating yourself and instead seek connection from others. Friends and family are there for support, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.

“The reality is, pain cannot always be eliminated,” said Kris Petlick, MA, LLP. “What we can control is our relationship to the pain.”

A whole person approach to recovery is vital to learning how to control your pain. To learn more about the services our counselors can provide, visit

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