8 simple tips to manage chronic pain and restore your quality of life.
My day job is running a Pilates studio where I see 100 regular clients up to four times a week. Commonly, we’ll get someone experiencing chronic pain, and I also know first hand how debilitating it can be.
A lot of people think the cure for chronic pain is strong drugs and booking in to see the physio and stopping when the pain is gone, only for it to return with a vengeance a few weeks later.
I was inspired to do this post after dealing with some chronic pain myself. I’m having some issues with my hip, let’s just say it’s been unhappy on and off for the last 3 years. The pain can be so bad it keeps me up at night and I have ballet in my younger years to thank for that!
If I am regularly doing Pilates, focussing on my self-care and eating well, I have no issues with my hip. As soon as I start working myself into the ground, not looking after myself and my work/life balance is poor, that’s when I start to have issues.
Chronic pain is your body crying out for attention and help. It usually starts as a niggle we ignore and months or years down the track we’re dealing with the side effects of ignoring it.
Here are 8 simple tips to manage your chronic pain:
1. Adopt a positive mindset
Visualise two people you know – the happiest & healthiest and someone who is always in pain, tired and injured. How do they stand? What language do they use? You usually don’t even need to have a conversation with them to find out how they are because it’s telling in their body language. The clients who have the best outcome with injuries are the ones who adopt a positive mindset.
2. Visualise the outcome you want
Visualise exactly what you want. Is it to have a perfectly healthy back that doesn’t ache when you hike or run? When we visualise something on a regular basis, the mind doesn’t know the difference between actually doing it and just imagining it.
I recently did some extra training and there was a huge focus on imagery and changing how we view movement. If a client presented stiff shoulders, rather than focus on how stiff the shoulders were when they moved, we would get them to visualise their shoulders moving freely with different cues.
3. Focus on relaxing or start meditating
Check in with your body right now and ask yourself what is tight, can you actually relax? Are you holding tension in your neck or shoulders or even your hips? Focus on deep belly breaths and then relaxing your entire body with your exhalation. Starting a meditative practice is one of the best things you can do for your health.
4. Get a correct diagnosis
To give an extreme example, I once had a client present with hip pain that ended up being cancer. It’s important we don’t ignore our injuries and aches and get a proper diagnosis on what our ailments are. That way, you can temporarily limit activities that aggravate your current condition and develop a plan to get you back to being your happy and healthy self.
5. See a Pilates instructor
Pilates focusses on moving the body biomechanically as best as it possibly can. A great Pilates instructor should help to identify any faulty movement patterns and correct them with prescriptive exercise. They’ll give you homework exercises to do. I also see Pilates as a meditative practice too, your body is designed to move, so ensure you move on a daily basis, even if it’s just 15 minute of Pilates and stretching.
6. Up your self-care
When my clients come in with an injury flare up, it’s usually because self-care has gone down the toilet and life has gotten in the way. If you’re reading this in chronic pain, ask what you can do for yourself and how you can focus on you more. I believe part of the reason we have pain is because we aren’t present in ourselves or in our body and it’s our poor little body crying out for attention. You can’t serve others if you don’t focus on yourself first.
7. Want to get better
There are so many people where pain becomes part of them. Just like they have arms, legs, heart and a head, pain ends up becoming part of themselves. Start to release the idea that you’re always in pain or you have always had bad knees or tight shoulders etc. Focus on wanting to feel healthy.
8. Change up your food choices
There’s a percentage of people that react to inflammatory foods such as potatoes and tomatoes and benefit from cutting them down in their diet and upping anti-inflammatory foods. Turmeric is a great natural anti-inflammatory that the herbalist (aka my mum!) recommends clients at the Pilates studio take.