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From a Doctor: Non-Medication Methods to Manage Chronic Pain

 |  For Patients

You lay down at night and just can’t seem to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. You notice sharp pains in multiple places of your body daily. You’ve been feeling constantly stiff, sore, and tired for at least 3-6 months. If this is you, you may be living with chronic pain. 50 million adults in the United States struggle with chronic pain.

According to Dr. Devin Lincenberg, a Clinical Psychologist at Recovia, “Chronic pain is pain that has lasted longer than three months and is not due to a known physiological cause. A primary care provider may choose to rule out any physiological causes prior to deeming it chronic pain.”

You are not alone. There are several options for treating your pain, including non-medication options. If your chronic pain is limiting your day-to-day life, we encourage you to talk to your doctor about some of the options below for managing your pain.

Impact on Daily Tasks

Dr. Lincenberg says there are many ways chronic pain can impact someone’s daily life, including:

  • Career and quality of life
  • Ability to engage in exercise, sports or other activities you love
  • Pain can contribute to social anxiety and social isolation
  • Cancelling plans on friends and feeling relationships suffer
  • Dependency on others because you are unable to engage in Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) without assistance

Treating Chronic Pain

“A multidisciplinary approach to treating pain is key. We need to approach pain from the full mind-body approach to really understand and ultimately decrease the pain,” Dr. Lincenberg says. “This involves addressing the whole person (not just the physical pain), including emotional pain (anxiety, stressors, trauma, coping techniques, depression, etc.), nutrition, exercise, finding hobbies and purpose in life, relationships, and more.”

Therefore, if you are living with chronic pain, talking to your doctor or seeking help from a healthcare professional is key, as they will be able to identify the best way to help you while considering the full spectrum of factors that may be impacting your health.

Non-Medication Approaches to Managing Pain

Just because you have chronic pain, does not necessarily mean you will be taking medication for the rest of your life. There are several non-medication approaches that work for many people. Depending on the patient, Dr. Lincenberg typically recommends the methods below:

  • Address psychological aspects of the pain
  • Learn and educate yourself on your pain to gain a sense of control over it
  • Re-train your brain to focus on the positive right when you wake up
    • Upon waking up, instead of rating the pain on a scale of 1-10, engage in a gratitude journal, noting three specific things they are grateful for that day, engage in some light movement, practice diaphragmatic breathing, or call a loved one or friend.
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Diaphragmatic breathing
  • Engaging in safe, pain-free physical activity

Diaphragmatic breathing practice (“belly breathing”) is my go-to recommendation due to its efficacy, usability, and best of all, is free and we can practice it anywhere at any time,” Dr. Lincenberg says. “Practicing diaphragmatic breathing can help to calm down the nervous system, allow us to think and judge with more clarity, and decrease pain, in addition to a long list of benefits. Patients consistently report that it is the most beneficial tool they learn.”

Where Do I Begin?

If you are a member of Arizona Care Network and you believe you are living with chronic pain, talk to your doctor today. It is never a bad time to schedule an appointment to discuss your symptoms.

You can also use the Find-A-Doc tool on our website to look for pain management facilities and specialists in your area. Dr. Lincenberg and Recovia are both part of Arizona Care Network. If you need help finding a doctor or scheduling an appointment, contact our concierge by calling 602.406.7226 or emailing members@azcarenetwork.org.

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