When you experience chronic pain, you just want to feel better. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix
for chronic pain – it can take time and effort. But there are lifestyle tweaks you can include in your
everyday life that can help with pain.
Some of these can alleviate pain, and some can help you to cope better with the pain. Since every
person is unique, some might work better for one person than another. So start with one, give it a
good go for a few weeks, and see how you go!
Try out meditation & mindfulness
Before you roll your eyes, hear me out! Meditation and mindfulness does not have to be sitting
cross-legged on the floor, chanting. It does not mean you need to ‘stop thinking’ or ‘clear your mind
of any thoughts ever’.
Meditation and mindfulness is more about being aware that your thoughts are just one part of you.
It allows you to tune into your body and senses, and most meditations use long, slow and deliberate breathing patterns. We know that taking time to focus on breathing and calming thoughts can help to slow down a really active nervous system. When it comes to meditations that are designed for
pain, they don’t stop pain, but they do help you to recognise where the pain is coming from and
what it might mean.
The research suggests that it’s worth giving meditation a go. A meta-analysis of 38 controlled trials found that meditation helps to reduce pain, improve symptoms of depression and increase the
overall quality of life.
Most apps and meditation websites have guided meditations for pain, anxiety, stress, or all of the
above. Our favourite nutritionist (who has a condition that can cause chronic pain) Sam is a big fan of the pain (#14) and stress (#31) meditations over at Meditation Oasis.
Introduce gentle movement
It can be tempting to avoid movement when you’re in pain. But gentle movement that doesn’t cause
severe discomfort or pain can be incredibly therapeutic.
The research shows that exercise can increase your pain tolerance and decrease your perception of
pain. It can relieve pain and improve quality of life in those who have chronic pain of some kind.
To start moving again:
Start slow. Begin with gentle movement, and work your way up over a period of weeks or months.
Use non-painful joints and muscles. Endorphins are systemic, so if your pain is in your back, moving
your arms or legs will still help to relieve that pain.
Get yourself a paced rehab program. Working with a practitioner is best for this, as we can monitor
your progress, adjust movements that are too painful or difficult, and cheer you on as you achieve
Seek social support
Feeling supported doesn’t just make you feel better mentally and emotionally – it can influence your
experience of pain. Countless research papers from the 1970s up until today have highlighted how
important it is for people with chronic pain to have social support.
The care of friends and family can make a big difference. Partners can play an important role in helping you to feel supported, too.
You don't even need to talk to people about your pain if you don't want to, but talking to people about anything can be helpful - even if its small talk about news, weather, music, films.
It can be tempting to push through and struggle, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t like to
bother or burden others. But asking for help or even just a chat with someone you trust can make all
Consider joining an interest group, like a coffee club, social group or walking group.
Spend time with pets
This is by far my favourite tip, as I’m a certified crazy cat lady! But it’s also backed by some science as
well. When you play with a pet, your body releases a hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin can
increase your pain threshold, drop your stress and anxiety levels and reduce inflammation. It can
also decrease blood pressure and heart rate by activating your ‘rest and digest’ mode.
The best part is that you don’t even have to own a pet – you can borrow a friend’s! And the benefits
go both ways. When you cuddle a furry friend, they also feel happier and healthier.
Work with practitioners who empower you
A good team can make a huge difference for someone who experiences chronic pain. It’s important to work with qualified practitioners who understand how complex pain is. But it’s also best to work with practitioners who want to give you the tools to recover from that pain.
We can’t ‘fix’ you, but we can empower you with the facts about pain, the latest research findings,
and the best quality care possible.
Want to work with a myotherapist/remedial massage therapist who fits that bill? Book in an
appointment with a Simple Wellness practitioner here.
Most people think of painful, deep pressure and extreme stretching when they think of Thai massage. But is that really what its meant to be?
I'm currently in Thailand doing a Traditional Thai Massage course, and I want to share some of what I've learnt with you!
My teacher, Achang Rin, says there are two main traditional styles of Thai Massage: Royal Style and General Style.
Royal Style is what I'll be learning this week. Its the relaxing full body sequence designed with the King (or person of importance!) in mind. Its less intense, and more "polite" - meaning the therapist doesn't get too up close and personal with the client. This style works well for people who don't have a highly physically demanding lifestyle, who need to relax and be gently stretched. Royal Style uses thumb and palm pressure, and gentle stretches.
General Style becomes a bit stronger, because its designed for the every day worker, traditionally people like farmers, builders, and other people with heavy labour-intensive jobs. General Style can also feel a bit more "in your face" - this is where the treatment can start using elbows, knees, feet, and strong stretches. The therapist might even use their body weight, so it can be common for them to climb on top of the client!
A thai massage can take anywhere from 90-120 minutes, and covers the whole body. The client starts off laying on their back, then moves to each side, then laying on their front, and finishes in a seated position.
I asked Achang Rin if Traditional Thai Massage is really supposed to hurt?
She told me no, the purpose of the massage isn't to inflict pain!
Why does Thai Massage have a reputation for being a really painful style?
Achang Rin explained that in Thailand, many therapists don't complete official massage training. Many of the salons offering massage in Thailand have an in-house training program, where therapists get taught the techniques by one of the other practitioners. She said that often the line of people being trained by untrained people can be quite long, so what is being offered as "Traditional Thai Massage" is really a chinese-whispers version of a Thai Massage.
Combine that with the expectations from tourists that the massage will be fairly intense as well as the people who specifically ask for it to be super firm, and the end result can become very different from the treatment you'd get from a properly qualified Thai Massage Therapist.
Traditional Thai Massage is done on a floor mat, so while we won't be offering Thai Style treatment in our Ferntree Gully clinic, there are some stretches and techniques that we can adapt to suit a treatment being done on a massage table.
I'll be back from Thailand and back in the clinic from June 24, book a time to come and see me and we'll see if any of these Thai Massage skills can be modified and used in your treatment!
Do you love your heat pack? Me too!
There are plenty of reasons to keep your heat pack close by, and not just because we're entering winter!
Heat treatment is great for muscle pain - its cheap, effective, and drug-free! Have you ever wondered why heating your sore muscles helps them so much?
Some pains are categorised as ischaemic pain - that means that the tissue has a reduction of oxygen supply which is needed for normal cell activity. This tends to happen if we're in positions that compress or over stretch areas for a long time - like sitting at a desk for a few hours without getting up to move around. Heating an area increases the local blood flow, which means the blood vessels widen to get more fresh, oxygenated blood into your muscles and joints.
What kind of pain should you use heat for?
Many kinds of non-inflammatory pains will respond really nicely to heat, including things like cramping and spasming, stiffness and persistent tight or pulling muscles.
Heat packs are easy to use for neck, shoulder, lower back or hip pain.
If you have a lot of painful areas, a warm bath can be another great way of getting heat into your muscles - why not add some Epsom salts for the added magnesium benefits for sore, tight muscles!
When should you not use heat?
Avoid heating up any fresh injuries, especially if you have open wounds or if the injury has become infected. These kinds of injuries will be in the inflammatory stage of healing - you'll be able to tell because the area may be swollen, red and hot, and most likely it'll be much more sensitive than usual!
Of course, you do need to be careful with heat packs or hot water bottles to make sure you don't burn yourself. Always wrap your heat pack or hot water bottle in a something like a pillow case, thin blanket or a towel so you don't have the hot surface directly on your skin. Using heat for too long might give you heat rash, so I usually suggest about 20 minutes at a time.
Heat on its own is more for symptom relief than for resolving the underlying issue. If you have an injury or feel that you have a lot of long term tension built up in the muscles, book a treatment with your local Myotherapist.
Mel is a Myotherapist based in Ferntree Gully.