Written by Jackie Waters
Improve Your Posture
For people with chronic pain, especially those with back and shoulder pain, it can be tempting to stand or sit in certain ways that provide temporary pain relief. Unfortunately, if you are spending a lot of time in positions that are not good for your posture, you are increasing the risk of making degenerative anatomical changes to your body. Correct posture while standing, sitting, and lying down will reduce pain, strengthen your muscles, and improve your overall well-being and attitude.
Physical therapists and doctors can help you improve your posture with techniques that are tailored to your specific needs, but you’ll need to follow their suggestions consistently. Some simple changes to make in the meantime are to stand up straight while doing tasks such as washing dishes and cutting fruits and vegetables and to sleep on your side instead of on your back or stomach. If you frequently work on a computer at home, sit up straight and as far back in your chair as you can. Keep your feet flat on the ground.
Physical and emotional stress cause pain, and pain causes stress[i]. Stress also negatively impacts muscles, weakens the immune system, and increases tension. By minimizing your stress, you will reduce its impact on your body and your pain levels. There are several ways to manage your stress including breathing techniques and exercises, relaxation techniques, yoga and stretching exercises, and meditation.
Evaluate Your Home
There are several factors in your home that may be contributing to your chronic pain. For example, if your mattress is too soft, you are not getting the support your body needs to allow it to relax. Reclining chairs often do not give your body the support it needs while you sit; firmer, straight-backed chairs are better for people with chronic back pain.
Your home also can add stress to your daily life, which aggravates chronic pain. If your home has too much artificial lighting or has poor lighting, it can affect your cortisol levels and make you sleepy earlier in the day[ii]. Low energy and fatigue contribute to chronic pain in much the same way that stress does. You should leave your blinds up during the day and pull back curtains and other window coverings to allow as much natural light into your home during the day as possible.
You also should set your thermostat to a constant temperature to maintain stable energy levels throughout the day; one study found that 77 degrees Fahrenheit is the best home temperature. However, doctors suggest setting the temperature in your bedroom at around 65 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleeping.
Use Essential Oils
People have been using essential oils to treat a myriad of health concerns for centuries[iii]. Today, people find that using essential oil diffusers at home or rubbing essential oils on their bodies helps them reduce their stress, anxiety, and pain. For example, peppermint essential oil is recommended for relieving pain and improving blood circulation and reducing inflammation and lavender essential oil is used to relieve headaches and neck pain and reduce stress and anxiety that contribute to pain. Other essential oils used to minimize chronic pain include chamomile, eucalyptus, rosemary, juniper, wintergreen, cayenne, ginger, sandalwood, clary sage, clove, marjoram, yarrow, and helichrysum.
Listen to Music
More research is showing that music helps relieve chronic pain and reduces its negative effects. Listening to music also reduces anxiety, stress, depression, pain intensity levels, and pain-related distress and blood pressure[iv]. Researchers believe music is powerful enough to distract people from pain and reduce the extent to which they focus on it and feel it. The key is to listen to music you prefer to maximize its effect on your pain tolerance and perception.
These simple steps may allow you to begin to manage your chronic pain at home, giving you some control and improving your chances of getting more consistent relief. Try improving your posture, taking steps to minimize stress, changing your home environment, using essential oils, and listening to music to reduce your pain level.
Jackie Waters is a mother of four boys living on a three-acre Oregon farm. She runs hyper-tidy.com, providing advice on being...Hyper Tidy!
Sources and Links
[i] “ The Ultimate Back Pain Relief Tips Blog” by Dr. Jeff Winternheimer
[ii] “A Healthy Home is a Happy Home: How to Optimize Your Home for Healthy Stress-free Living”
[iii] “15 Essential Oils to Relieve Pain and How to Use Them” by Sierra Bright
[iv] “How Music Can Help Relieve Chronic Pain” by Don Knox