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By Jackie Waters

If you suffer from chronic pain, you’re well aware of that before an official diagnosis. But something about being diagnosed with a chronic pain condition can trigger an extra bit of fear and stress. If you’ve recently been told you have a condition, you’ve also been told that it could be something you live with for quite some time. You may be asking yourself where in the world do I start? Here are some tips for how to begin to cope.

Don’t be afraid of exercise

The stronger your muscles and the more flexible your joints, the less your chronic pain will affect you. Good ol’ fashioned exercise is the only tried and true way to achieve a strong, flexible body. Though exercise can be scary for those with chronic pain – and rightly so – it’s vital that you find something that works for you. Try something low-impact with a focus on flexibility like yoga or pilates. If an exercise hurts you, try something else.

Remember: obesity is a leading cause and exacerbating factor in chronic pain. The closer you can stay to a healthy weight range, the better off you’ll be.

Eliminate the three “S”s of pain-triggering at home

Three triggers absolutely contribute to making your chronic pain worse: smoking, stress, and a sedentary lifestyle. Making sure you don’t spend too much time on the couch and actually getting some exercise every day can help with the latter. Quitting smoking is simple but it’s not easy. Smoking cessation will – without a doubt – improve your pain, however, so it’s vital.

Finally, we come to stress. How do you make your home less stressful? Some surefire ways are to keep your home clean and organized, open up windows for natural light, invest in aromatherapy products, and dedicate one room/area of your home to meditation/relaxation.

Be mindful of your medication intake

For some chronic pain conditions, prescription medication can work in tandem with other holistic practices to help provide relief. With any prescription regimen, however, there are going to be risks. Nobody is above the risk of drug abuse and addiction. It can happen to anyone. That’s why, as a chronic pain sufferer, it’s doubly important that you know the warning signs of abuse. It’s often hard to spot them in yourself, but you still need to be mindful.

Spend a little money on massage

It’s ok to spend a little money on the management of your chronic pain, as long as you’re smart about it and don’t fall victim to scams that don’t work at all. Massage is not one of those pain scams. Massage has a proven track record of working wonders for arthritis patients, as well as sufferers of other forms of chronic pain. The Arthritis Foundation says that massage “can lead to a significant reduction in pain [and improvements to] stiffness, range of motion, hand grip strength, and overall function of the joints.”

Eat right

Yes, your diet is a big part of how you feel. Eat well, feel well. Eat poorly, feel poorly. It’s not rocket science. Eating whole, healthy, non-inflammatory foods will help lessen your chronic pain. What are we talking about when we talk about a non-inflammatory diet?

A chronic pain condition diagnosis is not some sort of sentence. It’s an opportunity. Now that you have a name for the pain you’ve been feeling, you can begin to tweak your lifestyle, home life, and habits to better manage your condition. Diet and exercise are the two biggest things to consider, and those can be supplemented with therapies like massage and cautious use of prescription medication. You’re strong. You got this.