Lifestyle

Diet

Eating healthily may help you to feel better, have more energy and lose weight.

It improves your general health and reduces risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, dementia, anxiety and depression.

Visit http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/goodfood/Pages/Goodfoodhome.aspx for more advice.

Smoking

Smoking is linked to persistent pain. Research shows people with pain who smoke have more pain symptoms which tend to last longer. There are lots of ways you can reduce and stop smoking.

Visit http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/smoking/pages/stopsmokingnewhome.aspx for more advice.

Boom & Bust Cycle

See: www.paintoolkit.org

This is a common cycle that people with complex pain often find themselves in.

You wait for a good day, then you try and do everything on that day, eg: shopping, hoovering, mowing the lawn.

Then consequently the next day is a bad day because you have “overdone” things, this can last a number of days.

During these bad days you spend more time resting, waiting for the pain to settle, and for that good day to come back round.

As time goes on you probably find you are having more bad days and fewer good.

As you are spending more time resting on these bad days, your muscles weaken and you become de-conditioned and are therefore able to do less on a good day.

People tell us they stay in this cycle because:-

  • There is work that “has to be done”
  • It feels better to finish the job
  • They feel guilty about overloading others
  • They are trying to ignore or beat the pain

However, people also tell us there are negative consequences of this cycle:-

  • More frequent flare ups of pain
  • More tempting to avoid activities to avoid flare ups
  • Harder to make longer term progress with activity
  • Pain decides how much you do, not you
  • Feelings of frustration and failure

Pacing

Pacing is a strategy that can be used to reduce the ‘boom and bust’ behaviour and aid in reversing de-conditioning. It is also helpful in achieving goals e.g. building up  exercise levels or housework activity!

Pacing tips:

  •  Being aware of your baseline level of activity
  •  Taking regular short breaks
  •  Vary the type of activity and your posture / position throughout  the day
  •  Breaking an activity into smaller chunks
  •  Plan and prioritise your weekly activities
  •  Gradually increase the amount you do
  •  Listen to your bodies own warning signals
  •  Stop before your pain stops you
  •  Try using stretching and relaxation techniques possibly before activity or during a break

Flare Ups

As with many ongoing conditions, complex pain fluctuates and people can experience set backs or flare ups

Having a plan in place for how to deal with a flare-up helps people cope better, and can reduce the number and duration of them

Our tips for coping with a flare up:

  • Pace yourself
  • Try not to stop exercising altogether
  • Problem solve – is there an identifiable cause.  If so remember for next time
  • Regular rest and relaxation/mindfulness
  • If medication regime allows consider increasing.  Speak with your doctor if necessary

It is important during a flare up to remain positive – pain levels do settle and you will get back on track.

Think of a previous flare up. What personal qualities do you have that got you through?

Pain & Mood

Research shows that depression occurs more in people with complex pain than those without. One theory is that biological mechanisms causing pain also make depression more likely.  Another is that the thoughts and beliefs we have about our pain are what make us depressed rather than the pain itself.  Of course, some people with complex pain do not get depressed.

You may feel depressed, fearful, angry, frustrated, stressed, sad or low.  All of these are common and understandable responses to long term / complex pain.