Chronic Pain Management

A throbbing head, a crick in the neck, allover muscle tension – yeow! Chances are you're no stranger to these kinds of everyday aches and pains. One in four people say they've had a bout of pain that has lasted more than a day. But, fortunately, there's plenty you can do besides pop ibuprofen to work out the kinks so a sore back or a bum shoulder doesn't slow you down. There are even lifestyle moves that make a difference. Here's what you need to know to ward off pain – and feel better if you're already hurting.

Rest is not always best

Back spasming? Shoulder aching? Your instinct may be to move as little as possible. But doctors actually now recommend the opposite for minor muscle aches and joint pain. They often tell patients to resume normal activities – including exercise – as soon as possible. Research supports the advice: One review found that people with lower back pain who were advised to stay active had less pain and better function than people told to take it easy.

You may also want to ask your doc about a strength-training program or course of physical therapy for the part that ails you. A 2015 study found that the sooner people got PT for lower back pain, the less likely they were to receive surgery, spinal injections, or opioids later on.

Certain foods may help – or hurt

Cherry juice may help: Folks with knee osteoarthritis who drank eight ounces of tart cherry juice twice a day for six weeks had improvements in pain and function, per a 2013 study.

Sardines may help: These fatty fish (and others, like salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel) are chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammation.

Olive oil may help: A study published in the journal Nature found that a compound in extra-virgin olive oil called oleocanthal has anti-inflammatory effects similar to those of ibuprofen.

Sugary drinks can hurt: Women who consume at least one sugary soda a day have a 63 per cent greater chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) than those who don't, according to a Harvard study.

Steak can hurt: Another Harvard study found that diets high in red and processed meat can increase the risk of RA – possibly because they trigger an inflammatory reaction inside the body.

Refined grains can hurt: People who ate the most refined grains had the highest levels of an inflammatory protein in the blood, revealed a study published in The Journal of Nutrition.


Regular exercise and physical therapy are usually part of any pain management plan.

Doctors believe exercise is critical in the relief of pain. A large percentage of pain comes from tight muscles. These may be triggered by overuse, inflammation, or other conditions.

Regular exercise is important for treating chronic pain because it helps:

• strengthen muscles

• increase joint mobility

• improve sleep

• release endorphins

• reduce overall pain


Relaxation techniques are often recommended as part of a treatment plan. They help to reduce stress and decrease muscle tension. Relaxation techniques include:

• meditation

• massage

• yoga

Yoga also has other benefits for chronic pain. It can help strengthen muscles and improve flexibility. A study funded by the NCCIH revealed that people with chronic lower back pain who took up Iyengar yoga, a practice that focuses on proper alignment, experienced decreased discomfort and less disability after six months.


Research shows that this technique, a staple of traditional Chinese medicine, may help reduce the frequency of tension headaches and relieve chronic pain in the lower back, neck, and knees.

Chiropractic treatment

Chiropractic treatment involving spinal manipulation may work as well as conventional care for lower back pain for up to 18 months, per a study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). And a review of research found that the technique may be helpful for neck pain and migraines as well.