How to live positively with chronic pain

Chronic pain can make you think that life may never be ‘good’ again. But small adjustments can help you cope with it and live positively with long-term pain.

Everyday tasks can feel like daunting challenges when you have a condition such as arthritis, fibromyalgia or diabetes that can lead to chronic, or long-term, pain. Depression and anxiety can set in. And your levels of activity can drop significantly, leading to a downward health cycle. But chronic pain doesn’t have to mean living a limited life.

You can take charge of your pain by taking small actions that will make a big difference to your everyday life. Here are a few things you can do to take control:

Find a happy balance

It’s tempting when you have ‘good days’ to charge into activity and get things done when you’re feeling good, but this boom of activity is likely to end in a bust, with you feeling too sore to do anything the next day. A good approach is to plan the tasks that you need to do a week in advance, and do one thing every day.

Relax and rewind

Don’t forget to schedule in some time to relax. Relaxing is a way to recharge our bodies and our minds. Whatever you do to relax – from soaking in a hot bath to listening to soothing music, ensure you make time for it every day. If you’re looking for different ways to unwind, think about yoga or meditation, which can have extremely positive impacts on your mental wellbeing and overall health.

Exercise for pain relief

Don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t exercise if you’re living with pain. In fact, it can be very beneficial for pain relief. Cardiovascular exercise increases blood flow, improving your immunity and reducing inflammation. Whether you're dealing with chronic back pain, hip pain, shoulder pain or another joint problem, consider a strength training programme. Getting stronger can help build muscle to support your joints, helping to prevent injury and reduce pain in the long term.

Here are some workouts you can try:

Exercise has a great effect on the mind too, by releasing chemical endorphins in the body that are picked up by receptors in our brain. Endorphins do two great things: they provide pain relief and they make us feel happy. Coupled with a sense of achievement from a good workout, the endorphin release will lift your spirits no end. 

Appreciate the small things

Living with daily pain can cloud our ability to enjoy things, but there’s so much out there to enjoy.

Mindfulness is a technique that helps you to use your senses individually and focus on the smallest of things, from smells to textures. It can help you to appreciate the little pleasures in life and to forget about the pain you are feeling.

Try breathing deeply and isolating all that you can smell around you, or listen to your surroundings and try to pick out separate sounds. The change in concentration can provide temporary relief and remind you of the everyday wonders.


Last updated Friday 27 January 2023

First published on Tuesday 2 October 2018