March 21, 2022
5 min. read

7 Ways to Help Manage Your Chronic Pain


In the United States, 3 out of 10 people live with chronic pain. Unlike short-term pain, which normally heals, chronic pain lasts longer than three months, hurts consistently, and can even get in the way of daily activities. 


Chronic pain has many causes—like injuries, illnesses, and prolonged physical, emotional or social stress. Everyone’s pain is different, and there are many factors that may even make it worse. However, with proper pain management, you may be able to get back to a fully functioning life. Together with your healthcare provider, you can create a pain plan to manage your symptoms. 

What is chronic pain? 

Chronic pain is any type of pain that lasts longer than three months. It may be present at all times, or it may come and go. It can occur in any part of the body. In contrast to acute pain, which goes away after your body heals from whatever caused the pain, chronic pain continues long after you recover from an injury or illness. 


For many, the most debilitating aspect of chronic pain is that it can interfere with daily activities, including working, having a social life and taking care of yourself or others. It can lead to depression, anxiety and trouble sleeping—all of which can make your pain worse. 

What are the signs and symptoms of chronic pain? 

Chronic pain may feel differently to different people. Some people with chronic pain describe it in the following ways: 

  • Aching
  • Burning
  • Shooting
  • Squeezing
  • Stiffness
  • Stinging
  • Throbbing


Chronic pain can also lead to other conditions, such as: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue 
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings 

How is chronic pain diagnosed? 

Chronic pain is usually diagnosed after a person experiences pain for more than three months. Your healthcare provider will likely try to find the cause of your pain, if possible. Because pain is subjective—only the person experiencing it can identify and describe it—it can sometimes be difficult for providers to determine what’s causing your pain. 


If you are experiencing long-term pain, speak with your healthcare provider. They will likely want to know the following: 

  • Where your pain is
  • How intense it is, on a scale of 0 to 10
  • How often it occurs
  • How much it’s affecting your life and work
  • What makes it worse or better
  • Whether you have a lot of stress or anxiety in your life
  • Whether you’ve had any illnesses or surgeries

How is chronic pain treated? 

Your provider will first try to identify and treat the cause of your chronic pain. If that’s not possible, you will need to work with them to find ways to manage your pain. 


How your chronic pain is treated will depend on the type of pain you have, the cause (if known) of your pain, as well as your age and overall health. Most treatment plans consist of a combination of medication, therapies, and lifestyle changes. 


There are a number of medications used to treat chronic pain, including: 

  • Anticonvulsants 
  • Antidepressants
  • Corticosteroid
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen
  • Topical products 
  • Sedatives
  • Medical marijuana


In some cases, you may be prescribed opioids. However, opioids can be addictive, and you can build a tolerance to them over time. Because of this, healthcare providers usually try other pain treatment options before prescribing opioids. 


There are other treatments besides medications your provider may suggest, including: 

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, delivers small shocks through patches on your skin. These electrical impulses can relieve pain.
  • Nerve blocks. Nerve blocks are the injections of an anesthetic near the site of your pain to reduce feeling in the area. 
  • Epidural steroid injections. Steroids and corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medicines. These can be injected into the space around your spinal nerves known as the epidural space to treat chronic pain caused by irritation and inflammation of spinal nerve roots.

What are some tips for managing chronic pain? 

When used consistently and together, there are a number of strategies you can use to help manage your chronic pain. 

Move gently 

You may find some relief from gentle activities like full-body stretching and by practicing good posture. You can even try gentle yoga or tai chi for about 10 to 15 minutes daily. 

Stay active 

Talk to your provider about what kind of exercise routine may work for you. The right regimen can strengthen muscles, improve mood and distract from pain. 

Reduce stress 

A number of relaxation techniques may help you to reduce stress. These can include relaxed breathing, passive or progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness. 

Pace yourself 

With chronic pain, some days may be better than others. But don’t overdo it on good days. Pace yourself so that you don’t aggravate the source of your pain.

Address other conditions 

Treating anxiety and depression can actually reduce pain and improve quality of life. If you’re struggling with either of these mental conditions, speak with your healthcare provider for treatment. 

Stay connected 

Though your pain may feel isolating, it can help to stay engaged with friends and family members. A visit, whether in-person or online, can lift your spirits and decrease your focus on your pain. 

Stay rested 

Poor sleep can exacerbate your pain. Try to have good sleep hygiene—you could try a few relaxation techniques before bed. Establishing a calming night time routine can help you get the rest you need. 


No matter what you choose to do to help your chronic pain, know that you are not suffering alone. There are communities filled with other chronic pain sufferers, and reaching out to some of these communities may help you find other tips and tricks for managing your pain. Make sure you are in communication with your doctor and healthcare team so they can manage any clinical interventions needed for your chronic pain.




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