By Jackie Waters, Founder of Hyper-Tidy.com
In the United States, there is an ongoing opioid crisis as millions of people become addicted and overdose on them. In fact, for every four people exposed to opioids, one develops an addiction to them, which can then lead to abuse of other drugs such as heroin. As we learn more about the dangers of taking prescription opioids and the risk of addiction, people with chronic pain feel as though they don’t have a viable option for managing their pain. They do not want to become addicted to medication that was prescribed to them, but they also cannot live in pain. Fortunately, there are alternative ways to minimize chronic pain that involve making changes to your home life rather than remaining on addictive medication.
1. Slow Down
Many people feel rushed and stressed throughout their day. They need to get kids to school on time with lunches and homework and permission slips, make it to work on time, get kids to various afterschool activities, make dinner, check homework, finish projects, and do it all again the next day. If you add chronic pain to the mix, you are continually making your muscles so tense by experiencing chronic stress that it exacerbates your pain.
One solution is to slow down and be present at various moments throughout your day. Psychologist and certified life coach Judith Tutin, Ph.D. recommends that you “take five minutes and focus on only one behavior with awareness.” When you wake up and get out of bed, notice how your feet feel when they hit the floor. When you walk your kids to the bus stop, take a moment to feel the wind on your face. Even if you only take five minutes for lunch, use those five minutes to focus on tasting and enjoying your food without being distracted by a television, phone, or email.
2. Seek Support
People with chronic pain need multifaceted support systems. First, you should work with a doctor to determine the lowest dosage of pain medication you should take. If you are concerned about becoming addicted, or if you are in recovery, discuss your options. Next, work with a mental health professional who can help you manage your daily stress and determine which alternative methods of pain management to try.
You also should seek support from your spouse. Chronic pain affects everyone in your family, and it is better to work with your spouse than try to hide your pain from him. Spouses should be aware of clues of increased pain and offer support and encouragement. But, they cannot do so if you are not honest about your pain and frustration.
3. Be Aware of Your Sitting Position
If you have chronic pain, you may not be able to stand for long periods of time. However, if you sit incorrectly at home or work from home on an office chair, you need to be aware of your sitting position so you do not worsen your pain by increasing the stress in your back, shoulders, arms, and legs and add more pressure to your back muscles and discs. Many people tend to slouch over or slouch down then they sit, so purchasing an ergonomic office chair and using it properly is one way to minimize your pain by sitting correctly and getting the back support you need.
You should adjust the chair to the proportions of your body to improve comfort and posture and reduce pain. First, position the chair at the correct height for your height and your work area at home. Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle to your work surface. You also should an adjustable footrest if you cannot slide your fingers under your thigh at the leading edge of the chair. Then, make sure your backrest is adjusted with enough back support; the chair cushion should make your lower back arch slightly so you don’t slump or slouch.
Even if you are conservative in using prescription opioids, you can become addicted to them. Making changes to your home life can help you manage your chronic pain to the point that you can reduce or eliminate your prescription medication use under the guidance of a medical professional. Begin by slowing down and taking time to be present each day, seeking support from your spouse in addition to medical professionals, and being aware of your sitting position.