Pain Management Skills

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​There are no easy answers to chronic pain but there are some tried and tested ideas which research shows can help.
  • Understand your condition – find out more about how pain works and what happens to the pain messages in chronic pain. This animation shows how in all kinds of pain the nerves and the brain work together to produce pain.
  • If you have a specific diagnosis or have had tests, talk to the person who arranged them about what they mean and how they fit with your symptoms. 
  • Understand your treatment – if you are prescribed medication find out how it works and how to take it for best effect. You might also want to discuss how much your tablets or medicine help and any side effects they cause. Your community pharmacist or practice pharmacist can talk to you about the medicines you take. 
  • Set yourself achievable goals that make you feel better. They might include physical goals but they could also be about doing something you enjoy, relaxing or taking time for yourself.
  • Pace yourself – some people do as much as they possibly can on a good day and then find their pain is worse for hours or even days afterwards. Other people worry that moving or doing more will cause damage. In fact, both of these patterns can lead to difficulties. Learning to pace yourself involves finding out what you can consistently do and sticking to that, rather than being ruled by your pain. 
  • Manage your stress – living with pain can be stressful and being stressed can sometimes increase your pain. Making time for yourself, getting support from friends and family and keeping to a healthy routine can all help. The NHS recommends these 10 Stress Busting ideas.
  • Sleep well – if your sleep is often disturbed try to establish a good daily routine with a regular bedtime.  Balance activity and rest during the day, have a winding down period before you go to bed, and make sure your bedroom is a comfortable and relaxing place. 
  • Gently increase your activity – gentle exercise can help you be as strong and fit as possible so you can do some of the things you want to. Exercise also releases chemicals that help you feel good.
  • Look at your thoughts and feelings – understanding how you think and feel about your pain can be helpful.  Sometimes people notice patterns of unhelpful thinking. Looking at things a little differently can be helpful. Mindfulness techniques can help you to step back from your thoughts so you are not overwhelmed or ruled by them.
  • Try to get the right help from friends and family - support can be  important for people with long term conditions. If you can, talk to your family or close friends about what is going on and make a plan together for how they can help you. Sometimes people feel isolated as a result of pain. Trying a different activity or joining a local group can be a great way of meeting people.
  • Relax – relaxation techniques help calm the body and mind. Try one of the examples here (our MP3 files)
Need more help or information?
The Pain Toolkit has handy guides for all of these techniques and more.
The British Pain Society have also produced information for people living with chronic pain.

You can also borrow evidence based self-help books from your local library free of charge via the Books on Prescription Scheme.

Some people need a little more help or support to live with chronic pain. If you think you need professional help with managing your pain speak to your GP who can arrange a referral.

If you are worried that you are no longer able to cope or are out of control of your situation this explains what you can do in a crisis.

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