If you haven’t read the other parts of this series yet, here they are!
4. Make Simple Adaptations in Your Daily Life to Reduce Your Pain
If you’re still having pain issues after getting treatment from a doctor and/or a physical therapist, look at what else is going on in your life that might be exacerbating it. Even if one thing isn’t /causing/ the pain, doesn’t mean it isn’t a factor in it. There are often a lot of small changes you can make to your life to reduce your pain level.
For example, sitting on a couch can actually really make my neck pain worse. It promotes bad posture and doesn’t give me the support I need. So I pretty much never sit on couches these days. I use a floor chair, which offers me a lot more support and still allows me to “chill out” in a way that a straightback chair doesn’t. Heavy purses also can make my pain worse, so I usually use a backpack if I’m carrying anything significant around. If I do use a purse, I make sure to regularly clean out anything that could make it heavier.
If you have neck or shoulder problems, like me, make sure you’re using a mattress and a pillow that properly supports your neck and body. You spend so much time sleeping that you NEED to have a good setup or you’re going to just undo all your pain relief work every night in bed. People have different opinions on pillows; I have, gosh, probably 3 that I’ve bought specifically for my neck? One that has water in it, another that’s got microfoam beads in it, and another one that’s memory foam. I’ve tried them all and the memory foam one works best for me personally, but you should try them out and take notes on how you feel the next morning to figure out what works best for you!
Finally, I’ve done a lot of research on home office ergonomics and made sure that my workspace actually fits right for my body. I recently discovered that my desk and chair heights were completely wrong for me! I’m so short that the average measurements for a man just aren’t accurate, so I had to modify a few things and add in a foot rest to make it all work. I also use a headset while making or receiving phone calls so I don’t have to crane my neck in weird ways to hold a phone.
5. Massages and Home Tools for Muscle Pain
Massages have never “cured” me of my pain, but they do tend to really loosen up my muscles and prevent them from “fossilizing” or getting overly stiff. I have a Massage Envy membership and go in once a month as a maintenance measure.
I wish I could afford to go in more often, but since I can’t, I also have numerous tools at home that I use for massaging or relaxing my painful neck/shoulder muscles. I leave little reminders for myself to use these tools in a mass to-do list note I keep on my phone and in my journal. Alarms can be good for this too, but if you’re setting an alarm for medicine and stretches and pain relief tools, you might just get to the point where you have so many that it doesn’t even register for you, so be careful with that.
One of my favorite tools currently is an acupressure mat and pillow, which has tiny plastic spikes all over it. I don’t entirely know how it all works, but lying on this really relaxes my neck and shoulders and make them feel like they’re “melting” and less stiff. It’s a relatively cheap option, but you do need to lie on it for 30 minutes + for it to have any effect. In addition, for best results, you probably want to be shirtless. So it’s not the most convenient pain treatment.
Another cheap and easy options are tennis balls and pressure point tools. I keep a Back Buddy Jr. by my desk and pull it out to work on my neck when it’s getting really stiff. It’s great for pushing on stiff areas you can’t quite reach on your own. Lying on a tennis ball or putting it in between your pressure point and a wall can be really effective, if initially painful. With these tools, you can either just apply pressure straight on, or you can rub the tool or ball around and on the stiff point; both techniques work pretty well.
I also have a massage machine that works really well when placed between my neck and a wall, but its fabric cover has come off over time, so it’s more painful to use than it used to be. I can’t use it too often without really irritating my skin.
6. Use Over-The-Counter Medication and Treatments
If you have chronic pain, you’re probably very familiar with ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin. These can be really valuable tools in reducing your pain, but remember to watch your dosages and not overdo it; you can definitely screw up your stomach or other parts of your body. Also remember, no aspirin if you’re under 18!
Here’s another trick though: taking a pain reliever with a small amount of caffeine can actually reduce your pain further. It’s unclear how much caffeine can do on its own, but it does appear that it can reduce joint pain and headaches as well. This article on Disabled World explores that topic if you’d like to know more.
There are a few natural supplements out there that can really take the edge off pain as well. I’ve tried turmeric and capsaicin pills before and had some good results. I also take vitamins, fish oil, and probiotics, which all play different roles in keeping my body healthy and reducing inflammation. WebMD has a great overview article of different supplements and how they treat pain.
Finally, don’t forget topical treatments! Lotions or rubs containing menthol or camphor create a cooling sensation that can really distract you and make you forget the pain. Capsaicin lotions can also really help joint pain or nerve pain, although it can also irritate your skin if you’re not careful. In addition, you’ll want to use gloves to apply this, as it can be pretty difficult to wash totally off your hands. I’ve accidentally got capsaicin in my eye before and it really hurts!
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Thank you for reading. I hope this helps!