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How to get past the pain

» Eliminating the pain

» Controlling the pain

» A little help

Do you have a nagging ache in your legs? Is it impossible for you to sit still because of lower back pain? If so, do you just live with the discomfort day after day? Here’s why you shouldn’t: Whether caused by arthritis, cancer, headache or some other condition, chronic pain is a real problem for millions of people, not just a symptom. And more often than not, it can be effectively relieved with a combination of pain-management techniques.

Eliminating the pain

Often, stimulating the painful area can ease the discomfort:

  • Heat and ice. Stiff muscles can benefit from heat in the form of warm showers or hot packs. Cold packs can also help by numbing the pain-sensing nerves in the affected area. Always place a towel between your skin and the source of heat or cold; apply for no more than 20 minutes.
  • TENS. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, blocks pain signals for several hours by sending electrical impulses to certain parts of the body through a small device.
  • Exercise or physical therapy. Besides strengthening muscles, improving stamina and promoting a positive attitude, exercise increases the amount of endorphins (natural painkillers produced by the brain) your body releases.
  • Acupuncture and acupressure. Both cause the brain to release endorphins by stimulating nerve endings. Acupuncture uses special needles inserted at specific points; acupressure is direct pressure applied to trigger areas.
  • Massage therapy. Massage relieves pain, relaxes stiff muscles and smooths muscle knots by increasing blood supply to the affected area and warming it.

Controlling the pain

When pain cannot be completely eliminated, learning how to control it can be key to helping people resume normal, active lives:

  • Relaxation training. Meditation, deep-breathing exercises and visualization techniques can release muscle tension and distract you from the pain.
  • Biofeedback. By learning to control your heart rate and other bodily functions with the help of a special machine, you will be able to take an active part in your pain-management counseling. A trained specialist can help people understand the depression, frustration and anger that may accompany the pain.

A little help

Talk to your healthcare provider about using over-the-counter drugs, such as acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen, to relieve pain. Find out how—and if—you can work these medications into your pain-management plan.

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