Lifestyle Tips

"If You Think You Can, Then You Can!"

"Whether you expect a good outcome from your treatment will directly influence your coping behavior; how it is started, how much energy is expended and how long you will stay with the project. If you think you can, then most likely you will follow through to reach your goal or goals." - McCaffery & Pasero, 1999

Goals for People with Chronic Pain

  • Reduce pain whenever possible. This means following the pain control treatment program as designed by your doctor with your involvement.

  • Restore or improve functioning. The whole body is involved: the body, the mind and your family, work, recreational and social settings.

  • Develop self-help skills and maintain these skills.

  • Improving your mood will help in the control of chronic pain. As previously mentioned, one’s expectation of good or bad outcomes will affect what happens to you. You can look for good outcomes just as easily as looking for bad ones.

Lifestyle Tips

  • 1. Enroll in a Pain Control Program

    It is essential to find a supportive family physician, one who is knowledge about chronic pain. Alberta Health Services is a good resource of information about general practitioners. As with any relationship, you must put energy into this connection. Keeping a diary helps to organize your problems into priorities. When making an appointment, let the office nurse know for how long to book your appointment. Sometimes, you need extra time to properly discuss your problems. Don’t wait until you have a crisis to book your appointment, as your doctor may be busy and not able to spend a lot of time with you. Your doctor will then help design a treatment program with your input. It is necessary that you follow the program checking in with your doctor as needed. Pain control involves much fine-tuning of medications and procedures.

  • 2. Improve physical, mental and social functioning

    Physical, mental and social activity will help us to cope better with pain. This requires daily commitment to specific activities. Well-being is enhanced through proper nutrition, exercise and good sleep hygiene.

    Proper nutrition is the cornerstone for physical well being. We need to manage our eating habits! We should be able to recognize when we are truly hungry and should avoid eating to relieve emotional distress. We need to look elsewhere, other than food for our comfort. It helps not to keep unhealthy food in the house (even if teenagers ask for these choices). Snacking on healthy food (vegetables, fruits and nuts) helps to control our blood sugars. Eating a balanced diet is the baseline for healthy life!

    Recent recommendations from the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine are as follows:

    1. Calories taken each day should range from 1600 up to 2800 depending on size, sex and activity level. Active, large males can consume the upper limit of calories.
    2. Protein found in legumes, poultry, seafood, meat, dairy, nuts and seeds should take up between 10% to 35% of our calories. Protein can come from beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh for vegetarians.
    3. Carbohydrates should take 45% of our calorie intake. Grain products (bread and grains) should be included in five to twelve servings daily.
    4. Fruits and vegetables should be served in five to ten servings, daily. The intake of vegetables as a carbohydrate choice can be substituted for some of the grain products.
    5. Fats can make up between twenty to thirty-five percent of our calorie intake.

    Physical deconditioning, disuse, poor posture and poor gait will increase the sensation of pain. Poor physical functioning can arise from activity restriction, muscle splinting and guarding. Often this is caused by our own self-restrictions done over the years. Increased pain with activities and fears of reinjury can motivate this behavior. Also people can carry over restrictions from the past, previous advice from doctors, friends and well-meaning grandmothers. All this can lead to a feeling of isolation, removal from socially gratifying situations, loneliness and depression. Narrowly confined activities as lying on the couch, bed or recliner does not provide weight control and natural pain control from the release of endorphins (our natural pain medication). Aches and pains coming from muscle disuse do cause increasing problems with pain management. This whole scene is a vicious circle.

    The way to break through this cycle is called pacing. Pacing means:

    1. planning your day with balance,
    2. breaking tasks into shorter sections,
    3. balancing harder activities with lighter ones and varying body postures.

    As stated by the title, if you think you can, and you can accomplish your goals.

    1. Use of a day timer works well to break up the tasks into more manageable ones.
    2. Stretching strengthening exercises will help with aches and pains coming from muscles weak from disuse.
    3. Application of heat and use of relaxation techniques prior to exercising are helpful.
    4. Proper exercise increases physical capabilities and functioning, thereby decreasing pain and increasing physical endurance. Recent research has not shown any type of exercise to be superior to another type. The most important factor is to gradually increase the length and degree of difficulty of the exercise. Daily exercise is highly recommended.
    5. Exercise can come in many different forms. Mall walking, bicycle riding, swimming, walking the dog, gardening, hiking and golfing are some examples.
    6. In severe cases, an assessment by physiotherapy and or an occupational therapist will determine the degree of physical deconditioning. A proper exercise program can be established.
    7. Massage is a very helpful technique in treating painful muscles and can be learned from a physiotherapist. Massage can be used to loosen muscles, tight from disuse. Massage is also useful for decreasing edema, breaking down intramuscular adhesions and reducing stiffness and pain. Massage can also help release trigger points (McCaffery & Pasero, 1999).

    Peaceful sleep can happen if stress is relieved during the day. Here are some ways to help reduce stress:

    1. Five to ten minutes should be spent in relaxation or mediation, daily.
    2. Exercise in the afternoon will help to create a feeling of well being and accomplishment carrying into the evening.
    3. The practice of a daily review in the evening will allow a person to write down goals and actions for the next day.
    4. It is important to use your bedroom for sleeping, only.
    5. It is recommended to never analyze complex or stressful situations at night.
    6. If you can’t sleep after twenty minutes, do something calming in another room if possible.
    7. Try to avoid eating a heavy meal less than 3 hours before bedtime.
    8. A light snack containing carbohydrates such as bread and cereal or foods with amino acid L-triptophan as milk, tuna or turkey will increase one’s feeling of sleepiness.
    9. It is imperative not to drink alcohol or caffeine at bedtime. Ideally you should avoid caffeine after supper.
    10. You should not smoke prior to going to bed.
    11. Sleeping in a cool, quiet room, always at night and in a proper bed is helpful measures.
    12. If all else fails, a person can soak in a warm tub prior to bedtime.
    13. Relying on sleeping pills can cause a problem with dependence. Over the counter sleeping pills should also be avoided.
    14. When using sleeping pills, it is helpful to take a lowest recommended dose.
  • 3. Develop Self-help and Maintain Skills

    The learning of coping strategies is very helpful. If you think you can, then you can accomplish your goals. Narrowly confined activities as lying on the couch, bed, recliner chair can lead to napping and then disturbances in the sleeping (circadian) cycles. Sleep disturbances will result in the feeling of constant fatigue. The word pacing is used again. Planning your day with balance, breaking tasks into shorter sections, balancing difficult tasks with easier ones is helpful. Keeping a diary will help to break the tasks, down. You must make time to have one or two relaxation sessions, lasting fifteen to twenty minutes per day. You should tell your family about your plans so they will give the undisturbed time. You should make time for your exercise program, increasing the time very, very slowly. Lastly and most importantly, you should have at least twenty minutes of enjoyable leisure activity each day. You can plan your leisure activity ahead, making plans, first thing each day.

  • 4. Improving Your Mood

    Stress management through the using of pacing and proper care of your body will help to improve your mood. Learning to have some fun and laughter is the best medicine to improve one’s mood. Laughter allows for the release of pain relieving endorphins. Good sources of humor can be found in videos, books, tapes and meditations. One’s expectations of good or bad outcomes will affect what happens to you. You can look for good outcomes just as easily as looking for bad ones.

  • 5. Engage in relationships and friendships with Others

    Some form of employment is thought to increase one’s feeling of self worth. If paid employment is not an option, there is lots of volunteer work available. Keeping one’s mind active keeps your mind off the pain channel. Even short breaks are helpful. Support from social involvement, family, friends and co-workers makes a person feel worthwhile. Social involvement takes work. A person must make contact, set goals on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Connections can be made in many different ways. Walking with a pet, working out, doing lunch with a friend, volunteering, joining a cause, joining a hobby group or going back to school are some suggestions. Once the connection has been made, it takes work to nurture new friends. It is suggested to go easy at first. It is important not to compete with others. You need to maintain a healthy realistic self-image. You need to work at a positive outlook, trying not to complain. Lastly, you can ‘listen up’, to the feedback from your social network.


You must take time to look for good outcomes in your life. You can use your diary to record your positive outcomes, each and every day. The best mantra for your life with chronic pain is: if you think that you can, then you can!