Patient’s Perspective - The Importance Of Mind And Movement In Managing Chronic Pain

  • Chronic Pain


Shona Louise | Patient Inclusion Advisor at Leva Clinic

First Published 3/1/2022

Last Updated 4/18/2023

Last week I shared my tips on how you can slowly increase your movement when you’re living with chronic pain or chronic illness, and this week I want to expand upon that even more. For a very long time I believed that only medication could provide any relief from my pain and help to manage it. Whilst medication absolutely has a role to play in mine and a lot of people’s pain management, there are other tools at our disposal that can support you to live the life that you want to. Today I want to talk a little about how supporting my mind and increasing my movement has helped me.

One of the most common questions that I’m asked by people is ‘how do you cope with being in pain all of the time?’. If you have no experience of chronic pain then it can be hard to get your head around the idea of working, socialising and completing daily tasks whilst being in constant pain. For a long time I didn’t really have an answer to this question, but now I can see that my own mindset is the thing that’s helped me to cope the most.

When you first begin to realise that your pain is here to stay, often you think things like ‘why me?’ and you spend time grieving for the life you had before. Having the time and space to process a new way of life is really important, and all part of the process, but in the end it was simply my acceptance of my pain that helped me to move forward with my life. I stopped fighting against my body and instead taught myself to work with it and to accept whatever came my way. Particularly as a young adult living with pain it was all too easy to get stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts, comparing my old life with my new life. The before and the after. I automatically labeled these timeframes of my life as either negative or positive, when actually the before and the after both had different things to offer me. So much good has come out of my chronic pain and disability, which probably sounds really odd to a lot of people, but I couldn’t imagine my life looking any differently now. I truly believe I am where I’m meant to be.

It’s important to know that it took me years to reach this mindset, it’s certainly not an overnight thing, and it’s hard work. We’re wired as humans to view medical problems as inherently negative and life ruining events. We view disability as a tragedy. It takes time to unlearn these things, so be gentle and kind to yourself as you begin on your journey to acceptance.

Working on your movement requires the same gentle and kind approach as the mind does. For a lot of people living with chronic pain, the idea of movement can be anxiety inducing. Perhaps you’ve been told before that moving more would help your pain, but any attempts to do so have just left you feeling worse? For me, changing my whole mindset on what movement is had the biggest impact.

Movement is so much more than a visit to the gym or going on a long walk. It can be simple movements such as standing up from a chair or playing with your children. Reframing what you consider movement to be is the best place to start when it comes to increasing your movement. We can also think about movement when we’re in a flare-up. Often when our pain is at its worst our instinct is to stop all our activities and to move as little as possible, and whilst decreasing our movement when we’re in a flare-up is sensible, stopping it altogether can often cause more problems. I know that personally I get very stiff when I spend hours laying in bed, and that stiffness leads to further problems and pain. It’s all about balance. I will often set reminders to get up and stretch my legs so I don’t lose track of time and end up leaving myself in more pain as a result. These days smart watches and fitness trackers can be set up to deliver such reminders, this could be helpful if you work from a desk or find yourself spending much of your day in one position.

When it comes to both mind and movement, as well as medication, it’s about using all 3 as a team together. I no longer rely on just medication to manage my pain now, instead using it in conjunction with other tools and therapies. Each tool has it’s part to play.

You can learn more about how mind, movement and medication can support you to manage your chronic pain in the Leva Clinic 12 module pain management clinic.

If you would like to get in touch with Shona you can follow her on twitterinstagram or drop her a message via her website.

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