10 ways to reduce pain

Whether your pain has just come on or you’ve lived with it for years, these tried-and-tested self-help steps can bring you relief.

Get some gentle exercise

Simple, everyday activities like walking, swimming, gardening and dancing can ease some of the pain directly by blocking pain signals to the brain. Activity also helps lessen pain by stretching stiff and tense muscles, ligaments and joints.

It’s natural to be hesitant if exercise is painful and you’re worried about doing more damage. But if you become more active gradually, it’s unlikely you’ll cause any damage or harm. The pain you feel when you start gentle exercise is because the muscles and joints are getting fitter.

Breathe right to ease pain

Concentrating on your breathing when you’re in pain can help. When the pain is intense it’s very easy to start taking shallow, rapid breaths, which can make you feel dizzy, anxious or panicked. Instead, breathe slowly and deeply.

This will help you to feel more in control and keep you relaxed and prevent any muscle tension or anxiety from making your pain worse.

Read books and leaflets on pain

The Pain Toolkit is a booklet packed with simple practical advice on how to live better with long-term pain. The British Pain Society’s website also has a number of booklets and patient information leaflets about managing pain.

Counselling can help with pain

Pain can make you tired, anxious, depressed and grumpy. This can make the pain even worse, making you fall into a downward spiral. Be kind to yourself.

Living with pain is not easy and you can be your own worst enemy by being stubborn, not pacing your activities every day and not accepting your limitations.

Some people find it useful to get help from a counsellor, psychologist or hypnotherapist to discover how to deal with their emotions in relation to their pain.

Distract yourself

Shift your attention on to something else so the pain is not the only thing on your mind. Get stuck into an activity that you enjoy or find stimulating. Many hobbies, like photography, sewing or knitting, are possible even when your mobility is restricted.

Share your story about pain

It can help to talk to someone else who has experienced similar pain themselves and understands what you’re going through.

Pain Concern, Action on Pain, Versus Arthritis and BackCare all have telephone helplines manned by people with long-term pain, who can put you in touch with local patient support groups.

The sleep cure for pain 

Many people with long-term pain find it difficult to sleep at night. But it’s important to try to stick to a normal sleep routine so you’ve got the best chance of sleeping through the night.

Sleep deprivation can also make pain worse. Go to bed at the same time each evening, and get up at a regular time in the morning and avoid taking naps in the day.

Take a course

Self management courses are free NHS-based training programmes for people who live with long-term chronic conditions such as arthritis and diabetes to develop new skills to manage their condition (and any related pain) better on a day-to-day basis.

Many people who have been on a self-management course say they take fewer painkillers afterwards.

Keep in touch with friends and family

Do not let pain mean that you lose contact with people.

Keeping in touch with friends and family is good for your health and can help you feel much better. Try shorter visits, maybe more often, and if you cannot get out to visit people, phone a friend, invite a family member round for a tea or have a chat with your neighbour.

Aim to talk about anything other than your pain, even if other people want to talk about it.

Relax to beat pain 

Practising relaxation techniques regularly can help to reduce persistent pain. There are many types of relaxation techniques, varying from breathing exercises to types of meditation. Ask a GP for advice in the first instance. There may be classes available locally or at your local hospital’s pain clinic.