What is Self Management of Pain?
Self Management means taking some simple but effective steps or measures to prevent or reduce pain with or without any medical assistance. You may or may not take expert advice, but in self management, you play the main role yourself. The act(s) of taking measures to prevent, control or reduce your pain is known as self management of pain.
Which pain can be managed through self management? Virtually, any. It does not matter whether it is back pain (back ache), neck pain, leg pain, shoulder pain or even headache etc. You can manage them all effectively as long as you take appropriate steps and seek expert advice wherever necessary or required.
Here is a summary of a couple of steps to manage neck pain as explained in Bradford Teaching Hospital, NHS Foundation Trust leaflet.
An effective way to control pain is to take your medication at the earliest signs without waiting for it to build up. The reason you should take your medication regularly is that it will reduce your pain so you can move your neck around without discomfort and thus avoid stiffening of the muscles and tissues. It is strongly recommended to follow the guidance of you GP, pharmacist, or in case of over the counter medicines, the advice on the manufacturer’s leaflets. Take the medicines with regular intervals to lower the stress and strain.
2. Should you take rest or exercise?
NHS advice is that taking long rest after pain has started is not helpful. Staying longer in bed keeps the muscles and bones week. It may also increase stiffness and the pain may increase instead of being reduced. Staying longer in bed also results in losing fitness. It is, therefore, advised to take regular and gentle exercises in order to keep the bones and muscles stronger and maintain movement. Movements helps ease symptoms and improves blood circulation and thus help the body recover fast.
3. Normal Activities
Most people abandon their normal activities when they have a neck pain. If the pain is not very severe, it is better to continue with your normal activities at work or home. It is also helpful to reduce the activities at work or home rather than abandoning it.
4. Pacing and Neck Pain
Some people commit the mistake of not spacing out their chores or activities properly. Regular breaks, especially during pain flares up, are great for reducing pain. Don’t wait until the pain is high. Space out things to reduce pressure and stress. Pacing is a simple strategy yet very effective.
5. Heat Therapy and Neck Pain
You can either use heat or cold therapies to reduce neck pain. Which one works best? Try both to find out! If using heat therapy take these steps.
- Fill a hot water bottle with hot water
- Wrap it in 4 layers of a towel
- Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes
- Repeat 2 to 3 times a day
6. Cold Therapy and Neck Pain
For cold therapy you can either use crushed ice or frozen peas. Take the following steps.
- First, apply extra virgin olive oil to the area
- Wrap crushed ice in a damp towel. You can also use frozen peas instead of ice.
- Apply it on the sore area for 10 minutes but not longer than 15 minutes.
- Repeat 2 to 3 times a day.
Caution: if you suffer from conditions like circulatory or cardiac problems, it is recommended to seek advice from your doctor or physiotherapist before using the cold and heat therapies for pain.
7. Posture and Neck Pain
Posture is often the worst culprit in case of back or neck pains. It is extremely important to keep the curves of the spine as much natural as possible. The spine is designed to move. It is, therefore, important to move it around regularly to avoid stiffness and discomfort. Some postures like talking on the telephone or frequent turning around etc need to be regularly checked.
Neck pain is common and is usually not something to worry about. Try to be positive and stay at work as much as you can. Rest does not help; rather it may increase stiffness resulting in higher pain. Take your medication regularly and exercise normal. Use of heat and cold therapies may be very helpful and changing postures should not be ignored.
Source: Bradford NHS Trust Foundation Leaflet.