Managing Chronic Pain Through Healthy Lifestyle

Your primary care physician will usually classify pain into two categories: Acute or Chronic.

Acute pain happens because of inflammation or some type of tissue damage and has a predictable, short term duration. A broken bone or recovery from a minor surgery would be two examples of acute pain.

Chronic pain is described as lasting beyond any expected period of healing and is long term in duration. Fibromyalgia, herniated discs or rheumatoid arthritis would be examples of chronic, long term pain.

There are a myriad of ways your primary care physician can treat chronic pain. If the source of the pain is known, your chronic care treatment can include medications and specific recommendations for physical therapy.

If the source of the pain is not clear, then your family physician might suggest combining painkillers and massage therapy.

Living with chronic pain can have disastrous consequences which healthcare professionals refer to as “secondary losses” which include:

  • Depression and mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Self-isolation
  • Side effects from medications
  • Being unable to work
  • Problems concentrating
  • Insomnia

Chronic pain is not only physically painful, but it’s a psychological burden as well. The stress of daily life combined with pain can take quite a toll which is why talking to your family physician about ways to manage the pain in healthy ways is important.

When medications, physical therapy or surgery do not eliminate the pain, it’s essential to find alternative, healthy and sustainable methods to learn how to live with ongoing pain.


Deal with your stress. Start with the basics by making sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and finding a physical activity that you can enjoy. Discuss with your primary care physician about the ways you can achieve your goals. Yoga, meditation and tai chi are just some examples of great ways to help with stress.

Cut the negative self-talk. Your words and how you talk to yourself matter. Yes, you’re in pain but reminding yourself that you’re working every day to get better. Find ways to give meaning to your life and remind yourself to stay positive.

Get active. The worst thing you can do when you are in pain is to stop moving. Atrophy is your enemy! Find an activity you enjoy and start doing it for just one minute a day. Increase the time by small, achievable amounts daily. Your family physician can advise you on appropriate exercise and activity.

Don’t Isolate! Friends, family and support groups are necessary for mental health. Being lonely can exacerbate pain. Add laughter and socialization to your arsenal of ways to work with your chronic pain.

Learning to accept the things you cannot change is an important first step. If chronic pain is destined to be a part of your life, your chronic care treatment is going to be your number one priority.

Your primary care physician might point you to a mental health professional if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some emotional support to work through the psychological aspects of your condition.

Don’t stop moving, stay positive and work with your family physician to find the best program for managing your chronic pain in healthy ways!

About the Author:

Arun Villivalam, MD is a concerned and caring family physician and primary care doctor serving the community of Los Gatos, CA. Dr. Villivalam attended Thomas Jefferson University, where he received his medical degree, and completed his residency in family medicine at Cook County Hospital. Dr. Villivalam provides a variety of services to ensure the health and wellbeing of his patients, including physicals for all ages, chronic care management, stress management, urgent care, medicare wellness visits, school physicals and more.