Six Ways to Tackle Chronic Pain

Pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen are common staples in medicine cabinets. An over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever will ease occasional headaches or muscle soreness, but if you experience chronic pain, you may want to consider other alternatives.

Research suggests that because pain involves both the mind and the body, mind-body therapies may have the capacity to lessen pain by changing the way you perceive it. Try these mind-body techniques to help take your mind off the pain.

Deep Breathing. Inhale deeply, hold for a few seconds, and exhale. To help you focus, you can use a word or phrase to guide you and help maintain breathing rhythms.

Mindfulness. Pick an activity you enjoy. Be mindful of every detail of what you are doing and how your senses and emotions are responding. Practice bringing mindfulness to all aspects of your life.

Music therapy. Negative feelings like depression, anxiety, stress and anger can increase the body's sensitivity to pain. Listening to soothing, calming music can lift your mood and make living with chronic pain more bearable.

Exercise. Structured exercise programs can help reduce stress and ease pain. You can also work with your physician or physical therapist to develop your own exercise program that addresses your specific needs.

Acupuncture (seek out a specialist). Acupuncture has long been used to treat headaches. The ancient Chinese practice appears to prevent migraines as well as or possibly better than preventative medications and may also help people with occasional or chronic tension headaches.

Yoga and tai chi (seek out a specialist). These mind-body exercises incorporate breath control, meditation and movements to stretch and strengthen muscles. Check with your local gym or health club to enroll in a yoga or tai chi class.

Sources: WebMD and Harvard Health