If you struggle with chronic pain, then you have probably experienced physical and mental exhaustion. Extreme fatigue is often an accompanying symptom of chronic pain because pain can disrupt restful sleep, alter normal cognitive processes and inhibit energy-building activities like exercise or socializing. The good news is that there are ways to counteract physical and mental exhaustion, even if you are experiencing chronic pain.
One of the best ways to reduce or eliminate fatigue is to get a good night’s rest, but that is often difficult for chronic pain sufferers. You may find it difficult to fall asleep or remain asleep through the night due to the pain itself or undue anxiety related to your health condition. Many people in these circumstances may try over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids, but research suggests that medications are not a long-term solution and may be more problematic than helpful.
Most pain specialists will likely recommend some lifestyle changes initially to improve sleep. This may involve avoiding naps during the day that may disturb normal sleep patterns. In an effort to establish an optimal sleep cycle, your doctor will likely recommend that you set a regular bedtime and prepare for sleep by minimizing stimuli. It is also a good idea to engage in some light exercise earlier in the day to raise your mood and induce sleep more easily. You may also want to modify your bedroom so that it is optimized for sleep including comfortable bedding, minimal light and sound penetration, and appropriate temperature.
If you find yourself having difficulty falling asleep due to troubling thoughts, you may want to consider seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist that specializes in sleep disorders. You and your therapist will work together to analyze your thought patterns and identify habits that prevent you from falling asleep. Your therapist will then develop some strategies to avoid problematic thoughts and fall asleep more readily.
Additionally, your therapist may recommend some relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises that will help prepare your body for sleep. In some cases, it might be helpful to engage in mind-body programs like yoga, meditation or tai chi. These activities can help train you to respond more positively to pain and stress, offering more mental peace, a key prerequisite for restful sleep.
If none of these approaches is successful for you, then you should discuss pharmacological therapies. Most prescription sleep aids come with side effects including dependency, so your physician will likely only allow you to use them for short periods. However, your doctor may prescribe melatonin or melatonin receptor agonists; melatonin is a natural sleep-inducing compound and is non-habit forming.
One last thing to consider is properly treating your underlying pain condition. If you can better manage your pain, you are likely to spend considerably less mental and physical energy. Discuss all of your treatment options with your doctor and design a treatment program that is the most effective for you. In the long run, minimizing your pain is the best way to tackle your fatigue issues.
Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
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