One of the key features of RSD is pain – usually a burning pain felt deep in the tissues – that can be associated with touching the skin or sometimes with no contact to the skin at all. The pain is usually worse with movement and with changes in temperature.
Fortunately, those who suffer from pain disorders can develop a set of coping strategies that can relieve the pain, at least temporarily. Too many people with RSD develop addictions to strong opioid pain relievers that really don’t target the source of the pain. Here are some quick tips to dealing with pain when your body is telling you it is suffering:
- Learn relaxation techniques. These include deep breathing techniques and meditation that focus on the breath and eases pain. These types of techniques ease tension in the muscles and allow even blood flow through the extremities. The soothing power of the breath or heart beat lets one ignore thoughts of pain. This can include visualization, guided imagery or a mantra to put the mind into an ultra-relaxed state. Classes in meditation are available or learn how to do it using a CD or DVD.
- Reduce the amount of stress in life. Life stress can exacerbate feelings of pain. When people reduce stress, they take back control in their lives and lessen feelings of pain. Listen to calming music can make your pain more tolerable. Guided imagery provides an emotional and mental escape from pain and improves coping with stressful life experiences. Letting go of things that are stressful in life can lessen pain. Try progressive muscle relaxation techniques.
- Exercise. Exercise releases natural hormones called endorphins that relieve pain. Mood will be improved and pain-blocking signals will be elevated. Exercise also helps to strengthen the atrophied muscles seen in RSD. Weight will be controlled, and risk of heart disease and diabetes will be lessened. A doctor or physical therapist can answer questions about which physical activities are right for each individual.
- Cut back on alcohol. When a person is in pain, it is difficult to sleep and alcohol will only make getting to sleep more difficult. No alcohol or at least less alcohol will improve quality of life.
- Join a Pain Support Group. Meeting others who are also living with chronic pain provides a world of people who understand what an RSD sufferer is going through and have a collective wisdom as to what to do about it. Engaging in personal psychotherapy can also help produce better coping skills when it comes to dealing with chronic pain.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking can worsen blood circulatory status and can make pain worse. This means not taking nicotine replacement medication either – nicotine in any form has negative impacts on the circulatory and nervous systems. Eliminating smoking can also reduce risk of heart disease and cancer.
- Keep a journal or log of pain symptoms, including a pain score and a list of activities that day. This helps a doctor to understand those things that trigger pain for the individual, so that the doctor and patient can make accurate health and pain decisions by knowing about things that exacerbate pain symptoms.
- Learn biofeedback. Biofeedback is an excellent tool to deal with pain by training the mind to relieve pain. By wearing sensors that react to thoughts and changes in motor tenseness, a person can train themselves to lessen specific pain reactions.
- Get a massage. The massage therapist doesn’t have to massage the painful area but can massage the rest of the body, producing general feelings of relaxation and calm that can produce relief from pain.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eating healthy reduces risk of heart disease and diabetes, helps maintain a regular weight and generally helps a person feel better. Try for a low-sodium, low-fat diet with plenty of fresh fruits, cooked beans, fresh fruits, whole grain breads and lean meats or dairy.
- Use distraction as a way of not feeling as much pain. Filling life with activities – even despite the pain from RSD – can help reduce the impact of the condition simply by distracting the mind from its presence. Awareness of and response to pain is to certain degree in a person’s attitude and, even though complete pain relief doesn’t occur, a person can lessen it simply by focusing on something else.