Often people with diabetes experience a chronic pain cycle that can lead to more problems. Fortunately, there are ways to relieve the pain and stop this vicious cycle. Discover ways to minimize your pain and maximize your overall well-being.
- A study done in California found nearly half of adults with type 2 diabetes experience chronic pain. Almost 25 percent of those adults also experience depression, fatigue and insomnia. Chronic pain may include headaches, back pain and neuropathy in the hands and feet. Others with diabetes may have painful conditions such as arthritis or fibromyalgia. A person in constant pain may not follow their diabetes self-management plan. It is important to find ways to relieve pain so you can better manage your diabetes. Chronic pain may add to high blood sugars. Discuss your pain with your doctor to find the cause and possible helpful treatments.
- Acute pain comes on suddenly and may be a sign of an emergency situation. Chronic pain is ongoing and can be the result of a health condition, sensitive nerves or a previous injury. The pain cycle can lead to muscle tension and more pain. It interrupts your ability to sleep and leads to feelings of depression, anxiety, anger and/or frustration. Chronic pain should be treated so you can break the pain cycle.
- Physical treatment of chronic pain may include cold or heat application to the painful areas. Rest, physical therapy, and gentle progressive exercise are additional ways to treat chronic pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs might be prescribed to reduce the pain, such as aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen and naproxen. Always consult with your doctor before taking any pain medication to avoid contraindications.
- A TENS (transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation) unit may be used to block pain signals from traveling to your nerves. Ultrasound is another technique which also may break the pain cycle. Relaxation, meditation and exercises such as yoga and Tai chi can also reduce stress and pain. For those experiencing ongoing depression, it can help to consult with a counselor or join a support group. Since blood sugars may run high when you are in pain keep diabetes supplies on hand to test your blood sugar regularly. Keep your physician informed about your numbers.
- A combination of alternative treatments with medical supervision can also help reduce pain. Massage, acupressure, biofeedback, chiropractic medicine, acupuncture and aromatherapy may help minimize your pain. Antioxidants such as ginger, arnica and turmeric have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage that occurs in the hands, feet and legs. These areas may experience burning, tingling and eventual numbness/pain, once the nerves stop functioning correctly. It is important to keep feet covered with shoes or slippers at all times and discuss medical treatment plans for neuropathy such as Lyrica or Gabapentin.
- Losing weight can help take pressure off your feet, back and legs to reduce pain in these areas. Shedding 7 to 10 percent of your total body weight can make a difference. Avoid pushing yourself to the point of fatigue when you work or exercise. Laugh, socialize and enjoy your favorite hobbies to boost your mood and distract you from feeling the pain.
A few simple lifestyle changes, maintaining proper blood sugar levels and consulting with your health care team can help you reduce pain. Find the methods that work best for you. Learn how to end the chronic pain cycle associated with diabetes to have a happier, more active life.