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Managing Chronic Pain – How Functional Medicine Can Provide Long-Term Relief

by Deniz Ellard

Pain can be a heavy burden. It’s important to seek support through exercise, healthy eating and adequate sleep. It’s also important to learn stress management skills from a qualified professional. Many patients find relief from chronic pain when a functional medicine doctor examines their medical history and current symptoms to determine possible root issues. This approach aims to provide long-term relief by understanding why the pain exists in the first place.


Pain is an incredibly complicated subject. While no magic pill or intervention can cure chronic pain, it is possible to achieve substantial relief through changes in diet and lifestyle.

Your pain physician will recommend a specific treatment regimen, including movement/physical therapy, activity restrictions, minimally invasive procedures and pain medication. There are also other approaches to pain management, like Trivida Functional Medicine.

However, one common recommendation is that you maintain a healthy diet. Research has shown that a diet high in processed, fatty foods promotes proinflammatory cytokines and can worsen chronic pain. Conversely, a diet rich in anti-inflammatory components like whole grains, fish and nuts can decrease inflammation and reduce pain.

Stress can also contribute to feelings of pain. Managing your stress levels can help relieve pain and discomfort by releasing natural endorphins in the brain that act as natural painkillers. Relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises (box breathing), deep relaxation and progressive muscle relaxation, can reduce stress and improve overall mood.


Chronic pain is an issue that can have a serious impact on your life. It can keep you awake at night, stop you from engaging in your favorite activities and even affect your relationships with family and friends.

Physical movement helps to relieve pain while boosting mood and enhancing overall well-being. However, many people with chronic pain do not exercise because it is too painful or they don’t feel comfortable in the gym.

Finding low-impact exercises that are safe for your condition and that you enjoy is important. Exercise can help you to break the cycle of inactivity and pain. Exercise releases endorphins, which block pain signals while boosting mood. It can also help improve sleep and reduce your need for pain medication. Techniques for stress management can be useful in combating negative feelings, which can increase pain sensitivity.


Anyone who has spent a night tossing and turning with achy joints, a throbbing head or a sore back knows that sleeping is not easy when you are in pain. It is not only hard to fall asleep and stay asleep, but the constant aches and pains can cause you to wake up often throughout the night, causing even more fatigue.

Scientists from UC Berkeley found that sleep deprivation intensifies pain sensitivity by disrupting the neural mechanisms that pick up on and evaluate pain signals and activate the brain’s natural painkilling systems.

Sleeping reduces pain, helps the body heal from physical injury or surgery, reduces inflammation, swelling and bruising, and releases hormones that promote tissue growth. Getting more restful sleep and decreasing pain sensitivity is a simple solution for people with chronic pain issues, including fibromyalgia and migraines.

Stress Management

Stress is both the cause and the effect of pain. If you are constantly stressed, it can cause your body to perceive everything as being a threat, which then amplifies the pain. This is a vicious cycle, and it can be hard to break.

Identifying what causes your stress is the first step to overcoming it. Some stresses are easier to spot, such as major life events or traumatic experiences, while others may be more subtle, like the constant to-do list, relationship problems or unfulfillment at work.

Chronic pain can also cause you to avoid situations that make it worse, such as exercise and moving your body. This can feel protective but keeps you in a stressful and painful loop. Learning emotional management skills can help you break out of this cycle and learn to cope with uncomfortable emotions without them escalating into self-destructive reactions. This can include learning to identify different types of painful feelings and rate them on an intensity scale.

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