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Managing Chronic Pain During the Holidays

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The holiday season can be filled with joy and cheer; however, this busy season can also be filled with pressure and anxiety. For those individuals living with chronic pain, increased stress and fatigue can result in escalation of their painful conditions. Dr. Dana Zalkind, Medical Director of the Pain Management Program at NEBH, has some helpful recommendations that can make the holiday season more comfortable and enjoyable.

Prioritize those activities most important to you
The holidays can be extremely busy with shopping, traveling and family gatherings. Try to set limitations for yourself and choose to participate in activities you can comfortably enjoy.

Exercise and keep active
Do NOT eliminate health and fitness from your schedule in December. Aerobic activity, gentle stretching, yoga or even starting a physical therapy program is a great method to manage pain and improve mental health.

Maintain nutrition and healthy eating habits
Holiday gatherings are usually filled with tempting sweets and indulgences. It is often difficult to consider losing weight during the holiday season; a better goal would be to maintain your current weight, eat healthy and try to consistently have a good night's sleep. In addition, try to limit any alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a depressant and can thus intensify pain. Moderation is the key to success with diet.

Pace and plan your activities
Try to avoid the added stress of last minute tasks. Plan a schedule with extra time to incorporate an unanticipated "painful day". You might find it easier to tackle several shorter shopping trips, rather than a twelve hour marathon event.  Delegate to family or friends those activities which might be too challenging for you.

Find time for yourself
Try to take pleasure in the activities which you can easily participate. Try to spend time with individuals who are supportive and understanding of your medical condition.

Embrace the holiday season despite limitations and hope for a healthy, happy new year!

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