When it comes to chronic pain, stress can be a major contributor. In fact, a research team at Carnegie Mellon University recently published a study showing for the first time that stress affects the body’s ability to regulate inflammation, which can lead to not only the progression of disease, but the development of new disease. In turn, chronic pain contributes to stress, creating a vicious cycle. That means managing stress can be critical to pain relief. There are many ways to handle stress, and individuals should choose a method that is enjoyable and does not aggravate their pain. Whether it’s gardening, listening to relaxing music or taking a soothing bath, finding approaches to stress management will likely have an effect on pain levels. Here are three ways to deal with chronic pain using stress relievers: Get plenty of high quality sleep. Most people don’t get enough sleep, and those who report less than the minimum recommended amount (7-9 hours for adults), also report higher levels of stress, according to the American Psychological Association. Sleep is restorative, so the stresses of the day can be soothed and sometimes completely washed away. A good night’s sleep also means it’s easier to tackle the stresses of the day ahead. Try mindful meditation. For those with chronic pain, sleep may not come easily. Prior to falling asleep, it may help to sit quietly and notice breathing patterns. Counting ten breaths at a time and starting over is a particularly effective way of maintaining mindfulness. If pain or thoughts intrude, acknowledge them gently. Doing this for 20 minutes, not just before bedtime but also throughout the day, may help relieve the stress of pain or the stresses of the day. Move. Numerous studies show a link between exercise and decreased stress levels. The World Health Organization recommends 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity daily. These can be everyday lifestyle activities that don’t necessarily mean sports or exercise classes. Lifestyle activities include gardening, cleaning the house, sweeping the walkway, cooking meals. If more robust activity like biking or swimming is possible, that’s also a good idea. To make sure pain isn’t aggravated by exercise or basic lifestyle activity, it’s a good idea to seek out a consultation with a doctor first. When dealing with chronic pain, stress levels may make all the difference. Find ways to manage stress, and pain relief may be just around the corner. Add your thoughts and comments below and follow us on Facebook!