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You don’t have to live with it: Four tools to manage your chronic pain

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Author name: Sharon Krispinsky, BSN, RN, CDE


Pain eats away at you. It keeps you from doing what you love. It stops you from sleeping. In fact, chronic pain – a condition when pain lasts longer than 3-6 months -- can alter your mental state and turn you into someone you no longer recognize.

How can you possibly deal with something so potentially destructive?

When we suffer from pain, many of us immediately reach for an over-the-counter medication to find relief. But that’s not always the best option – and it’s certainly not something you want to rely on long-term to help you live a better life.

Can you believe that an estimated 20 percent of American adults have a chronic pain condition? If you are one of them, here are some things beyond the medicine cabinet that may give you relief:

Physical Activity

If you’re in pain, common sense may tell you that physical activity will make it hurt even more. But this isn’t true! In fact, it’s going to hurt even more if you decide to do nothing. Swimming, pool exercises, biking, Tai Chi, yoga, and Pilates help loosen you up and relieve pain. Start slow, do what you’re comfortable with, and ask your doctor what would work for your type of pain.

Healthy Eating

Good health always starts in the gut. Bad eating habits cause inflammation. It’s simple: A better diet means lots of overall health improvements including less pain:

  • Try to have six servings of vegetables a day and 1-2 servings of fruit.
  • Choose foods with less fat. Eat lean protein sources and consider eating more fish and a combination of plant proteins, such as rice and beans. Foods such as salmon, trout, sardines, and nuts with high amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids decrease inflammation.
  • Foods full of magnesium such as seeds, nuts, fish, beans, peas, green vegetables, and wheat germ may help with some pain conditions.
  • Avoid processed foods and eat foods with only one ingredient.
  • If you are overweight, try to lose 5-7 percent of your body weight.

Pacing and Planning

Many patients who suffer from chronic pain may overdo or underdo certain activities such as hobbies, social events, or chores. To avoid either extreme, it is important to pace and plan your daily activities. Take frequent rests and be more time oriented instead of pain oriented.

For example, break down an activity into smaller and more manageable steps. You don’t have to do everything all at once! Change an activity completely or learn to prioritize so you can still get stuff done without causing aggravation, according to the Self-Management Resource Center.

More Mindfulness

We hear it all the time: “Mind over matter.” And it really is true. Practice distraction, mindful breathing, relaxation techniques, meditation, and guided imagery.

Don’t know how to start? Download a relaxing app on your phone or talk to a friend or expert about meditation or other forms of relaxation. Once you train your mind, you will be amazed at what you might accomplish.

Learn More with Lee Health

Would you like to learn more about these chronic pain tools and others? Talk to your doctor before embarking on any new plan. Call Lee Health Solutions at 239-343-9264.

Sharon Krispinsky, BSN, RN, CDE, is the Chronic Health Program coordinator for Lee Health. Information on this page is adapted from the Chronic Pain Self-Management Education program offered by the Self-Management Resource Center.

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