Font Size: A A A

9 effective strategies from Reno’s chronic pain management doctors

Chronic conditions, arthritic joints and old injuries mean that many of us experience some level of pain regularly. But chronic pain does not need to control our lives. To help you with your chronic pain management, our doctors present these 10 approaches to pain management that have proven successful for different people. We encourage you to explore these options to find what works for you. 

  1. Stretching

    Feel like you’ve heard this one before? You probably have. The benefits of stretching are extensive. Stretching can help increase flexibility and range of motion, improve posture, reduce stress and improve muscular blood flow, all of which can reduce back pain, body aches and overall stiffness. Some people with chronic pain find it valuable to take a hot shower or soak in a hot tub prior to stretching to warm their bodies. 

    Patient Jim K. shares his regime for managing pain from a lifetime of sports injuries. “I do the following daily to manage my pain and allow my body to still function at a decent level with very little medication. Get up slowly, hot shower to warm the old bones up…walk or workout and stretch.” 

  2. Exercise

    Exercise releases endorphins, the brain chemicals that improve mood and block pain signals. But exercise has other pain-reducing effects – it strengthens muscles, helping prevent re-injury and further pain; it can help strengthen muscles that may be contributing to pain; and it creates stability. Exercise improves overall health and supports weight loss, both of which can reduce discomfort and improve pain tolerance. The options for exercise are incredibly varied and should be selected based on enjoyment, accessibility and how they impact your pain. It’s important to find an exercise that doesn’t exacerbate your pain condition.

    Those with chronic pain or other medical issues should discuss exercise with their doctor before starting a program. And for those new to exercise, it is advisable to work with a trained fitness professional who can help you establish correct form. 

  1. Physical therapy

While we often think of physical therapy as a way to recover from acute injury or surgery, it can also be a tool to address chronic pain. Physical therapy for chronic pain involves a guided series of exercises designed to preserve or improve your strength and mobility. 
Tools a physical therapist may use include: 

  • Manipulation of joints and bones

  • Dry needling using acupuncture-style needles to calm neurogenic inflammation and eliminate trigger points

  • Manual therapy using hands or tools on soft tissue

  • Therapeutic Exercise

RELATED: Dry Needling 101 — understanding this powerful therapy tool


  1. Yoga

Somewhere between stretching, exercise and meditation sits yoga, a mind-body practice that combines physical postures, controlled breathing and mindfulness. In the United States, yoga is most often associated with stretching exercises that build flexibility and relax the body. It can also build strength, coordination, balance and stamina, relieve stress and reduce pain levels by supporting the body's own healing processes. Yoga is available in a class setting at many studios and gyms where an instructor can guide you through the movements to ensure safety and make any modifications for injury or pain. 

  1. Sleep

Pain can worsen if we are not well rested. Research indicates that people who get six or fewer hours of sleep a night have higher levels of inflammatory proteins in their blood than those who get more. Muscle recovery, mental recovery and nervous system recovery happen when the body is at rest. Make sure you are getting enough sleep each night, which, of course, can be challenging if you are in pain (see other pain management strategies in this article). Note: alcohol can worsen sleep problems, so if you struggle to fall asleep, avoiding alcohol before bedtime can improve your sleep quality. 

How much is enough? The National Sleep Foundation offers these new guidelines based on a two-year study:

  • Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours

  • Adults (18-64): 7-9 hours

  • Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours

  1. Diet

When addressing chronic pain, it’s important to look at your overall health and well-being. Diet and pain can be connected and being overweight can contribute significantly to joint pain, so make sure you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet. According to Dr. Thomas Fyda of Great Basin Orthopaedics, “Each pound of body weight translates into at least four pounds of pressure at the knee joint. Losing weight can relieve stress on an arthritic or injured joint and thus help relieve symptoms.” 

A poor diet can also affect your immune system, contributing to persistent low-grade inflammation. Research suggests foods rich in a group of antioxidants known as polyphenols can have an anti-inflammatory effect that can help soothe and prevent painful flare-ups. These foods include whole fruits (especially all types of berries), dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in olive oil, flaxseed oil and fatty fish (like salmon, sardines, and mackerel) also help control inflammation. 

RELATED: Are Your Joints Begging You To Lose Weight?

  1. Dry Needling 

Dry needling is a therapeutic technique for treating persistent pain (also called myofascial pain) and muscle and joint dysfunction. It uses thin, stainless steel needles (without medication), which are inserted into the muscle. The needle structure itself induces the therapeutic effects, calming inflamed nerves and eliminating trigger points (muscles that aren’t working correctly due to the inflammation). Dry needling or intramuscular manual therapy is used with the goals of: 1) alleviating pain, 2) restoring motion and function, and 3) inducing a healing response in the tissue, speeding up the recovery process. 

Katelyn M. recounts how physical therapy at Great Basin Orthopaedics affected her chronic neck and shoulder pain. “After my first therapy session, I felt some relief. After six sessions, I was almost pain free. It was the best I’d felt in years. Dry needling is the only thing that has ever worked for me.”

  1. Meditation 

Mindfulness meditation has been shown in clinical trials to reduce chronic pain by 57 percent, and as much as 90 percent. How does it work? Mindfulness soothes the brain patterns underlying pain and, over time, can alter the structure of the brain itself, so patients no longer feel pain with the same intensity. Meditation involves focusing on the body and observing painful sensations as they arise and then letting them go, avoiding the mind’s primal reaction to analyze the pain that actually intensifies it. There are many apps that can help guide you in this practice. 

  1. Surgical Intervention 

    Sometimes pain can be alleviated through surgery. While surgery does come with risks, for some it can be life-changing. GBO’s  chronic pain treatment specialists offer a path back into a pain-free life. A trusted surgeon can evaluate your condition and determine if surgery is an appropriate option.

    Middle school teacher Carolyn H. shares, “I’ve been in pain for the last six years, but the last few months were unbearable. By the end of the day, the balls of my feet and arches hurt so badly I had to come home and just sit for the rest of the night.” GBO’s Dr. Richard Hayes performed surgery on both of her feet, one month apart. “After the surgery, some calluses I had just fell right off because my feet were in the proper shape. And my entire body feels better. I also no longer have lower back pain.” 

If you suffer from chronic pain, we encourage you to be proactive and consider all your options to manage it. The specialists at Great Basin Orthopaedics can help you manage your chronic pain, offering a range of treatment options, including physical therapy or surgery. Our surgeons always consider all options before recommending surgery, so rest assured you will have the knowledge you need to make an informed decision about your care. Take a proactive stance with your chronic pain management, and see a doctor right here in Reno. Call us at 775.786.1600 for a consultation.