How to Cope with Chronic Illness & Pain

Living with a chronic illness and pain can feel draining, isolating, and so much more. Learn how to positively cope here!

Coping with chronic illness can feel overwhelming if you try to go it on your own. Instead, finding strategies for living with chronic pain can help you feel supported. Dealing with chronic illness doesn’t have to be depressing or painful. 

Keep reading for the top 10 tips on how to deal with pain and chronic illness. 

Living With Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a serious issue affecting about 50% of the elderly population. In nursing homes, the number may be higher, hovering around 80%. While chronic pain may be common, suffering doesn’t have to become your new “normal.”

The following sections provide 10 top ideas for dealing with chronic pain and illness day-to-day. 

How to Deal with Chronic Illness

Dealing with chronic illness can feel draining if you don’t have the right support. Learning healthy ways to support yourself as well as building a good support system can carry you through times of both crisis and celebration. 

1. Successfully Manage Your Stress 

When living with chronic illness, support from family members can be crucial to helping you control your stress. Chronic conditions may cause life to be more complicated, but the following relaxation techniques can help you deal with the complexities: 

  • Grounding
  • Guided meditation 
  • Progressive muscle relaxation 

2. Manage Your Mental Health

In addition to finding methods that manage stress, dealing with depression and anxiety may help to relieve emotional or mental pain. Some medications can cause side effects for mood and cognitive function, so it can help to have a therapist or counselor on your health care team. Finding successful coping strategies can greatly improve quality of life. 

3. Focus On Functional Nutrition 

Functional nutrition describes a practice of nutrition that takes all aspects of a person’s health into account. Especially for geriatric health and chronic pain, functional practitioners may be able to provide insightful lifestyle and nutrition recommendations. This type of nutrition is individualized and suggests a therapy that can address both root causes and uncomfortable symptoms.  

Gut health, in particular, has been linked to chronic pain and inflammation. The microbiome (intestinal environment) is associated with certain aspects of the central nervous system. In other words, good gut health may help fortify you against chronic pain and help you manage your chronic illness

4. Search For A Support Group 

Chronic diseases and pain management are meant to be experienced alone. Joining an online or in-person support group can help introduce you to ways to live with a chronic illness that you may not have considered before. Plus, people who understand what you’re going through can help you navigate finding treatments and pain relief that works.

5. Simplify Your Routine

Coping with chronic illness typically involves an element of grief or loss for the life you used to have. However, simplifying your life and your daily routines can help you to prioritize what is important. From medications to mental health, implement practices that help you sustain healthy habits. 

How To Deal With Pain

Chronic illness doesn’t always come accompanied by pain, but often the two are linked. Here are some additional tips for dealing with the unpleasantness of chronic pain. 

6. Make Sure Your Medication Is Still Effective 

According to recent research, older adults seem more susceptible to developing chronic pain while the medications they use are potentially becoming less efficient at treating that pain. 

Beyond making sure your medication is well-suited for you, it’s important to follow dosing instructions. Taking medications at the correct time, dosage, and according to other instructions (i.e. with or without food) can all make a difference when it comes to maximizing the benefit of your medication. 

7. Participate In Intentional Exercise

Exercise may seem the furthest from your mind when you’re dealing with pain or illness. However, studies have shown that not only can exercise in older age be safe, it may even help relieve chronic pain in the long-term. Inactivity has been linked to loss of function, which can ultimately contribute to a cycle of pain 

Participating in a type of exercise that excites you can help with flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance. Talk to your doctor about what kind of exercise would be best for you, or ask them for a referral to a physical therapist. Household tasks, chair-based exercises, walking, swimming, and even low-impact activities can count as exercise. 

8. Try Temperature Therapy

In certain cases, hot or cold therapy can help ease the pain. Hot or cold compresses can be applied alternatively to help relieve aches and deliver relief. 

In general, cold compresses work to reduce inflammation in an affected area while heat stimulates circulation in an area of the body. Both are typically available in gels, sprays, pads, roll-on sticks, and more. However, a simple hot bath or shower may be able to help. 

9. Don’t Count Out Alternative Treatments

Just because it isn’t considered “mainstream” doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. While caution is advised with treatments that aren’t conventional, studies have shown that the following therapies can work for chronic pain in the elderly:

  • Acupuncture
  • Biofeedback
  • EFT tapping 
  • EMDR
  • Medical cannabis  
  • Meditation 
  • Spinal alignment (a form of chiropractic adjustment)

10. Find Effective Ways to Communicate

It can be difficult to communicate chronic pain to people who don’t experience it day-to-day. Using pain scales, either introduced through medical advice by a doctor or created by caregivers at home, may help to decrease confusion when it comes to communicating pain.  For example, you can rate your pain on a scale from 1-10 (with 1 being barely noticeable and 10 feeling unbearable). 

In Conclusion On Chronic Pain & Illness

Chronic illness and pain can creep into almost every aspect of life. Having a supportive team, including family members and medical professionals, can help you prioritize living in a healthy way. 

Plus, support groups can help you balance mental health, adhere to diet and medication as directed, and provide a network of care and answers when all else seems lost. 


Ali A, Arif AW, Bhan C, Kumar D, Malik MB, et al. Managing Chronic Pain in the Elderly: An Overview of the Recent Therapeutic Advancements. Cureus. 2018;10(9):e3293. 

Akaltun MS, Kocyigit BF. Assessment of the responsiveness of four scales in geriatric patients with chronic neck pain. Rheumatol Int. 2021;41(10):1825-1831. 

Aviram J, Pud D, Gershoni T, Schiff-Keren, Ogintz M, et al. Medical cannabis treatment for chronic pain: Outcomes and prediction of response. Eur J Pain. 2021;25(2):359-374. 

Exercising With Chronic Conditions. National Institute on Aging. Published April 2020.

Guo R, Chen LH, Xing C, Liu T. Pain regulation by gut microbiota: molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential. Br J Anaesth. 2019;123(5):637-654.

Management For Chronic Pain In Older Adults: Tips That Help. Elder Care Alliance. Published September 2021.
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