If you have heart disease, you likely keep a painkiller such as aspirin at the ready. It can be an effective and safe way to help control your pain. But there are several non-drug techniques that can help provide further relief. Even if they don’t completely take away the pain, they may help you stick with a lower dose of painkiller, which is always the best course of action. Try a few, or all, of the following techniques to help ease your pain. Ease into exercise. The thought of exercising when you’re in pain seems, well, painful. Won’t it hurt more? But gentle activities, such as walking, swimming, gardening and dancing, can actually help ease the pain by blocking pain signals to the brain. They can also help ease tension by stretching stiff muscles and joints. Start out slowly, and be patient. You may not see a difference right away, but relief will come as you become more fit. If you have heart disease, be sure to clear any new exercise regimen with your doctor first. Get good sleep. For many people, pain is at its worst at bedtime, so they put it off for as long as possible. But sleep deprivation can actually make pain worse, so it’s important to work on good sleep habits. Go to bed at the same time every night, get up at the same time each morning, and try to avoid long naps during the day. Talk to your doctor if sleep becomes a problem for you. Talk it out. Let’s face it, pain can leave you feeling stressed, depressed and generally grumpy. Often we need to deal with the emotional aspect of our pain to help ease the physical pain itself. Some people turn to a psychologist to help them cope with the thoughts and feelings that often go along with pain. A psychologist can design a treatment plan that includes relaxation techniques, changing old beliefs about pain, and building new coping skills. Share your story. Sometimes it takes someone in the same boat to help us push past our pain. They may have tips to share or can just lend an understanding ear. There are many help lines and local patient support groups available, such as Pain Concern and Action on Pain, that provide resources and support. Keep in touch. Chronic pain can be isolating, but keeping in touch with loved ones is an important and effective way to cope. Try to make an effort to get together with friends and family. Keep these visits as short and stress-free as possible, with the goal of taking a break to talk, and think, about anything other than your pain. Relax. Pain increases muscle tension, which in turn, creates more pain. Relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and massage therapy, are great methods for breaking the pain-tension cycle and easing persistent pain. Not all yoga and meditation programs are the same, so find a class in your area (try a local hospital or pain clinic) that focuses on relaxation, or ask your doctor for good resources to get started. Follow your prescription. If medications are part of your treatment plan, be sure to use them as prescribed by your doctor. This will help you avoid dangerous side effects and, along with your non-drug treatments, help provide the greatest—and fastest—reprieve from your pain. Breathe a sigh of relief. The next time you are in pain, and start to hold your breath, do something completely counterintuitive—muster up a big, soothing sigh of relief and see what happens. We typically tend to hold our breath when in a state of pain or fear, but a conscious sigh of relief can bring about a sense of calm and peace. So consciously and deliberately sigh every chance you get. Pain control takes trial and error, and what may help one may not work for another. Your needs may change over time, and you might need to add or alter therapies to find relief. Talk to your doctor about other ways you can get a respite from your pain if your go-tos are no longer working for you. Don’t lose hope. With the right treatment, many people learn to manage their pain and live a comfortable life.