When you have chronic pain it is likely you will be prescribed some sort of medication to manage your chronic pain. For the most part, the medication your doctor prescribes will be reliable and prevent any bad pain flares but it is not perfect and sometimes it fails you and you’re in excruciating pain for hours to weeks at a time. Just last week I had excruciating pain from migraines that disrupted my sleep schedule and on top of that, I stomach cramps from having difficulty going to the bathroom which is something that occasionally happens when you live with Spina Bifida. Luckily after having such a miserable week both of these problems resolved itself and everything it back to normal but during that miserable time, my sleep schedule was thrown off because I was always woken up by some sort of pain. This happens quite often when you live with chronic pain that chronic pain sufferers actually have a name for it and is what we like to call painsomnia. When you live with chronic the only thing you can do is hope that your medication works and if it doesn’t hope high pain doesn’t last too long because often times it can last for hours to weeks at a time. High pain for even an hour can drive anyone crazy and luckily I only had it for a week this time. That is not always the case and when it is not here is how I survive without taking any medication.
Find a distraction- For those of you who know me, it may have come to your attention that I listen to several hours of music a day and because I listen to so much I have Spotify Premium so I don’t have to listen to those commercials. I hate it when my music is interrupted but ten minutes of commercials! It may seem like I listen to so much music because I love music but the truth that is that not why I listen to so much but I use it as a pain management tool. Last week I had a lot of rough nights where I had some painsomnia and trouble falling asleep and although listening to music didn’t get rid of the pain it did help me relax and get my mind off of it so I could get even just an extra hour or two of sleep That doesn’t seem like it would be much but when you have several bad nights in a row it can make a huge difference and all you may need to function! Distraction won’t get rid of the pain but it can certainly help so don’t ever underestimate the power of distractions!
Take a hot shower– Hot water relaxes your joints and when you have achy muscles pretty much all of the time anything that relaxes them you will take. Coldwater for me tenses up my muscles and for that reason, I will never take a cold shower because that is the last thing I need. I don’t take steamy hot showers because of my sensitive skin and I don’t want to burn myself but something a little warm has been proven to help relax my muscles so I feel better. If a hot shower is not an option applying a heating pad or warm compress to your muscles might also be something you could try.
Low impact exercise- People are always suggesting that chronic pain sufferers workout to cure their pain and although this is great advice for pain management it is not the cure for chronic pain because if it was our doctors wouldn’t prescribe medication and would just tell us to hit the gym. Low impact exercise can help improve your endurance and strength so you will have more energy to get more stuff done but it is not the cure for chronic pain and some people avoid it because of the fear of having an attack but you really shouldn’t if you are able. I was that way with strength training until last week and starting falling a whole lot because I was so weak. Low impact exercises will not cure your pain but it can certainly help keep your strength up which is what you want if you struggle with keeping up with people because of your pain. Before chronic pain, I used to go hardcore with my workouts but I can’t do that anymore if I want to keep my pain control. Low impact exercises such as Pilates and Yoga have really helped improve my fitness and strength so I stay strong. One of the things I did learn from low impact exercises is that your workout doesn’t have to be super long or intense for it to be just as effective.
Take a rest day- If you are having a pain day that is kind of high but it isn’t unbearable and you can still function I might recommend exercise to prevent it from not getting to out of hand but if you can’t get out of bed because the pain is bad I would not recommend doing that because you could make it worse. Sometimes I have migraines that are so severe that I can barely and the only thing I am thinking about doing is binging my favorite Netflix shows. Getting out of bed is hard some days and forcing physical activities will not make it better on those days but may, in fact, make it worse and something that would have taken a day to recover might now take a week because you pushed your body too much. We all have days when pain is just too high to even move so unless you have to be somewhere don’t, binge Netflix and rest!
Talk to someone who gets it– Friends and family hate to see their loved ones in pain and will do anything to try and help them through the pain but they can only do so much. Friends and family can be a great support system and give some great advice but they also can give absolutely horrible advice with every good intention in mind. If you are disabled or have chronic pain there is a higher likelihood you have a higher likelihood of becoming depressed and the only way to beat that depression through difficult times is to have a conversation with someone who truly does get it. Friends and family can bring you comfort when you are struggling but not to the extent a disabled person can because they don’t have that condition and don’t truly understand what you are going through. They may want to but the reality of it is they don’t! If you have migraines join a support group in your community with other migraineurs that will better understand your pain. If that is not available in your community find an online support group that you can connect with. There is an online support group for pretty much any condition and if there isn’t create one because you are not alone and are probably not the only one that needs that support.
Try Essential Oils- Personally, I love essential oils and think it’s important to add them to your pain management plan because there are so many different types of oils with lots of health benefits. Some of my favorite essential oils that I like to use to control my pain are Lavender and Eucalyptus. When you diffuse lavender or apply a tiny bit to your pillow it can help you sleep and Eucalyptus will reduce pain and inflammation by adding a little extra cooling to your joints. Some people may have a reaction to some oils like lavender so if it’s your first time using essential oils dilute the oil first then apply it to your skin and pay close attention to any new rashes that weren’t there before.
When you have chronic pain you rely on your medication t do its job but sometimes it doesn’t and you are in excruciating pain for hours to weeks at a time and there is nothing you can do to make it stop! High pain levels can sometimes make chronic pain sufferers feel depressed or like a failure because they can’t do anything but you have to remember that you are not your pain and have no control over whether it’s high or low and we can only hope it’s going to be a good day. Taking precautions might help you have less high pain day but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will ner have them and you shouldn’t feel like you are letting people down or are a lesser human because of it. You are not! If you have chronic pain there could be some activities that you used to enjoy that now is not possible if you want bearable pain levels but it is possible to have an enjoyable fulfilling life with chronic pain. Life just may be different for you and modification might need to be met to keep pain levels tolerable which is there is nothing wrong with if that is what you need to do so you feel more comfortable. Chronic pain is frustrating and unpredictable for anyone and although you can’t get rid of the pain when it’s high what lifestyle decision you make matters and will play a huge role in how well you feel throughout the week. Take care of yourself! What do you do on high pain days? Is there anything you do to prevent them?