I have put this list together from studying the literature we were given at a pain management workshop that I attended last year and from the advice I have received over the years from Physio’s, Chiropractors etc. Certainly these are not going to suit everyone and are not a substitute for pain medication, and although not ‘ground-breaking’ I hope that they will be of use to you in dealing with your pain and everything that comes with it.
- Number One
Try To Accept Your Pain – yeah, I know, I thought you had to be super-human to do this when I first heard of it too!
What I have learnt, particularly in recent visits to a Psychologist is that accepting your pain is all about coming to terms with the changes in your life that have come about from suffering pain. As much as these changes might have put you in a situation that you don’t necessarily want to be in, you can find positives in each and every situation if you try.
Also it is about doing what you can to design your lifestyle to suit your condition, not banging your head against a wall trying to do things that you were able to before the onset of the pain. I personally had a lot of trouble coming to terms with my ‘new’ lifestyle but once I focused on the positives and started to look forward instead of backwards it did become easier.
- Number Two
Exercise – this one I put off for as long as I possibly could. Why would I want to intentionally put myself through pain for no ‘apparent’ result?
You’ve probably heard it a million times but inactivity leads to muscle weakness which further adds to our pain. Naturally you must see your doctor before starting any sort of exercise or potentially strenuous activity but if you look around there are a number of exercise programs that are well suited to people suffering from back pain and they are usually nothing more than a series of stretches that you do daily or every second day until you can handle something a bit more ‘physical’.
I feel stronger in my core muscles from doing my exercises which as you can imagine must take some of the strain from my spine. There is a good book which explains the in’s and out’s of exercising with back pain, it is entitled The Bad Back Book and is available as a free download from HERE.
- Number Three
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help – Help in any form can be a godsend when you are suffering in pain and you should not be afraid to ask for it.
Although we may feel like we have a handle on the situation we may in fact be struggling more than we like to admit. In this PREVIOUS POST I spoke about my almost dislike for going to see a Psychologist because, as far as I was concerned I was doing pretty good considering the situation I was in. After biting the bullet, and plenty of nagging from my wife, I went along and honestly it was the best thing I have done in a long time.
Not only did I realise that I was setting myself up for failure with the expectations I had for my immediate future, I was also not handling the emotional side of things very well at all. I really had things screwed up and after just three visits I am back on track and feeling so much better for it. Your Doctor or Public Health Centre should be able to organise any help you may need and believe me the right kind of help can make a world of difference.
- Number Four
Relaxation – my favourite past-time! Seriously though if you can manage some time out to sit and relax you have a better chance of getting through the day without a major pain flare-up.
When I did the pain management course last year the first and last thing we did every session was have a five minute relaxation session and I have to say it does put you in a better frame of mind and relieving the tension in your muscles can also lessen your pain. I had a lot of trouble achieving a relaxed state with everything that was going on in my head but after practising for a while I found it quite easy to get into a completely relaxed state.
Running a warm bath (and locking the door!) or sitting alone once everyone else has gone to bed are good times to practice your relaxation techniques. There are many CD’s and Audio tapes available for a good price on the net and I suggest you try one to achieve the ‘ultimate relaxation’. Something the pain management course instructor preached religiously was not to give up, it may take many sessions until you can truly relax but it is sure worth it.
- Number Five.
Set Realistic Goals – I could write about this subject all night, it is such an important part of keeping your head together (figuratively speaking!) when in pain.
Recently I had a huge ‘a-ha’ moment in which I finally realized why I have been feeling like I am constantly banging my head against a wall and not getting anywhere with both my back pain and my life in general. I was waiting for the day that the ‘magic button’ came along because that is what I need to achieve my goal of getting my life back to what it was before the back injury. WRONG!
There is a good chance that I won’t be able to live the life I did before so instead of sitting around waiting for the ‘magic button’ to arrive I have been taught to live day to day, setting small, achievable goals every day. Being up to help Belinda with the kids of a morning, mowing one half of the yard one day and doing the rest the next day, even getting the rubbish to the bins has been one of my goals recently!
By completely changing my focus to smaller day to day type goals I am at last feeling a sense of achievement every single day, rather than being depressed about being no closer to that big and probably unachievable goal that I had before because the ‘magic button’ failed to arrive yet again!
This is not to say that you forget about your ‘life’ goals or the ‘big things’ that are important to you, they will come in time once we conquer the obstacles that are in front of us at the moment. I guess it is more of a case of shifting your focus to things that give you a sense of achievement or enjoyment every day rather than looking at the big picture as it is at the moment. Try it, I’m sure you will be a happier person for it!
- Number Six
Recognize Your Emotions – How we feel emotionally can greatly influence how we feel physically.
This one is a bit of a no-brainer but have you ever noticed your pain level increase when you are feeling stressed out or sad? And what about your pain level when you are doing something you really enjoy and are feeling happy and content?
I can remember our pain class instructor talking about trying to recognize the onset of the emotions that cause us pain and doing what we can to stop them affecting our physical well being. Of course human emotions are very powerful and a lot of the time there is little that we can actually do to avoid feeling a certain way, but just being aware that it is the stress or whatever we are feeling at the time that is causing the increase in pain can help us deal with it the best way we know how.
As far as I am aware there is no ‘hard and fast’ way of dealing with emotion-based pain and I’m sure everyone deals with it in their own way but I’m sure if we can recognize these emotions we will be better equipped to deal with them.
- Number Seven
Understand Your Pain – On the notes that I have here it says, “Learn all you can about your particular condition”. Now I might be alone here, but I don’t think I am, I don’t know exactly what I am dealing with because nobody can tell me!!
I can understand how knowing all you can about what is going on with your body would at least help in understanding why you feel pain and what it is that you need to do or should be doing to improve the situation but I can’t even get a straight answer on mine.
When I initially had the trouble we went to a Spinal Specialist that gave me a series of epidurals with Cortisone and a local anesthetic which were aimed at treating a bulging disc and at the time I had several fractured vertebrae. The treatment worked quite well initially and I thought I was home and hosed. Twelve months into this nightmare we go and see a Orthopedic surgeon, he takes one look at the MRI films, both current and from twelve months ago and says ” that small bulge is not the cause of your pain!”.
So we quiz him on what could possibly be wrong and he says he doesn’t know and suggests I go along to another Pain Management Class! I believe that a lot of my problems are muscle related but I still find such a difference of opinion between two professionals in closely related fields to be very confusing.
To sum up, I think Number Seven is lost on me, but if you do have a clear diagnosis of the cause of your pain it may well pay to educate yourself as much as possible about it so that you can better deal with it, or at the least have an idea of what is likely to help and what isn’t as far as treatments go.
- Number Eight
Make Sure You Get Enough Sleep – Once again a bit of a no-brainer but certainly a big issue for chronic pain sufferers. Although often hard to achieve when you are in pain, a good amount of sleep allows your body to carry out the natural healing process as much as possible and obviously when we feel rested and not tired we are better prepared to deal with our pain. Here is a list of things that help promote good sleeping habits;
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to get your body clock in a natural rythme.
- Regular exercise can also help with sleep.
- Try to spend some time outside in the sun everyday. Sunlight produces Melatonin which is a natural chemical in your body that promotes sleep.
- Take any medicines as directed.
- Try to keep your bedroom as dark and as quiet as possible.
- Make sure you are as comfortable as possible and have a good pillow and mattress.
- Warm hands and feet are important for getting off to sleep.
- Don’t have a caffeine fix before bed and avoid using alcohol to get to sleep.
- Avoid exercise just before bed.
- Avoid relying on sleeping tablets to get to sleep.
So there you have it, the most talked about 8 ways to help control chronic pain according to me! I hope that you have found at least some of the ideas useful and if you have any suggestions of your own feel free to leave a comment and share them with us.