If you’ve found my post then chances are, you or someone you know is living with chronic pain (sending a virtual hug your way). Living with chronic pain can be a nightmare. In fact, there will probably be days when you feel like you can’t go on. But you must. You absolutely must. I’ve been living with chronic pain for many years now (well over 10) and although my pain level remains at an unbelievably high number, I’ve found ways to cope with it and to get some relief even if it’s short-lived. Because let’s get real here, pain medicine for chronic pain only helps relieve a small amount of pain and it only works for short periods of time. Sometimes it might feel like it’s a hopeless situation but you can do this. Keep reading to see what helps me get from seconds to minutes to hours to days.
Have a pain buddy. Talking about your pain with someone else who knows what you’re going through can help you vent your frustrations and they might be able to offer you suggestions on how to get through your worst episodes. Living from one hour to the next is really hard to do when it feels like there’s no relief in sight but it can be done. If you don’t have someone you can talk to, journaling/blogging is a good way to get your frustrations, thoughts, emotions, and feelings, out in the open. My first blog was started for that reason. My posts were private but it helped me to vent, cry type. I said and invented a lot of ugly words during that time.
On the flip side of having a pain buddy, have several friends who aren’t, and make a pact to yourself to never talk about your pain with them. If they ask, change the subject. Talk about anything and everything, except pain. Pain will consume you if you don’t break free from letting it be the controller of your life. Learn to control how much you’re going to let it control you. This is so much harder than it sounds and trusts me, you’re going to want to curse me for suggesting it, but you can do it. I believe in you. You deserve to have the best quality of life that is possible. I want that for you.
Funny friends are good medicine. Learn to laugh again. It took me 4 years after my failed back surgery to be able to turn on the TV. I didn’t want to see people smiling and having a good time because clearly I wasn’t and my pain was sucking the life out of me. I didn’t want to be around anyone for that same reason. It wasn’t until a friend made me laugh that I realized laughing has a sort of healing power. Everyone should have someone in their life who amuses them. Comedians are great to watch as well.
You need a hobby. Not just any hobby either. Your hobby needs to be something that makes you think. When you’re concentrating on something intensely like cross-stitching, crocheting, knitting, or even paint by number crafts, it’s displacing your mind away from the pain. If you like taking photos, that’s a great hobby to get you outdoors and fresh air is wonderful for people with pain. Taking nature photos will help you to become more active which will release endorphins that are a natural pain remedy. “Endorphins are the body’s natural pain relief system.” Plus the more active you are, the better you will sleep. Word-Finds help me when it’s impossible for me to get outdoors.
Use heat patches. One heat patch that I’ve recently started using, is one I purchased at CVS and it’s a wrap that is included in the package. There’s no icky cold gel nor adhesive to deal with. Not all patches have helped but so far this seems to be helping for now. You can add a heat pack in each of the two wrap pockets but I only use one because it completely covers my worst area of pain. The wraps come in different sizes and are sold online right now for 30% off. Not sure how long the sale will last. The first time I used one, I didn’t think it was working because I couldn’t feel any heat. But after a few minutes, it started getting hot. There are 4 in a pack.
Scent therapy works well for me. There is something calming about the smell of cinnamon. I buy cinnamon oil and put it in my potpourri crocks. I use 1/2 teaspoon and fill it up with water. I’ve only been able to find it at pharmacies until recently when I discovered I can buy it on Amazon. Each new 1/2 teaspoon lasts several days because I continue to add water as needed. A bottle lasts forever. Be very careful with the oil though, it’s really strong. Just a heads up, my daughter got some on her skin and had an immediate allergic reaction. She then put her hand in her mouth and we ended up spending the night in the hospital. Wear gloves while handling it. Citrus scents and vanilla are great as well. Candles, essential oils, and wax tarts are all great for scent therapy.
Work on taking a bath three times a day; morning, noon, and night. I try to get my water as hot as I can without burning my skin. I do this by getting in my tub as soon as I start the water so my skin adapts to the heat. I’m then able to turn it on a little hotter as the tub is filling up. I know that getting undressed and climbing in and then out of a tub can feel like torture to someone with chronic pain. Those who don’t have pain can’t understand that, but I do. I understand everything you are going through. That’s why I suggest working up to 3 baths a day. Each bath helps me feel a little more relaxed so that I can make it from one to the next. There’s something calming about a hot bath especially when using deliciously scented bath products.
Motrin/Ibuprofen is your best friend IF your doctor approves of its use and is willing to write you a prescription for 800 mg. You don’t need more than that because your body won’t absorb it. The key to it working is making sure you don’t miss a dose, even if that means you have to set an alarm or buy a smart pill dispenser. I keep mine by my bed with some crackers and water so I can take it when I wake up. I just about can’t even roll over until I’ve taken my first dose and given it time to work. Your doctor will be able to tell if Motrin is okay to prescribe with your other medicines. I do not recommend taking or discontinuing any medication without your doctor’s approval.
Watching TV in itself probably isn’t going to be enough to help distract you from the pain. Watch exciting series that give you something to look forward to. Binge watch them (watch each one right after the other) and before you know it, you’ve passed some time away without your pain constantly on your mind. Doesn’t that feel great? Some of my favorite series are Downton Abbey, Cedar Cove, Making a Murderer, Orange is the New Black, Stranger Things, When Calls the Heart, The Tudors, and there are so many others that you can get lost in.
A tens unit can help some people with pain, depending on where your pain is. There are considerably more choices of these machines now than there were in the beginning. They’re also more affordable now too. The patches on my first unit were so ridiculously high that I quit using it. A tens unit works by using low voltage electric currents to relieve pain. I’m not certain but you might be able to get your insurance to pay for one if you get a prescription for one (MRS Homecare?). If not, you can find them for around $25 on Amazon.
My tips aren’t meant to cure you of your pain, they’re only meant to help you live with your pain or help to reduce it momentarily by trying methods that have helped me. I’ve lived with chronic pain long enough to have tried just about any and everything including Indian herbs (the last one I tried wasn’t really helping so I’m still searching). As I find things that work, I will add them to this post or add a new one so be sure to bookmark my post and my site. You can also sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss a post (sidebar).
Memorize this number. It’s very important for chronic pain individuals.
American Chronic Pain Association 1-916-632-0922
“The mission of ACPA is to facilitate peer support and education for individuals with chronic pain and their families so that these individuals may live more fully in spite of their pain.”
If you suffer from chronic pain and want to know about anything I might have tried that you are thinking about trying or if you have a question, please ask. I’m happy to share my experience with you and I’d love it if you’d share yours with me.