Dealing with Pain?

I have had chronic pain for over 20 years and am now to the point of daily excruciating pain that NEVER goes away. My pain meds dull it somewhat but it is NEVER gone.

In spite of that I refuse to give up although I have wanted to many times. How can we keep going despite daily pain? I honestly think I have read a million articles on pain, fibromyalgia, and anything else associated with it. Surely somewhere by now I have gained some wisdom to pass on.

Are you ready?  Here it is. Pain is different for each person. What I feel as pain may not affect you. My pain is different from yours. And there are NO treatments to completely stop pain. What you ask? Surely strong pain meds work. Well let me tell you from experience that they do and they don’t. What I mean is that they do help “lessen” the pain but I am NEVER free from pain. I have learned that it is not just a matter of taking a pill and having my pain go away. I have to WORK at lessening my pain.

I can honestly say I have tried it all. Everything I have read, seen or heard about to lessen pain (except acupuncture which I couldn’t afford) What works for me? I will tell you, but my point is that YOU have to find what works for you. That means trial and error. Lots and lots of trial and error.

OK!  What helps me? Warmth. I cannot tolerate cold of ANY kind. A slightly cool swimming pool will send me into agony. A sudden crisp breeze can make my pain soar. So one of the things I do is to stay warm. Sounds simple right? It is and yet it isn’t. It means remembering to always bring my sweater (even in summer) when I go anywhere in case I find it cool there. I have discovered that fibromyalgia affects the temperature regulation center of our brains.I could go into how I believe fibromyalgia is somehow brain related but I wont right now.  We are looking at how to feel better. Step one is to keep yourself at a comfortable body temperature.

Next I read about pacing. This honestly has been the hardest thing I have ever tried to do. I was a type A super driven person. I worked full time as a RN in the neonatal intensive care unit, ran a household, raised two boys, attended all their ball games, and was constantly on the go. So when I got sick pacing was unknown to me. I simply had one pace:fast. Having fibromyalgia slows us down. We may keep trying to push (like I have always done) and then end up crashing. This push-crash cycle is toxic. It is a lose-lose. I find the crashes are much harder to get up from that if I had paced myself and keep things stable. But doing that is VERY VERY hard. I wish I could simply tell you how. It is something you have to discover on your own. Only you know how much you can push without causing a crash. It is lots of trail and error. I can give you some advice though. MAKE YOURSELF REST. This is not easy for us type A’s. How can I possibly schedule in a rest period when I have so much to do? After pushing and crashing time after time you finally get to where you realize how much more time it takes to get up from a crash that it would have if you simply would have rested in the first place. After years of pain I can now tell when I must rest. My body gives me signals. I can feel the ache intensify. I get stressed. This is when I have to back off. Even if it is just for 10 minutes…I get away and MAKE MYSELF relax somehow. I often put on my headphones, listen to some soothing music, get comfortable and let my body unwind. It doesn’t have to be for long. I can feel my body start to become less tense, less tight, less stressed. Often my pain level will drop a bit.. .

Do I do this all the time like I should? No, I wish I could say I do. There are times when I simply can’t rest. But I have learned that I have to do my best at finding a way…anyway…to take a break to get my pain to stop climbing. Which leads me to give you a bit of wisdom. “It is harder to bring down your pain level from a flare than it is to make yourself rest”. Being a type A person meant that I did not WANT to rest. But I learned I HAVE to rest if I am going to be able to continue to function without causing a flare.

What about those days when you are in agony? I have them. OFTEN!  Unfortunately I am to the point where those type of days happen more now than days I am able to function. What helps? Again, you will have to find out for yourself. But I will share what helps for me and you can incorporate some if it into your own routine if you find it helps you too.

I am on a fentanyl patch and have been for about six years. Yes I know the dangers and I don’t take it lightly that it takes this amount of medication for me to have any kind of life. I didn’t start out this way. I worked for about ten years with fibromyalgia but have progressed to the point of disability and excusciating pain. I must tell you I have had a back surgery. Cervical neck fusion (C6-7) for a ruptured herniated disc. Many years ago I tried to bunk my sons bunk beds by myself. Never do that. I also have degenerative disc disease. Currently I have crushed nerves above my surgical site in my neck and four bulging discs. Three above my surgical site and one at my lower back. I have severe osteoarthritis which has caused my fingers and toes to be swollen at the joints. They are very stiff and paiful. I have fibromyalgia and describe this pain as a “generally severe ache all over”. So I wear the pain patch. In addition I have vicodin. This is for my break through pain which I reserve for my flares. DO they help my pain? Yes. DO they make me pain free? No. But I could have no quality of life and would be on the sofa in an agony of hell without these meds.

Ok I wake up in agony. I try to stretch a bit.I have found stretching (gently) helps keep me more mobile and will loosen up my tight muscles some which CAN cause a bit of pain relief. I head to a heat source as this helps comfort me and seems to help my pain a bit. If after those efforts I find I am still in agony I will take my vicodin. Then I use distraction to keep my mind off my pain as best as I can.

Somewhere I read to find things you enjoy and do them. That is part of it. Say it is cold and damp out (the worst ever combination for me) and my pain is soaring. I have taken my pain meds but they are only slightly helping. What do I do now? And how do I function without causing a “flare”?

Distraction is basically keeping your mind on something else which absorbs your mind and keeps it off how much you hurt. What distracts me enough to do this won’t work for you. You have to find something that you can become engrossed in. Something that takes your mind away from how crappy you feel. Yes you still hurt but you can focus on something else awhile. For me it is the game Hay Day. It is a farming type game. I have been playing it for many years now and it engrosses my mind. I have friends I can chat with, farm chores to do, and it helps keep me distracted enough that my body can relax some from the pain I feel. What I have learned NOT to do is to pin pain artciles on pinterest. I am a big pinterest addict and find that if I am pinning to my fibromyalgia board I end up hurting and much more aware of HOW MUCH I hurt.

There are many other ways to keep your life with chronic pain more bearable.I will write about those in the future. For now, find something that helps keep your mind off your pain. That does help some. Keep yourself at a comfortable temperature whatever that entails, and pace yourself. Once you’ve conquered these you will find yourself feeling that you are better able to deal with your pain.








Pain and Weather

The first day of fall happened this week. Here in Georgia it is so hot and humid that when you walk out the door it takes your breath away. I have always been a heat lover until this summer when for some reason I started getting nausea when I got hot. I have been somewhat of a hermit this summer because of that fact.

Weather related pain is a phenomenon that occurs when people feel pain correlating to the changes in barometric pressure and other weather phenomena. A study from Tufts University in 2007 found that every 10 degree drop in temperature corresponded with an incremental increase in arthritis pain. Low barometric pressure, low temperatures and precipitation can increase pain. Have you found this to be true for you? I sure have.

For several years now winter has been a major ordeal for me. The cold makes my pain so much worse. I get stiff and the cold seems to penetrate all the way to my bones.

As we say goodbye to summer and look ahead to autumn, here are some tips to help those who feel their chronic pain gets worse with colder weather.

If the cold makes your pain worse, try incorporating heat therapy into your daily routine. Heat therapy decreases stiffness and promotes healing through increased circulation. Try a hot pack, heating pad or over the counter heat wrap. My heated blanket and heating pad are my best friends in winter months.

Another option I incorporate is a warm bath before bed each night. If pain is high I will add some epsom salts which have magnesium, an ingredient that is supposed to help with pain.

Although it is tempting to to hibernate during cold weather, inactivity can increase some types of pain. Do your best to do some type of gentle exercise whether it is walking, stretching or something else you prefer. I know…it hurts to move. But believe me, it hurts more to NOT move. You don’t have to do much…just do something to increase your blood flow and prevent stiffness which can aggravate your pain.

Dress in layers, warm up your car, and keep your home heated to ease weather related pain. Try keeping painful joints warm with a neoprene sleeve or wrap. Warm beverages can keep your body warm so fill up a mug of hot chocolate or hot tea (watch the caffeine). Spicy foods raise the temperature making you feel warmer and also help alleviate pain.

Try supplemental vitamin D. A vitamin D deficiency makes pain worse. In winter it is difficult to have the natural vitamin D that bones and joints require in large amounts, The intake of the supplements and the vitamin rich foods will help lessen your pain.

I incorporate all of these suggestions as my normal winter strategies. Im looking forward to a beautiful fall and hope these tips help you as we deal with increased pain due to colder weather.