Today at Lifeline24, we have a very special guest blog from Liz, owner of Despite Pain Blog. Liz lives with several medical conditions that leave her with debilitating pain, which you can find out more about here. Despite the pain, Liz attempts to find ways to cope with it, including blogging which she has done since 2010. Today, Liz will be sharing with us her top 4 tips for coping with chronic pain. Let us pass you over to Liz's expert hands.
4 Important Tips For Coping With Chronic Pain
Chronic pain - it's overwhelming. It can be there every minute of every day. Medication often comes at a price with nasty side effects. And besides that, it often isn't adequate. It might dull the pain a bit but it never seems to remove the pain completely. So, as well as taking their meds every day, most people with chronic pain have to develop coping techniques.
I try to live the best life I can despite living with constant pain. That doesn't mean that I'm out painting the town red every weekend or off on adventure holidays. It means that I accept my life has to revolve around my pain and I try to do what's best for me. I've spent many years learning pain management techniques to make it easier to cope.
The following four coping techniques help me to get through my life despite my chronic pain. Hopefully, something here might also help you.
Tip Number 1 - Listen to Your Pain
I have lived with chronic pain for long enough to know that fighting against it won’t work. I've tried that and lost many battles. Instead, I listen to my pain very carefully so that I can make decisions to hopefully make my life easier.
My pain might be telling me to lie in bed most of the day. I hate having to do that, but sometimes, there is no alternative. It might simply be telling me to stop what I am doing and rest. Or it might be reminding me to take regular breaks or to say no to something I'd really like to do. Or it might just be giving me a reminder that it's there so that I don't push my limits.
My pain has a loud voice. It shouts at me. Actually, sometimes it screams. And when it screams, it’s the only thing I can hear so it’s easy to listen. But on the better days when my pain might not be quite so bad, it's tempting to ignore that voice. But ignoring it for too long is a surefire way for a better day to turn into a really bad day. If I push my limits, I will regret it. I’ve been there and done that and I have several well-worn t-shirts.
Ultimately, my goal is to listen to my pain and do what it needs me to do so that it doesn't feel the need to raise its voice quite so loudly.
Tip Number 2 - Breathe
Everyone breathes. But there are breathing techniques that can help people to cope with pain. Belly breathing, for example, is a fantastic technique that I practice every day. It can help me get through my everyday pain or those terrible moments when pain levels are high. It relaxes me and can help me to fall asleep. I explain how to breathe through your belly in this post on my blog.
There is science behind belly breathing. The Harvard Medical School explains that breathing this way stimulates the vagus nerve. This activates a relaxation response, reduces the heart rate and blood pressure, and lowers stress levels. It can also reduce tension in the muscles which could potentially lessen pain levels.
Tip Number 3 - Distractions
Pain can become so dominant that it’s difficult to think about anything else. It’s mind-numbing and pain medication can be even more mind-numbing. Therefore, it’s important to find distractions to keep our brains active and have other things to focus on besides the pain. I'm not suggesting that a distraction is a magic wand. It's not. But it can help to take your mind off the pain, even if just for a few minutes at a time. And when you live with constant pain, a few minutes of respite is good.
It’s also important to have a wide range of distractions with different levels of activity to suit different levels of pain.
I have a lot of interests to keep my mind occupied. I enjoy watching television, reading, writing, doing puzzles, playing games, painting and crafting. On really bad days, I might be fit to do no more than watch some episodes of old sitcoms. But on better days, I might be able to spend a short amount of time on a favourite hobby. As well as keeping my brain active and helping me to take my mind off my pain, a hobby can also give me a sense of achievement which is a great morale booster.
Tip Number 4 - Sleep
Sleep and pain don’t tend to go well together, do they? How can anyone get good quality sleep when pain is screaming at them in the middle of the night? Then, if they become sleep-deprived, the pain screams even louder. It's a vicious circle.
So what can you do?
Try to get into a good sleep routine. Nap during the day if you need to, but try not to nap for too long. Try not to eat or drink too late in the evening. Relax before bedtime and make sure you are as comfortable as possible. Is your mattress good? Are your pillows comfortable? Would you sleep better if you were in a recliner chair? Is your bedroom warm or cool enough for you?
Pain or sleep medication can often leave people with a drugged feeling the following day. And some pain medication actually causes insomnia. So if your pain isn’t controlled well enough through the night or if your medication is affecting your sleep, speak to your doctor. Hopefully, they can make some adjustments to your medication so that you can sleep better and still function the following day.
Never be afraid to talk to your doctor and ask for their help if you are struggling to sleep. Being sleep-deprived can render anyone unable to cope. But when you’re sleep-deprived and in pain, it can become a nightmare.
Unfortunately, there is no simple solution for chronic pain but I hope that some of these tips help you. You can find more detail on these and other tips on my blog, Despite Pain.
How Lifeline24 Can Help
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