“Hope does not lie in a way out, but a way through.” Robert Frost
I have been receiving many questions regarding how I have learned to manage my chronic pain without medication or searching for a cure. I owe so much to the Mayo Clinic for what I have learned and been able to practice throughout the years. Here is a short summary of some of the lessons I have learned that get me through this mess of chronic pain happily.
1. Exercise/Activity: Stretching each morning (each part of my body even the parts not associated with my chronic pain areas. Each part of our body is connected)
Strengthening: We need to strengthen our muscles slowly in order to help different parts of our body. For instance, I try to strengthen my core muscles as this will aid in back problems. I practice yoga as much as I can and it makes such a difference in both stretching my muscles and strengthening them.
Most importantly (for me) is aerobic activity. I wish my body was able to run Forrest Gump style every day as it helps my anxiety, releases endorphins, and just makes me feel incredible. Even if you can just walk, ride a bike, anything we have to keep our bodies moving in order to keep them working. It helps! Trust me!
Distractions: Brain imaging has actually shown through MRI’s that distractions help dampen signals in our brains pain areas. Truth! Even if it is just watching a silly reality show on television or Ellen (she always distracts me) if it gets your brain away from your pain watch it. Humor (another reason I love Ellen) is a great distraction. You know what you like to do. Anything: reading, walking, playing a game, some kind of socialization, playing with your children. Anything you enjoy doing that will distract you. And no, going out clubbing is not the kind of distraction I am talking about haha.
Relaxation and Relaxed Diaphragmatic Breathing: AKA…meditation/ relaxed guided imaging/ deep belly breathing. We do not realize how much tension we hold in our bodies until we actually start relaxing each part of our bodies from head to toe. I will be honest I have been slacking on my meditations. I never thought I would be able to sit still for twenty minutes listening to a meditation cd. This is the most difficult thing for me to do. Once I began doing it two times a day (pre motherhood ha ha) I became addicted! Practice makes permanence. No such thing as perfect…..I promise.
Babies breathe with their bellies and in doing so get almost 80 percent more oxygen into their lungs then most adults who breathe with their chests. As we become older and stress hits us, and we are faced with the “real world” we slowly begin to breathe with our chests. Check in with yourself once in a while see where you are breathing…..with your belly or your chest. Take a few minutes during your day and check in with your breath. Whether you are at work, watching television at night, or anything non-aerobic. If I was a guessing girl I would say you will find you are breathing with your chest. Stop for ten breaths and use your belly. Slowly breathe five seconds in pushing your belly out then five seconds in. Yes, you will look like you have a Buddha belly (its ok.) I know this sounds silly but unfortunately we need to relearn how to breathe (me included!) We really don’t have an excuse, we are breathing anyways right?!
Positive Self Talk: Research strongly supports that catastrophizing is linked to greater pain intensity. This is something I have to work very hard on as you have read in previous posts. The power of repeated messages such as : “I can’t do this!” “I will have pain forever.” is so self destructive. Try and change what you are telling yourself. I know how hard this is, I truly do. We have to stay positive. We also have to surround ourselves with people who are positive. We need people to bring us up, not down.
Ok this one may lose me some followers haha but I’m just telling you what worked for me.
Reducing utilization of medical care resources for the purpose of pain relief.
STOP doctor shopping: this part I have failed at a few times but never again.
STOP never ending search for the cure.
This does not apply to everyone obviously. I had to do this because after using a decade plus of my life searching for the cure (never found it) and seeing every specialist possible which left me in more pain, more depressed, and more lost than I have ever been. Again, I am writing what works for me, not everyone will agree with me and I totally understand that. I have to be honest though.
Believe in yourself. I am someone who had brain surgery, came close to death and was left with chronic pain. I spent over ten years so unhappy and hopeless. I am living proof that one can have chronic pain and live a happy, successful life. I have so much more to share with anyone who is willing to listen. Do not lose hope! I’m here and I get it!