I have many new readers (thank you!) following my blog wanting to know exactly how I am able to manage my pain instead of the pain managing me. I just wanted to write a small overview of my tools and tricks to manage my pain without medicine and more importantly without searching for a cure that may or may not exist. As I have written, I spent over a third of my thirty two years on this world looking for a cure and it was not until I stopped searching for that cure that I began to live.
My number one strategy of pain management comes from the slogan: “Fake it Till you Make it!” How cliché, most people may think but it works. I spent most of my life following my bike accident talking about the pain and all my time thinking about the pain. The more we focus on the pain, the greater our pain levels are. So, what do we do? Distractions, distractions, distractions. My family may sometimes now forget that I suffer from severe chronic pain because I do not talk about it. I may say: “I am having a difficult day.” But, people never hear me use the word pain. Not talking about the pain is a hell of a lot easier than not thinking about the pain and that is where distractions come in. We all have things we enjoy doing that distract us from the things in our life we do not want to think about. I will share with you my distractions, but again do what you love. My distractions are: music, reading, writing, playing with my daughter, cooking, organizing, dancing, going for walks, movies and yes reality television. When shows like The Biggest Loser or Real Housewives are on, I find myself in a happy place. I no longer call them guilty pleasures. They are just damn good distractions and hey if it keeps me from focusing on my pain, who the hell cares. Write down some of the things that you enjoy doing or watching and have that as a go to list when you find yourself focusing endlessly on the pain.
Exercise is huge in my chronic pain management program. I had to start so slow when it came to exercise. People who have only known me for a couple of years call me a “fitness nut.” If they had known me prior to managing pain naturally, they would know I was the girl in high school that made up every excuse possible not to have to walk that damn mile they used to force us to do. I must have had “mono” in high school twenty times. When I first started exercising I was scared. I was about twenty two and exercise was totally foreign to me. I actually started with Richard Simmons videos from the library. Gradually, I began walking on a treadmill and finally I got a gym membership and actually went. I had had multiple gym memberships in my life but this was the first one I actually used. I started going to classes like step, kickboxing, and dance and I was hooked. I never thought about my pain while I exercised. Not only that but after exercising, I felt amazing. My endorphins were high and I was using a body that following my bike accident had not been used in a healthy manner much. Now, at the age of thirty two I run, practice yoga, and no matter how I feel I make sure to exercise daily. It not only helps my pain but helps my anxiety and depression which is a huge bonus.
Mindfulness and meditation are the tools to my chronic pain management that took me the longest to actually enjoy. Most people with chronic pain also suffer from anxiety and I am definitely by far one of those people. It is so difficult for me to quiet my mind. I started very slow. I wrote on my daily calendar: meditation for five minutes with a box next to it. I would not go to sleep until that box was checked off. I use different meditation CD’s one can find online. They are quite cheap if you use Amazon. Now I love meditation. I make sure to do it every day for twenty minutes at a minimum. My favorite meditation is called yoga nidra. It is the meditative heart of yoga and it is amazing. Like most chronic pain sufferers, I have a very difficult time sleeping. Yoga nidra (once you practice it for awhile) literally puts you into a deep meditative trance. That may sound scary but it is awesome!! I did it today actually for forty minutes and felt like I had slept for three hours. Once I made the choice to manage my pain naturally, meditation was the last thing I truly attempted and accepted as part of my chronic pain program. I never believed I would actually enjoy it!
Nutrition is a big part of how I manage my pain. I was never a health freak until I made this switch in my life. My nutrition used to include pizza, hoagies, beer, and wine. I make a juice with my juicer each morning and my daughter and I love it. My favorite juice to make is: oranges, ginger, carrots, celery, spinach, and berries. Bonus, my daughter enjoys them as well. I try and not eat processed food but I am far from perfect. I rarely, if ever drink alcohol and quit smoking cigarettes once I became pregnant with my daughter. I do enjoy some chocolate and coffee!
Moderation is something that I as a person with chronic pain must practice as well. If I do too much, my body feels the pain either that day or the next. It is all about balance and listening to your body. I take breaks and I say no to events and parties that I know are not good for me. I still feel somewhat guilty when I am unable to attend certain functions but I would rather feel good and be happy. My family deserves that and so do I! I work hard to manage my pain. If I do not want to do something that will be too much for me then I am not going to do it and neither should you.
These are the big chronic pain tools I utilize in order to manage my pain naturally but there are others which I will write about. Rome was not built in a day my friends. “Don’t try to overhaul your life with chronic pain overnight. Instead, focus on making one small change at a time. Over time, those small changes will add up to a big transformation!”