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How I Manage My Chronic Pain – With and Without Medication

Editor’s note: The following is based on an individual’s experience and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before going on or off medication.

I am one of millions of people who have chronic pain. My chronic pain is centralized in my lower back, but is oftentimes widespread. Occasionally, my body locks up and lifting something as light as my coffee mug takes extra effort. My doctor isn’t sure what is going on, other than what my test results show: a high anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) panel and some other high test results.

To figure out what is wrong with me, my doctor decided to try medication. They put me on an anti-malaria drug that also treats mild lupus and mild rheumatoid arthritis. It has helped a little to manage my widespread pain, but I have noticed that as the temperature drops my pain is making a comeback. When the pain is extreme, I can take a full day’s dose of ibuprofen and still feel pain.

I have had to learn how to manage my pain in ways other than taking prescribed and over-the-counter medications. Here are some things I do to manage my chronic pain:

I use an acupressure mat.

For my birthday my partner bought me an acupressure mat after a friend of mine recommended them for their chronic pain. It works wonders on my back and I sometimes fall asleep on it. I lay on it for 20 to 30 minutes each day and I can feel my body, which is usually tense, relaxing. It also comes with a matching pillow that works great for migraines, which I also struggle with.

I practice yoga.

Yoga is something I have had a hard time getting into, but I have found helps my lower back pain. My friend Taylor recommended Yoga With Adriene, a free series on YouTube. What got me hooked onto the idea of doing yoga – especially this yoga series – were my friend’s comments about it.

“She’s super validating for beginners and people who are out of practice,” Taylor said. Say no more.

I don’t practice yoga every day, but when the mood strikes and I have enough floor space to work with, it can be a lot of fun and relaxing.

I use pain creams and gels.

One thing I use almost daily, especially when I don’t want to take over-the-counter pain medication, is a pain cream. I have several pain creams that work well for my chronic pain. The one I use for my back is called ReliefAssist, which is a roll-on. I also use Biofreeze, which works most of the time. My favorite and hardest for me to acquire though, is Deep Blue Rub by doTERRA. It is therapeutic grade and has relaxing essential oils in it, which helps me sleep through the night without waking up due to pain.

I rest.

The most important thing that often gets overlooked in my opinion is rest. It’s important on days when your body isn’t at 100 percent to take extra care of yourself. Resting is important because if you overexert yourself, like I have been known to do, you are going to have a lot less fun.

I keep a pain journal.

This one is one of the more difficult tasks that I do. I am notoriously bad at keeping journals, but I write in my planner every day the pain level I have. I also keep a chart in my planner that shows different pain levels and descriptions of pain. I have been at a five lately, which based on the chart I use, means the pain is distracting. This is helpful for when I have doctor visits, so I can remember how I was feeling on a certain day and give more definitive answers on my pain and pain management.

These shouldn’t be substitutes for prescribed medication, but can help minimize overuse of over-the-counter pain medications. These techniques help me more than taking ibuprofen does and I don’t have to worry as much about negative side effects. Managing chronic pain will vary from person-to-person. What is important is if you have chronic pain or chronic illness, know you’re not alone.

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Thinkstock photo via Victor_Tongdee.