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To the Person Who Asked Me How I Cope With Chronic Pain

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Editor's Note

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional. Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication or pursuing alternative treatments.

After my article “18 Types of Pain I Experience With Fibromyalgia” was published, I was asked by one of The Mighty members: “How do you cope with the pain?” This is a very good question. I’m sure if anyone not used to living with chronic pain had to spend a few hours with the pain levels we deal with on a daily basis, they would ask the same question (and probably add a few expletives).

Firstly I have to say there are days when I don’t cope. There are days when the pain is all-consuming and it takes all my strength just to survive. There are days when I sob uncontrollably and beg for the pain to stop. Thankfully these days are less frequent now than when I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

I have lived with chronic pain for the majority of my adult life. Whether it’s back pain, migraines, IBS, ME/CFS or fibromyalgia, pain has been an unwelcome companion for years. I have found a few ways of coping with chronic pain and I wanted to share my experiences.

1. Pain Triggers

Firstly, it is important to establish what your pain “triggers” are. We all have “triggers” that can aggravate our symptoms. Some are universal, others are unique to us. By finding out what these are we can manage our pain more effectively and take back some control. It can take time to find out what your triggers are but it is worth the effort. By eliminating these triggers from your life, or avoiding them as much as possible, you can reduce the amount of pain you experience. My triggers are:

  • Stress
  • Sugary and fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate and gluten
  • Hormones
  • Tight clothing
  • Overexertion
  • Overstimulation e.g. loud noises
  • Changes in the weather
  • Lack of sleep

2. Reducing Your Pain

Next, you need to find ways to reduce your pain. There are many options available. Here are a few that I use:

Painkillers – Whether it’s prescription or over-the-counter medication, painkillers can help to ease your symptoms. Painkillers come in many forms – tablets, patches, injections and topical creams.

Muscle relaxants – I find muscle relaxants effective for my stiffness, back pain, muscle pain and muscle spasms. There are a few types available on prescription or over-the-counter but there are natural alternatives too. I personally take CBG regularly, which is a legal cannabis compound like CBD, but I also take diazepam occasionally.

Heat therapy – Applying heat to the affected area can help ease pain. I find this more effective for muscle and joint pain than nerve pain. I use a heated throw but a hot bath/shower would also help.

Cold therapy – I use ice packs to ease nerve pain and it definitely helps. Ice packs also help ease my migraines. Experiment to find out what works for you.

CBD oil – I find CBD oil great for my everyday pain and it helps to numb my pain when I have a fibromyalgia flare. CBD oil reduces my everyday pain to a much more manageable level – I really would be lost without it. I live in the UK where full spectrum cannabis oil is illegal, but if it was an option I would try it.

Hemp balm – I find this effective for localized pain, painful muscles and joints, and it also helps ease my headaches and migraines. Just apply directly onto the skin in the affected area. There are other topical creams and balms available but I have found hemp balm to be the most effective for my pain.

TENS machines – Again, this is good for localized pain. I have effectively used a TENS machine in the past to treat back pain. It’s not so helpful if you have pain in multiple locations.

Massage – Massage is something that can done at home or by a professional which can make a real impact. You can also buy massagers which allow you to treat the painful areas yourself. It’s especially effective for muscle pain and trigger points.

Magnesium – I use magnesium oil spray on my painful muscles but dissolving epsom salts into your bath is also very effective and you have the added therapeutic benefits of heat and water. Magnesium also comes in tablet form.

Water therapy – When we are immersed in water it takes the pressure off painful areas of a body. Water is also soothing against the skin. Even a soak in the bath can give relief from painful muscles.

Alternative therapies – Acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology and many other alternative therapies can also help ease pain. I have had acupuncture and reflexology treatments in the past and I have experienced noticeable relief with both.

Exercise – I am currently limited when it comes to my ability to exercise but even a few basic stretching exercises can help.

3. Coping With Pain

By reducing your pain levels and finding your triggers, you have already taken some positive steps to managing your pain. Unfortunately, even after this you will likely still experience some pain. Here are some tips for coping with pain.

Manage your stress – Emotional and physical pain are closely related, and persistent pain can lead to increased levels of stress. Learning how to deal with your stress in healthy ways can position you to cope more effectively with your chronic pain. Eating well, getting plenty of sleep and engaging in approved physical activity are all positive ways for you to handle your stress and pain.

Become active and engaged – Distracting yourself from your pain by engaging in activities you enjoy will help you highlight the positive aspects of your life.

Find support – Going through the daily struggle of your pain can be extremely trying, especially if you’re doing it alone. Reach out to other people who are in your same position and who can share and understand your highs and lows.

Talk to yourself constructively – Positive thinking is a powerful tool. By focusing on the improvements you are making (i.e. the pain is less today than yesterday or you feel better than you did a week ago) you can make a difference in your perceived comfort level.

Mindfulness meditation – I find mindfulness meditation an effective tool and a comfort. I have been pleasantly surprised with its effectiveness and it helps me cope with my daily pain and the anxiety that accompanies it.

I hope this has given you some useful tips for coping with chronic pain. Do you have chronic pain? What have you found that has helped you? Take care.

Photo by María Victoria Heredia Reyes on Unsplash

Originally published: May 1, 2018
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