Pain Management Blog
I’m a business coach but I have a chronic pain condition, these are the tips I have learnt over the years to help manage my pain and try and continue as much as possible.
Who wants to live a life that is only half who they are?
When you have a pain condition, it changes you and so often you feel like you are no longer the person you once was. You AREN’T but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a person you want to be.
I’ve been coaching since 2004 and was diagnosed with a pain condition in 2012
Who is this blog for
This blog is for people who suffer with pain conditions and want some help to mange their lives differently. Loved ones who want to help or support those they love. Managers and employers of people who suffer with pain conditions and friends who want to help
What is Pain
Pain is generalised as something you feel when you are hurt or injured. The word pain comes from the latin word ‘Punishment’. There are 2 types of pain Acute and Chronic
When the pain will go away, it’s temporary, it may last for a few weeks or months but will go away like a toothache or broken bone.
When the pain doesn’t go away, it might reduce or flare up but it’s always there, this can be conditions like Fibromyalgia, ME, MS, CFS, Cluster Headaches
When asked to register your pain levels you are often asked to refer to it on a scale of 1-10, In my opinion this is useless, everyones pain levels and receptors are so different, your 10 and my 10 could be so far apart from each other, how can it be used as a realistic guide to show pain levels.
We also have Real Pain and Invisible pain but we cover that in a moment.
How does the brain determine pain
The brain has to use real life experiences to determine your individual pain ‘levels’, your 1-10 scale.
When you’re born your first view of life, that bright light, hunger will be your brains first experience of pain, so this will be your 10, As you progress, in life other things happen that become your 10 like falling over and bumping into things.
Your brain reshuffles the pain experiences, so hunger is now a 3, bumping into something is a 5 and falling over is now a 10. Every bump, scrape, break, will help the brain to place pain into a 1-10 scale. So if you have never broken anything your pain levels will sit differently to someone who has had operations and several breaks.
So you don’t have a HIGH or LOW pain threshold, it’s just about the experiences you’ve had (or not had) that determines the pain scale you can relate it too.
Ok,, so causes are a grey area and also a abyss of possibilities but to give some guidance here some obvious examples you can relate to
REAL PAIN – Injury – Acute – the obvious one, this is pain that can be proven, a broken bone can be seen on X-ray, burns can be seen visually, wounds can be seen and things like tendon damage can be traced using ultrasound or MRI equipment, we refer to Real Pain as pain the can seen or shown to others.
INVISIBLE PAIN – Illness – Chronic – it’s what it says, pain only YOU know is there. Pain that can’t be seen or proven, no less painful and no less restricting on your life but this is pain that is so much harder to cope with because you don’t look ill. This is pain you get from periods, cluster headaches & migraines. Conditions like Fibromyalgia, ME, Lupus and so many others. Pain that often makes the sufferer feel very alone and often looked at as a fraud. (Wrongly)
There is support available however unfortunately, it is Trust dependant so depending on where you are in the world will depend on what level of support you have access to. However for anyone who has no idea where to start here are some places you can go to ask what is available to you.
- Pain Clinics
- Massage, Reflexologists & Holistic Therapies
- Osteopaths & Chiropractors
- X-Rays, Ultrasounds, MRI’s
- Social Media support groups
- Local run Support Groups
I’m not giving medical advice on prescription or non persription meds as everyone reacts different and all conditions affect people differently, on this basis I would also suggest you not take advice from the woman next door or the man at the newsagent as they also don’t know your history and what is good for them and their neighbours, best friends, dogs, owners, groomer, may not be what is best for you and when it comes to pills and medicines the end results can be huge, if you get it wrong.
Go and see your GP or Consultant, Speak to a Pharmacists, Make sure you take the dosage you are advised no more and be aware of your body reacting to anything new,
Remember pills can be addictive
How to talk to friends and family
When you suffer with pain long term either acute or chronic it can be hard to explain to those around you how you feel, people forget you’re unwell, it’s no longer new news and they do forget to check in on you. It’s not being uncaring but they have lives and things move forward. Whilst you are living with this and remember every second of every day, they don’t. So there must be some give and take.
You do have to be aware that you are not everyones first thought and although that may be harsh, it’s true. You need to make sure you’re heard by being honest. Now by this I don’t mean calling every 5 minuets to tell them every little detail and (although this will sound hard) don’t be an attention seeker. If you need something, ask for it, if you want to be included, ask to go. Don’t sit there waiting to be asked or included and then get the hump when you’re not, sometimes people are frightened to ask in case they are putting you in an awkward position. Ok and sometimes people are just arses, but usually it’s unintentional.
Yes, it is awful and yes life does feel pretty shit and yes you are in a lot of pain but although people want to help and be there for you it is not a good idea to be sharing every ache and pain and doctors appointment with every human soul you pass.
I say this with love, but if you always post on FB or every time you bump into someone you are moaning and whining, people will stop asking and they will cross the street when they see you coming, no one wants to be dragged down and also other people have their own shit to carry too. I know you feel crap but you have no idea what someone else is dealing with, it might not be as bad as you and it might not seem a big deal to you but to them it is and everyones problems are relevant and deserve the time and space to be aired and supported. They’re allowed a headache, it doesn’t have to be as bad as yours.
Don’t be the ‘I’ve got that and mines worse’ person, or the ‘it’s all about me’ person and where possible remember to say, ‘How are you by the way’ because no matter how shit you feel, its always nice to ask after someone else, who knows they might be able to cheer you up a little.
Be your own champion
It’s very easy to feel lonely and low when you suffer pain and because you’re fighting so much and usually medicated it can become easy to rely on others to be your champion. You rely on friends to cheer you up or family to ‘be there’
You need to have your own back, be the person who makes you feel good. Not only because the less you rely on other people to keep your mood ‘good’ the less you will feel let down if they are not about but mainly because mindset has a huge part to play in coping.
If you feel sad and unhappy it is going to feel so much more worse and everything feels so much harder and you create a negative cycle for yourself. However if you have a positive outlook to things then it all becomes just that little more easier to cope wth and for those of you reading this who suffer, you will know on a bad day, even just a light relief can make all the difference. Just taking the edge of your bad day can make a huge difference.
Don’t wait for life to pass you by, you might not be able to do all the things you used to and maybe being a ballet dancer is a dream now gone but it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything, it doesn’t mean you can’t be happier. Yes, life is harder, everything takes longer and simple things are harder and there will be some things that are impossible and there will be things you can’t do but there is also things you can do and you need to look at the things you can do, stop focusing on all the past activities and all the things that used to be YOU.
Life is different now, so what does the new YOU look like, who is S/he, what can they do for themselves and others too.
You can see this as a life lost or a blank piece of paper where you get to create a new you, it might not be the you that you wanted to be, but shit happens, make the most of the time you have here, create a new YOU.
Tools to help you cope
Pace yourself, take your time and plan out your day, don’t try to do too much one day and too little the next.
Rest on your good days as well as the bad and get about on the bad days as well as the good. One small act on a bad day can increase chances of a good day.
Know your limits and stick to them.
Red and Yellow Cards
Give yourself a card to get a day off, if you’re having a bad day then red card it, don’t try to force your way through every day all the time, a Green card is a good day, a yellow means some rest is required, Red means sod off and leave me alone, today is a back to bed, take my meds and eat crap kind of day.
Limit yourself to the number of red cards you can have and then think to yourself, do I really need the red card today or do I need to wait in case I need it more tomorrow.
Get up and Get out
You will have days that you need to go back to bed or lay on the sofa, you will have PJ only days but as much as possible GET OUT, get fresh air, short walks, even to the bottom of the garden. The less you move about the harder your muscles have to work when it is time to move about. Yes, it might be sore but the more you exercise (I don’t mean jog round the block) the easier you will find it.
The more you sit still the harder it is, It’s fact, sorry but your doctor is right here, even the slightest movement is better for you then laying about and fresh air and sunlight is proven to lift spirits.
Look up a great tool called the Spoon theory or ‘you don’t look sick’ Its really great, you work out the number of spoons you can manage in a day but averaging your past few weeks and then you allocate yourself ‘spoons’
Each task takes a spoon, so getting up = 1 spoon, taking the kids to school might be 2 spoons. Meeting a friend for coffee might be 1 spoon (it might be 3 if they have 4 kids running around lol)
When you run out of spoons you STOP, So you can learn to pace your day better
Nobody ever got up one day and just ran 26 miles, it took training and it always starts with a mile, and that first mile is always hard and then one day you can run it fine so you increase to 2 mies and guess what, 2 miles is hard and then one day it’s not and so on and so on until actually 26 miles becomes achievable and all of a sudden you’re trying to beat your personal best.
Life with Chronic Pain is the same, everything you do takes thought, planning and training, You cannot get up one day and just do your housework, you might need to start by doing one thing, maybe even half that task and build up, You might never run 26 miles but you might walk 1. You might not walk round a Zoo all day but you might get out of bed, get dressed, get in the car and use a chair round the zoo.
Start with small steps and give yourself some credit for trying, even the smallest act is more then you would have done.
Ok, so I am only covering this lightly as this is one that can go on forever, but eating healthy and cutting out the toxins like booze, fats, sugars and fags, yes it will help, you know it, I know it, don’t pretend any different. You don’t have to be tea total but if you get shit faced, your pain will be higher then next day.
Plan your day, Week, Month
Look ahead, know your week, month and plan ahead. If you know you have a party, wedding or event coming up then make sure you don’t chose the few days before to mess with your meds, or push yourself too far, or stay in bed all day. Make sure you are moving about and resting beforehand. Don’t leave yourself any surprises. Know your diary..
This has been totally stolen from my physio Jason who told me Chronic Pain was like a smoke alarm.
The house can be on fire, there can be a small fire, toast can be burning or the batteries can be playing up, the noise the smoke alarm makes is EXACTLY the same. The warning sounds don’t change.
Your pain is the same, the level of pain you feel is real and it bloody hurts but when the doctors look at you it can be broken or there can be no injury at all, because the brain is mis reading all the signals it just set off the alarm and we don’t always know what is really happening.
Don’t ignore pain and don’t assume it’s just your ‘condition’ but be prepared that it might just be burning toast. Doesn’t mean the noise (pain) is any less just the reality (fire) is different.
Another one shamelessly stolen from my consultant, if you are travelling somewhere and you know you need 60 miles of fuel, you don’t put 20 miles of petrol in the tank and then hope you make the rest of the journey.
Dealing with chronic illness is the same, you have to fill up, when you get tired or start to run low on fuel, you have to stop and fill up, you can’t keep going and HOPE you make the rest of the way
It’s all in your head
Know you’ve been told this and I know you’ve heard that it’s all a mindset change too, you’ve been told exercise and loose weight.
Yes, it is in your head, in as much as it’s your brain with malfunctioning receptors. In the same way it causes paralysis on one person, it can cause pain in another.
And Yes, your mindset does play a part, lets face it, if we were all happy all the time of course things would be easier, but sometimes life is just shit and you can’t be all happy, all the time. On days like this you need something else to get you through, you need other tools to help you fight it.
I hope you have found this blog useful and you feel like you understand what you can do to help yourself on days when you just don’t know what else to do. You have some tools to try and develop to suit your need and lifestyle and if nothing else you know you are not alone and there is always someone out there who understands.