Suffering with chronic pain sucks, and those of us with chronic pain know how hard it is to fight through a flare-up. Sometimes it can last a few days or even a few months. Flare-ups can be unpredictable and brought on by certain activities.
That’s why having a chronic pain survival kit is essential to help cope with the daily struggles of living with pain and managing flare-ups when they arise.
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Some days our pain is at its peak and we just need something to get us through the day. I first started suffering with chronic pain about seven years ago, but back then I would only have a few flares; which at the time I could cope with and still enjoy everyday life. But the last two years haven’t been so easy. To be honest, they have been the hardest years of my life.
WHAT IS A CHRONIC PAIN FLARE UP?
Chronic pain flare-ups refer to extreme pain that outweighs the pain you may experience on a day-to-day basis. It can last hours, days, weeks or even months. A lot of times flare-ups come unannounced or can sometimes be caused by other factors such as stress, exercise or diet, thus making the pain very difficult to manage.
ESCAPING MY FLARES
My flare-ups started happening a few times a month as opposed to a flare once a month. I developed new symptoms, different medications, and an alternative lifestyle because of my pain.
At one stage I had a flare-up that lasted 6 weeks and it was more intense than I had ever experienced. I was in complete denial and still tried to push through it like I normally would, but this time was different, I just couldn’t. I was in agony, home-bound, no longer able to work and the most depressed I had ever been.
Once this flare-up ended, I visited the pain clinic, although I was in the trial-and-error stage of figuring out what was going on, my specialist was really helpful and suggested some things I could do to help manage my flare-ups, aside from taking medication.
I also looked back on my worst flare-ups and took time to think about what would make my life easier. I asked myself – if you had to put everything in one box to help you get through a flare-up, what would those things be?
HOW TO PREVENT A FLARE UP
Before putting together your survival kit, it’s important to think about what you can do to best prevent having a flare-up.
- Note down anything that may have contributed to or brought on a flare-up. Such as exercise, food, movement, or even the time you’ve remained seated or standing – Monitoring these things will help you understand your triggers and prevent a flare-up.
- Use pacing to preserve as much energy as you can and not overdo it with daily activities.
- Keep a log of your pain in a pain journal and document your pain every day.
- Where possible, try to avoid anything that triggered your pain in the past.
- Make a note of anything that has helped you in the past when you’ve had a flare-up, for example, medication, stretching or resting as much as possible.
- Keep stress levels as low as possible as research has shown that stress can trigger pain. Check out this article from the Institute for Chronic Pain, which discusses how the two are linked and why it’s important to manage stress.
Combined with the advice from my specialist and understanding my triggers, I put together my chronic pain flare kit. It includes all the must have items I need to get through my flare-ups.
12 MUST-HAVES FOR YOUR CHRONIC PAIN SURVIVAL KIT
1. HOT WATER BOTTLE
My Hot Water Bottle has become my holy grail, and it’s very rare that you’ll see me without it. Chronic Pain causes pain in targeted areas but sometimes the pain widespread and my hot water bottle helps to soothe those aches.
According to specialists, heat “stimulates your sensory receptors, thus blocking signals of pain to the brain” which, as a result, works as an effective pain reliever. Heat can also help you feel more relaxed and soothed, think about how relaxed you feel after having a nice warm bath or a hot shower.
If heat is something you want to try, here are few options:
When you have chronic pain or any chronic illness, taking medication is usually an important aspect of coping. When having a flare-up, the last thing you want is to be rumbling around the medicine cabinet whilst in excruciating pain.
When having a flare-up brain fog can become even more intense. I’ve had some ‘foggy’ moments during a flare-up, for example getting to the evening and trying to remember if id taken my afternoon dose. Because of that, I invested in a medication organizer. It comes in super handy when having a flare-up, as it has sections for your meds, for the morning, noon and night, which can help you keep track of your medication.
3. MUSIC & HEADPHONES
Music is one thing I still thoroughly enjoy! It has a major impact on my overall mood, and you can also use it to help set your mood.
When having a flare-up, I listen to some music to not only set my mood but also take my mind off the pain. I usually like to listen to a smooth and R’n’B playlist to help me relax and enhance my mood.
Make a playlist of your favorite tunes that puts you in a good mood or helps you to relax. When you feel a flare-up approaching, put your headphones on and jig away to your feel-good playlist.
4. ONESIE’S & JOGGERS
Onesies or joggers are always my go-to when having a flare-up. I suffer with Chronic Pelvic Pain, meaning my pelvic area is tender and swells. Therefore, I can’t wear anything too restricting, and loose clothing is vital.
I have different ones to suit the weather; they’re like a warm hug in material. Depending on your personality, you can get different joggers or onesies that can be super cute and very comfy.
I go for the most ridiculous onesie I can find, usually a farm animal of some sort. It makes me chuckle just a little every time I put one on and gives me something to smile about, even if just for a moment.
5. WATER BOTTLE
The medication I take causes my mouth to be dry, so having a water bottle (preferably a cute one), close by is imperative.
During a flare-up, it’s hard to move. Going up and down the stairs to refill my water bottle just isn’t possible. I keep a few large bottles of water on deck. So if the water I am drinking finishes, I can refill it with large bottles I already have.
Alternatively, you can keep a multipack of small bottles of water close by.
6. WATCH SOMETHING YOU ENJOY
Having a flare-up usually means that you’re confined to your bed or sofa. You may be on your own, bored, or wanting to focus your mind on something else.
Falling into the YouTube vortex and watching random videos about slime take my mind off the pain for the moment. Or watching Friends, for the 87th time (Friends super-fan here), gives me something to laugh at despite being in pain.
In my experience distractions have been a great way to manage and cope with pain, as it allows you to focus your mind on something else, even if just for a few hours. A few hours not focussing on pain is crucial, particularly during a flare-up.
7. LIP BALM
Like I previously mentioned, my medication makes my mouth really dry. So I keep my lip balm practically glued to my hand.
These are few that I swear by, they make your lips feel moisturised, plump and soft and you don’t have to keep reapplying every few minutes.
A lot of times when having a high pain day, I lose my appetite and can only snack or eat small meals, so I like to have things to nibble on close by.
I would love to say I only snack on carrots, but I’m a sucker for potato chips and chocolate, especially when I’m not feeling great. So I have a mixture of fruit, nuts, chips, and obviously chocolate.
You can also invest in subscription boxes like graze, they deliver snacks of your choice straight to your door. You can choose how often you’d like them to deliver, and they offer a range of different price options to suit all budgets.
If you find things you like, you can keep them stocked up in your cupboard and save hassle of going out to buy snacks each time you have a flare-up. There are also subscription service such as Hello Fresh that deliver ingredients and recipes to you, to save the stress of trying to figure out what to cook.
9. SMARTPHONE, TABLET OR LAPTOP
When having a flare-up, I like to keep my phone to hand. Not just for scrolling on social media, but also to stay connected with my friends and family.
Having a chronic illness sometimes means not being able to see your loved ones as often, which can lead to feeling isolated, so staying connected is important.
Whether it’s calling a family member or sending ridiculous memes to your friends, try to stay in touch, it’s also a way to talk about your pain, with those you trust, even though you may not have those conversations in person.
I also keep my laptop nearby, so I can keep up to date with emails, or write any blog posts you read on The Chronic Diary. Weirdly, I’m sparked with a lot of ideas when I’m having a flare-up and unable to move around.
Nausea is something that usually accompanies my flare-ups and it absolutely sucks!
If nausea is something that you experience, placing a piece of nutmeg in your mouth really helps. It is a natural remedy that my mum told me about.
Honestly, I swear by it!
There is no medical evidence to support this, but for me, it has been super helpful! It’s worth a try!
11. JIGSAW PUZZLES
This is something I added to my survival kit recently. I noticed that when I have a flare-up; I become even more irritable and impatient. So I began thinking about all the things that could help me refocus my energy.
Jigsaws puzzles came to mind as I used to love doing them as a child. I bought my first jigsaw – (1000 piece, may I add) and found that I was definitely more focussed and had to have the patience to finish the darn thing.
I bought a few (too many) and my next purchase will be a puzzle board – living the dream I know. This the latest one I purchased, but they have so many online. Who knew this was a ‘thing’ for adults, I definitely didn’t.
12. JOURNAL OR PAIN DIARY
Writing is therapeutic for me, whether it’s monitoring my pain in my pain journal or writing using journal prompts. It’s a major release for me and allows me to get my thoughts and feelings off my chest and out of my mind.
Writing in my pain journal is also what influenced me to start my blog. Who knows, writing may help you find your passion or do something different.
Although flare-ups can be unpredictable, a little preparation can make the world of difference.
Having a chronic pain survival kit has definitely made my flare-ups a little easier to bear. Being prepared allows you to have peace of mind when those flare-ups hit. We all know how important it is to rest well and take care of yourself when you’re in pain, so put those measures in before pain strikes. You can even take your kit with you when you travel, or day-to-day.
Let me know your thoughts. What do you have in your chronic pain survival kit?
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