It goes with saying, but I’ll say it anyway – living with chronic pain is f*****g hard! Day in day out your facing not only the physical pain but the emotional and mental torment it causes. After trying your best to cope, the day will come where it all feels too difficult.
That’s why I’ve come up with some helpful tips on what to do when chronic pain becomes too much.
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FEELING LIKE YOU’VE HIT A BRICK WALL!!
My definition of chronic pain being too much refers to when I’m having a flare up or feel totally drained by my pain. During those moments, it can feel like you’ve hit a brick wall with no way to get to the other side.
Trust me, I’ve hit that wall a thousand times over the past 6 years!
But one positive that came from those low moments, was learning ways to cope and know what to do when chronic pain becomes too much.
The information provided in my blog posts is strictly from my own experiences and is not intended to replace medical or professional advice. Do not disregard any medical advice you have received after reading any of my posts. For more please read my disclosure page.
WHAT TO DO WHEN CHRONIC PAIN BECOMES TOO MUCH?
1. Pace yourself
There are so many ways to go about managing chronic pain, and pacing is one of them. Pacing is a technique used to break activities into manageable chunks by taking periods to rest. It’s a more structured approach to coping with pain. Rather than reacting to pain, you can create a strategy to help conserve your energy whilst still getting things done.
If you’re having a really hard time but still need to get things done, breaking things down into smaller tasks will allow you to set achievable goals regardless of what they are.
In trying to work out how much your body can take, you can work out how much you can withstand. Use those findings as a guideline for how long you can tolerate doing a task before needing a break.
Doing things in smaller chunks and taking regular breaks is also a good way to stop and check-in with your body to avoid pushing yourself too far. Although it may mean completing a task takes longer, it will only preserve your energy and thus help you manage your pain feels like it’s too much.
When you live with chronic pain, it can feel like you do more “resting” than “doing”, but that’s not a bad thing. For me personally I know that if I don’t rest or get a good night’s sleep, my pain is more likely to flare up. So when you find yourself at wits’ end, take a moment and prioritize rest – curl up on the sofa or stay in bed for a few days if that’s what your body needs.
3. Document your pain
This may sound strange, but during those low moments it’s really helpful to document your symptoms and I’ll tell you why. Having a log of everything is something you can bring with you to doctor’s appointments. They can use your pain log as a pathway to give you the best support or treatment.
4. Binge watch
A good watch, whether it be a series or film, can be an amazing way to escape. Immersing yourself into someone else’s world is a pleasant distraction from reality. When I’m in the middle of a flare-up I get comfy, grab some snacks and binge on my favourite films or tv shows.
5. TAKE A DEEP BREATH
I know what you’re thinking “shut the hell up, I breathe every day, how is that going to help my pain?” But, believe it or not, our breathing changes from being relaxed to shallow and sharp when we’re in pain. Breathing exercises are a useful way to practice mindfulness and distract yourself from your pain.
According to the healthy.com “Medical professionals and yoga therapists swear by simple breathing exercises, such as mindfully observing inhales and exhales and then gradually lengthening the exhales, for decreasing pain and distress in people in chronic pain.We may not be able to make the pain go away, but we can learn to work with it and to start to reduce our stress signals, says Shailla Vaidya, MD, a former emergency medicine physician and certified yoga therapist.”
Give this simple exercise a try:
- Take one hand and place it above your stomach
- Breath in slowly and deeply
- Hold it for a few seconds and then slowly exhale
- Repeat as many times as you need to
6. VISIT YOUR DOCTOR OR COUNSELLOR
Not knowing what to do when chronic pain becomes too much is an emotional rollercoaster, which can trigger anxiety and depression, and a constant feeling of dread or worry.
When you’re having a terrible flare up it can feel like there is no point in trying anymore, everything no matter how big or small feels way too overwhelming.
But you don’t have to go through your low moments alone, there is help available, speak about how you’re feeling with a doctor or counsellor. They can provide you with the right tools to manage the mental and emotional effects of coping with chronic pain.
7. Medication review
If you’ve had enough and feel like nothing you’ve been prescribed is helping, it’s time to go back to your doctor.
Make a note of how long you’ve been taking your medication, when it stopped helping and ask for a medication review. It may turn out that you need to change your dose or your doctor may have something else they can suggest that would be better.
With chronic pain, a lot of things, especially medication, are trial and error. It may take a while testing different things to see what actually helps.
I also know how difficult it can be, as some doctors can dismiss people with chronic pain, but stick to your guns and don’t take no for an answer.
8. Ask to be referred to a pain specialist
Often doctors don’t make pain specialists or clinics readily available, particularly in the UK, it’s something you have to push for.
If you’ve reached a point where nothing seems to help or maybe you have undiagnosed pain, seeing a pain specialist can be really helpful.
Mostly, pain clinics have more options available to help cope with chronic pain (apart from medication), from physio, CBT, group sessions and acupuncture. It’s definitely worth asking your doctor for a referral.
9. Nerve block injections
Many people with chronic pain have neuropathic pain, which is caused by disease or damage affecting the nervous system. According to research nerve block injections can be really helpful in treating neuropathic pain but it can also help identify the cause of pain.
I had a nerve block a few years ago, which was really helpful in identifying where my pain was stemming from. It’s definitely worth speaking to your doctor about to see whether it may be suitable for you.
10. Natural pain relief
So many of us are living with chronic pain. Whether it’s because of an illness, an accident or any other reasons. Although medication can help us manage our pain, it can also come with several side effects, high costs and having to play roulette to find the most effective one.
But drugs don’t have to be the only option. Nature provides so many options that we can also use for natural pain relief, such as-
- Yoga – Yoga is not only great for exercise but has also been used to help relieve chronic pain. It can help people with fibromyalgia, migraine, arthritis and several other chronic pain conditions. Studies have shown that yoga helps improve mobility, decrease inflammation, and reduce pain perception. This is as it helps to build strength, improve flexibility and release muscle tension.
- Acupuncture – Acupuncture is a treatment used in Chinese medicine for all different pain. Fine needles are inserted into specific parts of the body, known as acupressure points. Once inserted correctly, the needles can reduce inflammation, stiffness, and relieve pain by relieving pressure in your body. Results from several studies suggest it can be helpful in relieving pain associated with conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, migraine and carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Aromatherapy – Aromatherapy is often used with other methods to manage chronic pain. It focuses on using essential oils for inhalation and massage. Although the effectiveness of aromatherapy has been controversial, there have also been several studies showing that it can be helpful for pain relief, anxiety and depression.
11. COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a commonly used method for pain management. It’s a type of speaking therapy, used to help identify and change negative thoughts surrounding pain by developing different skills.
Changing the way you think about pain can be really helpful, particularly when you feel like chronic pain has become too much. CBT allows you to create strategies and techniques to help you be more active and get more out of life.
It’s not everyone’s preferred choice of pain management, but it’s definitely worth a try. Speak with your doctor or specialist for more advice.
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