I have a few different illnesses that cause long-term pain, some of which have diagnoses and some that do not. Either way, I’ve had to learn to adapt my lifestyle to accommodate them. That being said, I’ve learned a lot of little tricks and tips for managing chronic pain. These are based on my own experiences, but hopefully some will help you too!
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Create a flare kit.
I’m actually working on this one now! In short, the key here is to keep handy and central the things that will make a bad pain day a little easier. Whether that’s pain meds, a heating pad, water, or cosy socks, keeping these helpers in one spot saves you a step when finding that missing bottle of medicine is the last thing you feel like doing. Check out Pinterest for some ideas of items to keep in yours (and follow us while you’re there!)!
I recently got a super cute Thirty-One tote (similar to this one) that I’ll be using for mine. That leads me to a bonus tip: if you can find something little to make you happy (like my bag) when you’re not feeling well, it’s worth it.
Don’t be embarrassed to use an aid.
If you need a cane, use a cane (I have one like this and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made). If you need to sit while showering or making dinner, do it. There’s no need to overdo it if there’s a tool to help!
Additionally, this can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. You may be embarrassed to go out with your friends while leaning on a walker, but, if you’re like me and suffer from an invisible illness, this gives your pain a new sort of visibility. Will people still question it? Sure, especially if you’re “too young to need it.” But maybe, just maybe, it will show those around you that it’s not all in your head.
Find a hobby that you love. Call your best friend and chat for a while. Throw yourself into a job you enjoy. Whatever it is, sometimes something to take your mind off of the pain can really help.
I like to blog or work on my bullet journal when I don’t feel especially well, assuming I feel well enough to do so.
Give yourself permission to take a break.
At the risk of contradicting my former point, remind yourself that it’s okay to do absolutely nothing if necessary. Take a nap or lie in a dark room if that makes you feel better. Take a sick day. Eat that TV dinner that isn’t super healthy but is convenient enough to make without using too many spoons.
I’m a workaholic and a perfectionist and I struggle with this one the most. Do as I say, not as I do; take a break.
Talk about it.
No, I’m not saying that complaining to your mum about your latest ache will make it go away. But it may make you feel a little better about it.
In addition, you’ll help eradicate the stigma around talking about these things, especially if your illness affects your mental health.
The real bonus here though is that you’re letting people know the truth. Will there be those who judge, who think you’re making it up, or who claim you complain too much? Yes. But those people don’t matter.
What does matter is those people who recognise that you can’t control this. These are the friends who text you to check in or the family members who offer to help you cook or clean when you can’t get out of bed one day. These are the people who deserve you.
Get a pet.
Yes, it’s an added responsibility. But, in my experience, this is one of the single most beneficial tips I’ve found.
A service dog is perfect, in many cases, because he can be trained to help you with everyday tasks, or even to recognise symptoms you might not pick up on.
I can’t quite afford the training myself, so I’m in the process of adopting an Emotional Support Dog. Since I’m living in the States, an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an amazing option. They’ve been under a lot of scrutinies lately as fraudulent companies “prescribe” them and questionable passengers board planes with “real” ESAs. The benefits are endless and, for me, the difference is astounding. I have fewer nightmares and more full nights of sleep and legitimately hurt less when I’ve got a natural “heating pad” curled up next to me. If this is an option for you, it could make a huge difference!
Update: I ended up adopting an emotional support cat! Read more about Fitz here.
Heat is your friend.
Or, at least it’s mine. A heating pad, hot water bottle, or electric blanket is sometimes the only thing that will help my aching joints. Right now, in the middle of summer, it’s a less viable option, but during the rest of the year, these are my favourite things.
Find the tools that work for you.
For me, a pregnancy pillow has been my best ever purchase for sleeping a little better. For some, it’s a TENS unit, Epsom salts, or a neck pillow. It may take some testing and the process can be painstakingly frustrating, but when you find something that works, it will all be worth it.