Pain is nothing to laugh about when it becomes something that seems to control you and lingers longer than you expect. If it keeps you from moving or doing the daily things you like to do, then it may even stop you from being with the people you love.
We all handle pain very differently and the reason for this is simple: we are all different and come with an entirely different set of anatomy, genes, beliefs, backgrounds and thoughts. That is the true challenge of pain. One person’s “10” out of 10 could be another person’s “5” out of 10. You can imagine the challenge it is to the medical practitioner sitting on the other side listening and trying to understand it when they do not have it. Increasingly, we all have to become advocates for our own health. This goes beyond just making your annual doctor’s appointment or going to physical therapy. This means becoming educated about your physical health. Your doctor never sees you at home or in your daily life. So they may miss something critical to helping solve the riddle of persistent pain.
It’s also important to remember that the voice in your head that tells you it hurts or that you’re too tired, or in too much pain to do something may be part of the problem. We’ve all heard the advice about mindfulness and the power of positive thinking. So let’s talk about what you can do to help yourself manage your own pain. There are steps you can take to understand your own symptoms and start managing your own pain, because that is what it is, your own pain. First, however, remember medical assessment is always the first step, always talk to your doctor about your condition first.
5 Tips for Managing Pain
- Define Your Pain: Have you ever asked yourself why it is that you feel pain? And do you know why, physiologically? When you think about your pain, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Is it financial worry? Is it fear of the loss of your job? Or perhaps something else? Once you start identifying what negative stressors you connect with your pain, and not just the physical ones, you might start to see a pattern emerge. Start looking for the patterns.
- Establish a Daily Ritual: Do you wake up in the morning thinking already as you roll out of the bed, “There’s that pain again”? What if you started making yourself think something completely differently every day? For example, rather than say “There’s that pain again,” what about “I can’t wait to see what today brings?” Setting your daily mindset to one that is a positive one from the moment you open your eyes can make a big difference in how much pain you feel. Our brains are a complex “muscle” that only you can control. You control the way it thinks; use it to help make you feel better.
- Self-Care: Do you ever just sit alone in your car and take a minute to take a few breaths and shake off the thoughts that might be running around your mind for a moment? Try it. Meditation, in any form, for any length of time, is better than nothing. It has even been noted to lower blood pressure, reduce pain and help control stress. Breathing each breath with quiet purpose, appreciating the fact that you are breathing and can be alive is worth the time. Clean out the cobwebs and focus for 5 minutes on just breathing and relaxing wherever you can. See Spand-ice for wearable alternatives: http://spand-ice.com/shop/
- Purposeful Self-Management: You have so much that you can do for yourself to help manage your symptoms. That next pain pill is only part of the whole picture. Can you use something simple like ice or heat to help you do some of the things you need to do? Try it. Try small tasks and see if you are able to do them. If you start to focus on the things that you are able to change and control, you might surprise yourself and find some small changes starting to take place.
When you start to think about pain as something within your grasp, something that you can control, you might surprise yourself. Relying on our healthcare system supplies only part of what is needed; the rest is yours to control. Think of the money you could actually save if you used your healthcare less simply by successfully implementing any of these tips? These are not guaranteed and by all means, a medical condition needs medically managed.
Call to Action: Plan
However, there is no reason that you, the patient, can’t take back control and manage your own symptoms. I challenge you to give yourself 30 days to implement your plan. Remember, small changes add up over time. Don’t let the pain control or consume you. Pick one thing every day to challenge yourself to try something different to manage your pain. Even just the act of doing one small thing differently can change the way you view your pain. You only have one body and it’s yours to control.