How I Cope with Pain
Being in nearly constant pain is a very difficult concept for anyone to come to terms with. It can feel so isolating, and can really disrupt your life, and at times completely change it altogether. It is so important to have a line up of practices and easily accessible “tools “ for managing your pain, both on average pain days and difficult flares. Here are some of the tools and strategies that I have come up with during my AxSpA journey.
Electric heating pad
This has been by far my most used tool in my toolbox. I use it every day, for minor aches and during bad flares to keep me comfortable. I mostly use it for my low back/hip pain, but it's very effective for tense shoulder pain, and if you suffer from stomach issues related to AxSpA, it can be smoothing for that too. If I’m on the go I will swap my electric heating pad for a hot water bottle. I tend to stick to the electric heating pad when I can, as it's not always practical to refill once the hot water bottle cools.
Finding a safe place/person to share with
My second “tool” is having a community for support, and safe people who will hold space for me to talk about my struggles and the pain that I feel. Having best friends and my husband to lean on when I’m feeling really helpless, really can help me stay grounded and give me an opportunity to blow off some steam. It doesn’t always help with physical pain directly, but it can help me have a better headspace to cope
Scheduled non-negotiable breaks
This has been the hardest “tool” in my toolbox to apply to my life. It works as a preventative measure, but also is much needed during times of flares. At the start of my AxSpA journey, I didn’t see the importance of rest, and I wanted to keep up with my peers, and on good days I definitely wasn’t going to waste time taking a break. But I’ve now learned how valuable rest is, so I now have incorporated a daily “coffee break" after lunchtime and take an hour to rest, even if I’m not feeing like I may need to. I know my body needs it!
Taking a walk
This one can be also very difficult to want to do, especially in times of intense pain. On days where I am having moderate pain, getting out for a walk will do one of two things for me. It will help my joints feels a little looser, and if that’s not the outcome, I usually am in a better headspace from being in nature, and, like venting to a friend, this can at least reframe my thoughts so my perspective on my pain is more manageable.
Coping with chronic pain due to AxSpA can be really difficult, isolating, and confusing. But you are not alone, and with some trial and error, I know you will find something that brings you some comfort too!
Can you tell when a flare is coming?