One of the most helpful things for chronic pain is to learn easy pain management tools for moments of flares, jabs, or stabs. The best tools show you how to turn your focus away from discomfort and towards helpful things.
A large selection of ideas and tips are necessary for those with persistent pain. If it is chronic, permanent, and incurable, you need help that works. Please feel free to use these ideas as a starting place for your list.
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Accept that you have persistent pain. This is one of the hardest things to do. Have you been fighting this for years? I used to say, “Well, it’s not curable at this moment, but who knows? Maybe tomorrow I won’t have this.”
To come into acceptance of what is happening in your body means you stop fighting what is. Once you accept your pain, you will begin to look for answers!
Start a comedy kit or add to it. This can be anything that makes you laugh or at least smile inside. Movies, podcasts, books, funny hats, costumes, cards, cartoons, or little kids doing full-body laughter are some options.
“Funny or Die” is a comedy video website founded by Will Ferrell, and Adam McKay that has a large list of videos.
Here is a great therapy skit “Stop It” with Bob Newhart and Mo Collins that might make you smile.
Comedy is so subjective that it’s difficult to recommend books or movies. You know what tickles you, so your job is to gather a few of these items into one place and use them.
There are many versions of body scanning. The most common is to flex and release from your toes to your head so that you can feel your muscles relax through your whole system.
One of my favorite ways to body scan is to find all the pain-free places in the body. What? But what if you hurt everywhere?
When you scan your body, notice everything and not just those places that feel painful. You may be feeling like your entire body hurts, but when you take the time to scan, you’ll find that it is not accurate. You can start by noticing if your fingernails hurt and take it from there. Check every part including muscles, tendons, and organs.
Place your attention on those areas that feel good and notice how quickly your whole body feels better. Read my blog for detailed information on body scanning.
Call a friend and ask how they are doing. Your friends can become too focused on your health and your life. You don’t want all your calls to be about you. Start a conversation with, “I’m calling to see what’s happening in your life. I’m getting bored of just talking about me.”
Keep it light, but help your friends understand that you are here for them too. The importance of maintaining friendships blog.
Move to the best of your ability every day. You’ve got to exercise to reduce your pain, and you don’t want to get bored. Make sure to have a variety of programs like Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, weight lifting, walking, or dance.
If you have not exercised in years, take it slow. Work with a physical therapist or a personal trainer who can put together a program for you. Start where you are and increase your pace and time gradually.
The Fitness Marshall (Caleb Marshall) posts new videos often. You may find yourself smiling when you dance to his routines. It helps that he uses upbeat popular music. He also has a dancer showing how to do the moves if you are a beginner.
Start with one of the routines until you get it, and then add another. You might want to intersperse these throughout your day, especially if you tend to sit a lot.
Thirty minutes and one-hour videos are available.
Seriously. Clean a closet shelf, or a drawer, or a box, or a countertop. Do any kind of cleaning or organizing that forces you to place your mind on the action and not on your body.
Connect with your family. Whether it is your family of origin, or the family you have created. Connect with them (unless this would cause psychological or physical harm).
The great thing about cooking is you need to place your full attention on it, especially if you are using a knife. Chopping and stirring are mindful tasks and allow you to be distracted from your pain.
Create a self-care list and do something from it every day. You need to take care of yourself during the day with at least one small act of kindness and self-compassion.
What makes you feel good that requires no one else? A long bath? Time away from technology? Time outside? Then create a list that depends on others like massage, facials, or pedicures.
I wrote this blog on Chronic Pain and Self-care right before the 2019 holiday season. You may find these tools helpful for any time of year.
Distract yourself by doing things that place your attention on a task. DISTRACTION is one of the best pain management tools to have in your toolkit.
I’ll focus here on chores. Keeping your house clean may seem overwhelming at certain times. Drop the notion that you have to clean your house in one day. No. Today you wipe the bathroom counters. Tomorrow you’ll clean the toilet. The next day you might vacuum.
Distract yourself by taking small actions. Do a little something each day and focus on the task. Get fully into it and allow your mind to move away from your body’s aches.
Tai Chi or Yoga not only improves your balance and muscle strength; they also reduce stress. Here’s a great article from Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School Tai Chi and Chronic Pain.
Your job is to do everything that will reduce inflammation in your body, and food is a great place to start. There are too many credible sites to name. I’ll start you off with Foods that Fight Inflammation from Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School.
If you have a long-time persistent pain disease, you have probably heard friends and family say, “I’m getting tired of you canceling on all our dates!”
Give them credible sites that explain what you are going through. Take responsibility for this and understand that they do not know what you are going through if you have not shown them.
The US Pain Foundation asked those with chronic pain to submit videos for September 2019 asking us to tell others what we want them to know about these diseases. I was honored to be selected. Here is the video.
I hope this helps you with your friends and family.
You may have dropped all of your hobbies because it hurt to do them or they took too much energy.
Remember to start slow. Take one small action. Fall back in love with the things you love to do.
My favorite actions right now are; needle-felting wee gnomes while watching a show, cooking, knitting, reading, and writing. I stand or sit depending on how I feel.
Recall great memories from your life. Look at pictures of your happiest days, and if you don’t have any, close your eyes and remember moments of great delight. Feel all the feelings, and expand the memories.
What is possible? Write this down and just let it flow. No editing. You may be surprised at what comes through.
Do your research and find the best one for you. Here’s detailed information on support groups.
Learn how to play a musical instrument. Discover the joy you can feel when strumming a ukulele, blowing on a harmonica, or pounding a drum. Remember that this is just for you. Pick an instrument that makes you happy.
Listen to how you speak to others about your disease. “Never own a disease. Reduce the amount of time you talk about it. Refuse to allow illness a place in your consciousness.” RawforBeauty.com
It’s fine to talk to your few confidants about how you are doing. The idea is not to broadcast all the nitty-gritty details to everyone you come into contact. Be aware of the words you speak when those outside your inner circle ask about you.
Listen to podcasts. Start by searching for some of your favorite authors, comediennes, or uplifting speakers. Your choice for this is as unique as what makes you laugh. Schedule time to listen to at least one a week.
I have all over my house small groupings that soothe my soul and make me smile.
You might be surprised if you share space that others don’t even notice the wee additions to your home.
If you look around now, you will probably find that you have some of your favorite things out where you can see them.
Have you spent your life with people telling you what your goals should be? You decide. Read here for some thoughts on why your goals may have changed when you have chronic pain.
Stare out the window. Sit in your favorite chair for a few minutes. Drop your shoulders, take a couple of deep breaths, and release them. Do absolutely nothing for a few minutes.
Don’t create a to-do list, or think of your shopping list or running errands while doing this. Just hang out, be still, and breathe. Call it meditation or mindfulness or whatever you want to. Just do it.
Post a list of things that distract you from your pain and do at least one of them each day.
Read using whatever form works for you; electronic, audio, or book form. Notice how when you are in the midst of a good story that your pain is less noticeable.
What does this mean for you?
Do you need to limit watching the news? Time on the Internet? Stop reading every single news article posted on the disease of the week? Meditate a few minutes each day? Ask for fifteen minutes of your own time when you get home from work? Do you need help with housework? Do you need to take a short walk daily?
Reducing stress helps you learn to relax. When you are relaxed, you are less stressed.
Every day, practice one stress-reducing technique and find out what works best for you. Everyone is different.
Find a lotion or oil that is soothing to you, and slowly rub it on your body after a shower. Pay attention to all parts of your body. Place your thoughts on kindness, compassion, and comfort while spreading this across your skin.
Most people that I have spoken with have sleep issues. Your unknown future because of persistent pain disrupts your previous healthy sleep patterns.
If you can, avoid taking long naps during the day. Sedating medications for persistent pain may cause you to be more tired. In that case, set your alarm for 30 minutes when you lay down.
Remove the TV, Laptop, Tablet, or phone from your bedroom (or at least shut them off). Read SleepFoundation.org’s article Lights Out for a Good Night’s Sleep.
Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Regular daytime exercise helps regulate your sleep cycle. Research sleep hygiene articles practice all the rules of good sleep hygiene.
Ruben Castaneda in U.S. News and World Report wrote How Virtual Reality Can Help Treat Chronic Pain. “…research suggests VR can help alleviate the anxiety and pain of patients suffering from acute and chronic pain” which gives hope to those living with daily pain.
Want another reason to try VR? It is so much fun!
Walk and slowly and increase your distance over time. This slow increase applies to whatever form of exercise you can do. Graded exercise eliminates much of the chance of being so sore you can’t get out the next day.
Can you take a walk with one of your friends? Having a buddy makes it more difficult for you to cancel if you are not feeling well. Walking and talking to another or looking at nature takes your attention off of your body.
Write down three things you are grateful for. You’ll quickly learn how gratitude heals chronic pain.
Gail Sinclair, MHt, CNC is a hypnotherapist who helps those living with chronic pain go from discomfort to thriving by using hypnosis, pain management tools and resources.
She is a Master Hypnotherapist, Nutritional Consultant, and a Reiki Master Teacher. She has over 20 years in healing work and is an international award-winning speaker.
Gail lives in Portland, OR with her delightful husband, son, and cat. She can be found cooking, knitting, writing, and figuring out new ways to thrive with Trigeminal, and Occipital Neuralgia.