Hey Beauties!! This week we have a special guest post by Ann-Marie Sharpe from Pathways Pain Relief. I’m going to change it up abit this week, I’m going to give you abit of info about what it is that Ann-Marie does and why you should take some time to read this post!!
“I’m Ann-Marie D’Arcy-Sharpe. I am 33 years old and work as a freelance writer and blogger. I live with bipolar disorder, fibromyalgia and arthritis.
I write for Pathways Pain Relief, a chronic pain relief app and blog https://www.pathways.health/blog/. The app is created by pain patients and backed by the latest pain science. We use mind body therapies to help pain patients achieve natural, long lasting pain relief.”
You can download their app HERE.
I think that having an app that could help you with chronic pain etc is awesome!! Let’s get into the post and check out what tip’s and advice Ann-Marie has for us. Maybe we will end up wanting the app ourselves!! You know the drill, get your cuppas at the ready ad get the munchies!! Let me know in the comment’s what you think and what else you’d like to see in the Cuppa&Chat Series!!
How To Manage Your Chronic Pain at Home
Getting the access to the right treatment for your chronic pain can be tough, but well worth it. There are many scientifically proven treatments which can help you to manage and overcome your pain. However, we only see medical professionals for a short time. The majority of the time, we’re left to our own devices to manage at home.
Self-management is extremely important in reducing the impact of chronic pain and increasing quality of life. A study from the European Journal of Pain explains that, “pain management interventions that include self‐management strategies can substantially reduce disability and improve psychological well‐being in patients with chronic pain.”
So how can we manage our pain at home? Let’s take a look at a few great ways to self-manage your symptoms.
Adjust your environment
Our home environment can be tailored to what works for us individually. Adjusting things to make things as easy for yourself as possible can help you to save energy, feel more comfortable and reduce your symptoms.
You might add things that increase your comfort, such as extra cushions or blankets on your sofa, or a mattress topper on your bed. You might add a humidifier or a fan if you struggle with temperature control. You could introduce a stool in the living room to raise your feet when you’re sitting down, reducing swelling and inflammation.
You might move things you use regularly to a place where you can access them easily. For example, I live with fibromyalgia and arthritis and love to do skincare and makeup. To make things easier for myself I have a set of draws holding my supplies on a table next to the sofa, so that I’m easily able to reach for things when I need them.
Utilize mobility aids
Using mobility aids around the home can be very useful. There are so many aids available designed to meet a wide range of needs. You might find using a shower chair helps you to keep up with hygiene more effectively for instance. There are kitchen gadgets which can make life easier. Handles to help you get in and out of the bath or to help you up stairs can be useful.
Don’t be afraid to use aids. It doesn’t mean you’re giving up! Quite the opposite is the case. It means you’re determined to keep functioning despite your chronic pain.
Create a relaxation space
Stress contributes to chronic pain, as this study explains: “Pain and stress share significant conceptual and physiological overlaps.”. Therefore having a place in your home which you can use to relax is so important. This could be your bedroom or another room. Making your relaxation space a haven where you take some time each day to escape daily stress can help you to feel calmer.
You could even use your relaxation space to practice mindfulness. Learning to use relaxation techniques can help you to lower stress levels, feel more in control of your emotions and reduce chronic pain symptoms.
Use heat and cold
The use of heat and cold can interrupt pain signals and provide some relief. For heat, hot water bottles, heating pads or microwaveable rice bags can be useful. While for cold, ice packs or cool pads can be useful.
An article from Harvard Medical School explains that cold can, “relieve pain, decrease inflammation and muscle spasms”, while heat, “raises your pain threshold and relaxes muscles.”
Although it’s tempting to ‘make the most’ of low pain days or of periods when you have a lot of energy, it’s important to pace your activity so you don’t ‘burn out’. Pacing means that you take regular rests, and gradually build up your tolerance for specific tasks. You engage in activities with periods of rest in this gradual way both on days when you are in pain, and when you aren’t.
You don’t have to do everything all at once. You can break large tasks down into smaller pieces and tackle them a stage at a time. This can apply to anything, from taking a shower or getting ready in the morning to doing housework or going out shopping.
This 2019 study on pacing activity explains that, “Activity pacing aims to modify behaviours of avoidance, excessive persistence and overactivity–underactivity/boom–bust cycling.”
Make things easy for yourself
Don’t be afraid to make things as easy for yourself as possible. If you’re cooking and you can buy things that are ready prepared, go for it! If you have a dishwasher, make use of it! If you can do some tasks sitting down, like ironing or cooking, why not? This doesn’t mean you’re being lazy or failing. Just as with mobility aids, if making some tasks easier allows you to function for longer, it’s improving your quality of life.
Practice good self care
Ensuring you practice self-care is vital. Self-care means any action you take to maintain and improve your mental and physical health. This includes:
- making sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet so you give your body the fuel it needs.
- exercising to keep your body as fit and healthy as possible.
- maintaining a good sleep routine where you can.
- taking any prescribed medication as instructed.
- making time to relax and do things you enjoy.
Wear comfortable clothes
For many of us, we experience allodynia (meaning things that shouldn’t cause pain can be uncomfortable or painful) or other sensory issues. Wearing comfortable clothes can help us to combat these issues. Looser clothing can make movement easier. If you’re comfortable in what you’re wearing, you’re far more likely to engage in more activity and to enjoy your day! It’s possible to look cute and be comfortable at the same time.
Using techniques you’ve learnt through treatment
If you are receiving treatment for your chronic pain, you can use the pain management techniques you’re learning at home. For treatment to be effective, it’s important we continue to build on it between sessions as instructed.
Seek emotional support
Living with chronic pain is far from easy, and it can often lead to feeling alone. Our mental health can markedly impact chronic pain symptoms, so it’s important that we take care of our mental health just as much as our physical health. Seeking emotional support can make a positive difference.
You could reach out to loved ones, find a support group or even find support online. Finding others who understand what you’re going through can make you feel part of a community. You can encourage and support one another on your chronic pain journeys.
In fact, having this support can actually reduce the negative effects of chronic pain. A study on the impact of making connections with others on chronic pain concluded, “Our study provides evidence that the impact of pain is reduced in individuals who perceive a greater sense of inclusion from and engagement with others.”
Seek practical support when you need it
If you need practical support with daily tasks, there’s no shame in seeking support from loved ones or professionals. We all need help sometimes, and although it can feel frustrating when you’re not able to complete tasks yourself, it’s important to reach out if you need to.
Allow yourself to rest
Giving yourself time to rest is just as important as trying to stay active. Being in chronic pain is tiring. Fatigue by nature is exhausting. You’re allowed to take time to do something relaxing, to pamper yourself, to take a nap or even just to sit and do nothing at all.
Set boundaries with loved ones
If you need space to relax, speak up and set clear boundaries with your loved ones. If you feel that your loved ones are doing something (even out of love) which is impeding your progress in fighting your chronic pain, set a boundary.
You have a right to respectfully set boundaries with those in your life to ensure your physical and mental health needs are a priority.
Setting goals that you want to achieve each day can help to give you a sense of purpose and structure to your day, which is particularly helpful if you don’t go out to work. Goals can help you to feel motivated. When goals are realistic and achievable, they can help to build confidence and make you feel proud of yourself as you actively tick them off your ‘to do’ list.
Online self-help programmes
There are some great resources online which can help you to manage and treat your chronic pain. You can find guided meditations, breathing exercises and other resources through videos and audio clips.
Apps can be a great resource to access remote treatment from your own home. The Calm app provides a great resource for meditation and stress release, which can actively help you to reduce your symptoms. The Headspace app focuses on mindfulness to promote relaxation and encourage more restful sleep. Our app, Pathways Pain Relief, is created by pain patients and backed by science, using the mind body connection to help patients overcome their pain. Whichever online resources you choose, ensure you do your research and take your time to figure out what works for you.
As well as productive ways you can self-manage your chronic pain, there are treatments which can help you to reduce your symptoms and overcome your pain. Many pain patients aren’t made aware of these treatments. Our comprehensive pain management guide covers all of your self-management and treatment options, helping you to make informed choices about how to treat your chronic pain.
M.K. Nicholas A. Asghari M. Corbett, et al, (2012), “Is adherence to pain self‐management strategies associated with improved pain, depression and disability in those with disabling chronic pain?” European Journal of Pain, Volume 16, Issue 1, Pages 93-104
Abdallah, C. G., & Geha, P. (2017). “Chronic Pain and Chronic Stress: Two Sides of the Same Coin?. Chronic stress” (Thousand Oaks, Calif.), 1, 10.1177/2470547017704763.
Harvard Health Publishing, (2016), “Non-opioid options for managing chronic pain.” Harvard Medical School.
Deborah Antcliff Anne‐Maree Keenan Philip Keeley, et al, (2019), “Survey of activity pacing across healthcare professionals informs a new activity pacing framework for chronic pain/fatigue”. Musculoskeletal Care, Volume 17, Issue 4, Pages 335-345
Nicholas V Karayannis, MPT, PhD, OCS, FAAOMPT, Isabel Baumann, PhD, John A Sturgeon, PhD, et al, (2019), “The Impact of Social Isolation on Pain Interference: A Longitudinal Study.” Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Volume 53, Issue 1, January 2019, Pages 65–74