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Life Can be Painful for People Living With Chronic Pain

Posted Mar 11 2013 10:27am
One of the first lessons you learn when you start living life with chronic pain is that daily life--family, work, home and school--can make your pain worse. All those little things I used to do without much thought, like run errands, cook, clean, shop and socialize, became huge pain-inducing obstacles to overcome when fibromyalgia pain came into my life.

It took me several years to figure out which daily activities made my pain worse. I know for many of us, the list of these activities can be quite long. And because pain symptoms can fluctuate over time, I find myself constantly editing my list--adding new pain triggers and scratching off the ones that are no longer problematic.

Right after the trip-and-fall accident that triggered my fibromaylgia, I tried to continue with my "normal" activities. I constantly pushed my body beyond its new limits to get things done and wound up getting so flared-up afterwards I needed to spend days in bed trying to recover. When enough was enough, I changed my tactic and put off as many things as I could to avoid flare-ups. But that meant a lot of things weren't getting done, which was very discouraging for me.

Thank goodness for the practical pain management techniques I was taught at the Cedars-Sinai Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia Program in 2006 and for the online classes and groups at the CFIDS and Fibromyalgia Self-Help website that helped reinforce what I learned.  I discovered that once you recognize and identify the daily activities that are your pain triggers, you can almost always figure out ways to minimize their painful impact.

Over the years, I've used these strategies to deal with pain-inducing activities
  • modify the activity to make it less painful, i.e. sitting down to do something instead of standing
  • break an activity down into smaller steps that can be done over time vs. all at once
  • find people who can help me do the things that are painful
  • delegate the activity to someone else (usually my husband)
  • say "No." and learn to live life without doing some things

Unfortunately no amount of planning or preparation can help with the things in daily life that are truly out of your control.

Now that I live with chronic pain, I cringe with fear at the thought of any kind of accidents happening to me. This fear is fueled, in part, by some mishaps that have occurred to me since fibromylagia: my shower bench breaking underneath me while I was sitting on it and breaking my foot while taking a big step down from our storage shed.

My biggest fear was realized a little over a week ago when my husband and I were involved in an automobile accident as he was driving us home from the mall.

The accident itself still gives me nightmares. The fact that my pain level has shot up to a 10/10 on several occasions over the last 10 days is quite a nightmare too.  And don't get me started about the numerous trips I've needed to make to the doctor's office and/or the Emergency Room to treat my accident-related symptoms.

My pain and my life have become quite unmanageable since the accident, which is equal parts frustrating, exhausting and frightening.

What concerns me most is that chronic pain can make it more difficult to identify physical injuries from accidents.  Pre-existing pain can mask the symptoms of new injuries and make it more difficult for your doctor to diagnose new problems.

As bad as the accident was, the SUV we were in (and our guardian angels) did a very good job of protecting us from severe injury.  On a safety note, I always wear my seat belt when I am in a car, even thought it can poke at my painy parts.  I know that the seat belt I was wearing literally saved my life. Unfortunately the "seat belt sign" injury I sustained is one of the reasons I'm now dealing with more severe pain.

I'm not sure what happens now.  Among many other things, I'm concerned about how long this extreme flare-up is going to last.

It's going to take all the self-help pain management techniques I have in my toolbox to get me through today.  I'll just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings. In the meantime, I do know daily activities that weren't particularly bothersome a fortnight ago are going back on my list of pain triggers.

I wrote this post because I'm especially interested in hearing from those of you who have been in a situation similar to the one I currently face. I want to hear your suggestions for coping with accidents and injuries that make your chronic pain worse.
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