Chronic Pain Management is something that I know a lot about – unfortunately it’s from first-hand experience.
One of the most important tools I used to manage my neck, shoulder and back pain after my surgery was a diary. Not a pour your heart out, stash under your bed, with a lock and key, Bridget Jones type of diary, but a small, spiral-bound notebook.
In this diary, I would write down each day what I ate, drank and did. Nothing fancy or that took any length of time.
- Pain Level: scale of 1 -10
Simple as that.
What this allowed me to do was notice triggers for my pain. I could look back on when I had horrible pain and see if I ate, drank or did anything that day, or the day or few days before, that made the intensity of my pain greater.
You’ll see in the photo that I ate pretty healthy that day but the day before I sat a lot at work and then went to the grocery store and lifted heavy grocery bags. Those are two no-no’s for me.
After about a month of doing this, I noticed a few things I did that were contributing to my pain.
Eating Sugary Sweets and Simple Carbs – Sugar is an inflammatory drug. More people are addicted to sugar than many other substances such as alcohol (which is mostly sugar) or other narcotics. Inflammation = pain.
Drinking Alcohol – I love wine. But wine is made from grapes which are, sugar, and will cause inflammation along with dehydration. As I learned with my favorite sweets, sugar, in any form, will cause inflammation and inflammation = pain.
Inactivity – the hardest thing to do when you’re in pain is move your body but it’s one of the most effective and quickest ways to get more oxygenated blood to the area of pain. When I was having really bad days right after I got out of the hospital, my sweet BF would take me for a short walk. Literally maybe 30 yards, just up and down my street. He knew I always felt a little better after. Or maybe it was just his TLC that made me feel better.
I had to change my diet. I had to reduce the amount of pasta, cookies, candy, ice cream – all of those comfort foods I was eating to feel better. They made me feel better for the 10 minutes I was eating them but the hours later, they spiked my pain. I still eat foods with sugar, but I limit my consumption of them and am more aware that for every cookie I eat, I’m going to feel it in my neck the next day.
I gave up drinking alcohol. Many times when I would’ve had a glass of wine with dinner or a drink after work, I drank herbal tea instead with no sweetener. When I do drink wine, I limit how much I drink; I hydrate well before and after and I make sure I’m not doing other things that will trigger my pain.
I gave up a sedentary life. Sitting all day at a desk, hunched over a computer or on the phone is probably the WORST thing I could’ve done for my recovery. I move even when I don’t think I can. I started a yoga teacher training program just six months after my surgery because I knew that moving would help me. There were so many times I was in agony but I kept on moving because I knew it would help make me stronger and healthier. I did a lot of restorative yoga which is very gentle movement. Also, I walked outside when the weather was nice.
These are strictly my results. What triggers you might be something else.
The pain diary also showed me that I was in control of my pain or well-being. There were things I was doing that contributed to my pain and other activities that decreased my pain. When you’re suffering from chronic pain, you often feel like everything is out of your control; that the pain is in control.
This diary showed me that I was still in control.
It takes time to learn to manage chronic pain. I’m still doing it. This is only one of many tools I used. I’ll share more in upcoming blog posts. But I’ve given you clues into other ways you can manage pain through my triggers.
What triggers your pain?