Coping with Chronic Pain


Some of my friends are in horrific pain from long-standing injuries. I have watched their struggles and bravery in absolute awe, and have been suprised at times when they ask me how the hell I manage. I reply that I could inquire the same of them! This past year, I had referals to see a neurosurgeon, urologist and attend a pain clinic. Have I been? The answer is no. I couldnt afford the time, which is a reason high on the list. Home schooling my daughter and attempting to finish a book has seen me beg for leave. Just as I feared I wouldnt be able to prolong what shall need to be done, I found I could get through. I want to wait until my daughter is a little older, until more structures are in place, both financially and otherwise. I have a remarkable friend who is in the process of having a neuro stimulator installed, and this may well be where I am heading. In the meantime, this is what I do to cope.

  1. Hot shower first thing in the morning. I have a seat in the shower, and let the heat spray on my spine. I then apply a mixture of essential oils (such as Wintergreen),  or a liniment to my spine.
  2. I use a back brace, which supports my abdomen and lower spine. It is extraordinary, the amount of support this gives. I got fitted at a medical supply store.
  3. Whenever I am sitting, I use a lumbar roll cushion in the small of my back to provide support. If I didn’t have this, I would need to lay down more than I do already!
  4. To support my spine and my kidneys, I drink a lot of water and herb tea each day. It is particularly important as I self-catheterize.
  5. I try to walk at least thirty minutes each day, or work with weights at home.
  6. I spend several hours a day laying propped up on support pillows on my orthopaedic bed. People don’t usually realize this, but it is a necessity after a particularly busy day! I am often in bed by 6.30pm. Fortunately, you can take your work with you!
  7. I was recently on a camp with my daughter. I knew that we would have a hectic schedule, and be sleeping on air mattresses. I advised my doctor, and made sure I had extra pain relief to help me cope. I also took my trusty TENS machine!
  8. I scheduled a rest day for when I arrived home. I needed it!
  9. I try not to compare my schedule with other people’s. Their journey is their own, particularly if they aren’t deaing with chronic pain and incapacitation. I can only do what I can.
  10. It is okay and normal to have down days; times when the pain is relentless and steals every ounce of energy. Roll with it. Your body needs to stop.

Be kind to yourself and don’t over-commit. It’s okay to play it by ear and see if you are up to activities on the day. It is a miracle that you are functioning at all, so give yourself a pat on the back! There will come a time when I will accept further treatment, and I will be grateful for it. Every life has seasons, and the time of reparation and recuperation shall arrive. In the interim, I listen to the concordant trill of birds. I sit outside in the sunshine and eat my lunch with a light breeze tapping my shoulder. I see friends and post silly memes to give myself a giggle. I try to reduce life into bite-size pieces of beauty, and live in the moment.

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Back Pain Sometimes isn’t Transient


My first surgeon informed me that I would be left in agony, over twenty years ago. Sitting would apparently cause me to weep after an hour, as would standing. Pretty much anything other than laying down would bring me to my knees. Sharp shards of bone, as well as metal artifacts are piercing into my spinal canal, causing a 50% reduction in the vital space. Despite this, I managed a pregnancy, and raising my daughter. I have traveled and have a demanding schedule every day. That surgeon was right; it does bring me to my knees.

I had to do a grocery shop the other day, and found my spine seizing up. There I was, draped over my trolley, groaning. My daughter didn’t bat an eyelid. She just asked what we needed and went to get it. She then loaded the bags into the trolley after I paid. I crawled into bed, and she made me toast for dinner. I lay there for fourteen hours, until I became concerned about the load on my kidneys and knew I had to catheterize.

The next morning was comical. I have a portable TENS Machine, which has proven to be gold. To my dismay, I couldn’t find it! I was rummaging through every drawer in the house in desperation. I finally sourced it, only to find the battery was dead! I could have cried. We had to go down the street to get a new battery. I had applied heat to my back, and a magical ointment, taken three different medications and put on my back brace before leaving home.

These are the things I adore. They make a real difference in my life. I have spent an obscene amount of money on things which have promised to relieve my back pain. I have done the magnets and fancy exercise equipment, the oils and potions. The tools below actually help. The degree to which they assist, depends on the day and the obscenity of the pain.

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A blessing in a hot bath at night.

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This was recommended to me by a scientist friend after I fell over and broke my back again six years ago. It can even be used on fracture sites.

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My portable TENS machine is my saving grace when out and about.

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Heat Pack. Needed throughout all the seasons!

I sometimes relay the severity of the pain and aftermath to people. I want to convey that I am not avoiding anyone, nor have I been in the space to answer messages, etc. It does irritate when people say that they hope I feel better soon. Honey, I am not going to feel better soon! I have pieces of bone and metal, similar to knife blades, sticking into my spinal canal! My fused spine is disintegrating, as are the grafts. It isn’t going to get better. I have accepted that. May I ask that you love me instead. Come over and have a cup of tea with me. Pour me a wine and commiserate. I don’t have a cold, which can be overcome.

I almost kissed the lady in our local bargain store, who upon viewing the little battery from my TENS machine, assured me they had one in stock. The relief! So I continue, as we all do. Broken yet somehow whole. Small and yet ever so tall.