A lovely woman – a new good friend – asked the question today about how to help with the pain when the meds have run out. That is something I would love to have the answer to because the pain of autoimmune arthritis can be excruciating and when you don’t have the means to get it to break it wears you down body and spirit very, very quickly.
But, I do have a few tips up my sleeve from the years where I promised myself to do anything and everything that might make it a tiny bit better in the hopes that those tiny bits add up to a big enough bit to give even a little relief. I have a “life boat” full of items that help me survive when the pain cannot be handled by simply having the right attitude. My life boat is kept stocked and checked. It consists of emergency pain meds but in this case I’m talking about 11 things you can try when there are no pain meds available. For my readers who do not live with chronic pain – unfortunately with our system of care and the stigma surrounding pain medication many of us have experienced times when we have run out of our prescriptions and there are no refills on the meds we need to take the pain away effectively so we are stuck in a horrible situation. We have to a) somehow get through or b) head to the emergency room. I’ve been there, it isn’t pretty because being in pain apparently doesn’t rank very high on a triage list. So – here are a few coping strategies I learned over the years.
1. A very hot bath preferably with a few cups of Epson Salt.
2. An insense burner. I have the kind made of soapstone where you use a tea light candle under a “well” that holds water that you can place drops of the scent that will help. I use lavender, bergamot, and lemongrass. I know, some of this stuff is going to sound all new-agey but trust me it helps. The brain has to pay attention to the scent – and if part of the brain is thinking/processing that scent then it has less to process pain.
3. A Neck brace. Yup – like the ones you see people wear after they are in a car accident and get whiplash. When my neck feels especially horrible and fragile the brace gives it some wonderful support. I’ve had to wear it at some pretty embarrassing times, like the morning after my brothers wedding. I had just started on Remicade and I was a mess but I got through the night. I’m still very glad that I’ve never seen the video footage of being on the dance floor because I’m quite sure I was doing a cross between the white man overbite and the penguin waddle. But I was there.
4. SI Belt – Ask your PT or Physio about one of these. I love mine and I use it to garden and do anything physical. It is an adjustable belt that you wear low on the hips (about the height of your SI joint) and it goes under your clothes so no one needs to know but it is again something that helps me get some extra support.
5. On the lines of items that you can own but I’ve gotten from my PT/Physio – I have tape that is similar to the stuff you see some athletes wear on areas that are weak – remember Kerri Walsh, the Olympic volleyball Gold Medalist wore that strange piece of tape on her shoulder – same idea. Usually my PT/Physio will tape up my back but if I need to – my husband can do it in a pinch. I love having my back taped although I don’t do it too often, when I do it helps my back so much!
6. Music! I find that the spa type music is perfect for me but it is the same concept of occupying you mind. Whatever works for you.
7. A Supply of various heat producing patches that you can pick up at the drugstore. These do help – remember, we’re looking for tiny bits that help make a bigger impact.
8. Eye Mask – Many of us with AS have eye issues that create severe sensitivity to light. Even when I’m not flaring I find that sleeping with an eye mask helps give my eyes a break and helps prevent the pain of a headache behind the eyes. I love the Tempur-pedic mask but they are $29. I bought my first mask in Las Vegas. I was there for a trade show back before my diagnosis and I was so sick. I could barely open my eyes. I would later find out I was experiencing the first in a series of undiagnosed iritis flares. If you’ve had one – you know how horrible and dangerous they can be. When I wore that mask out probably 5 years later – Doug found a perfectly decent one at Wal-Mart for about $5! My only issue with this is that I can now no longer sleep without it. Look for the big pillow type of mask or treat yourself to the Tempur-Pedic one!
9. Touch. Not Sex – that is the last thing I want when I’m in pain but I love having my hair brushed. It is another sensory distraction that works. Maybe for you its a back scratch or simply having someone hold your hand.
10. Understanding of friends and family. A little empathy goes a long way.
11. Laughter – put on a funny movie or your favorite sitcom. A list of some great ones is below.
What are some of the little things that help you? Please add a comment with your suggestions.
Day 301 was created in mixed media.
In The Studio
1. Countdown – 64 days to Apple-A-Thon!
2. Apple Recipe of the Day – Fresh Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze
3. Interesting Article Of The Day – 11 funny movies to help ease pain.
4. AS Blogger Spotlight – Jennifer from Live Art.fully writes a beautiful blog. She talks about art, her family, and living with chronic illness. I love Jennifer’s writing and I love hearing her anecdotes about her two sweet and bright little girls.