Sunday, 17 March 2019

Managing Chronic Pain Week 6


Title text over a faded out photo of a girl climbing on a wooden bar fence.
It's hard to believe we are so far into the course, it's gone so quickly. It's a really nice group of people and I look forward to going. I think I will miss it when it's over. Even though we don't necessarily know why the other group members suffer from pain, or what their circumstances are, it is still really helpful to be able to talk to other people in a similar situation. It really emphasises the point that pain is the same for everyone regardless of where the injury came from, or lifestyle differences. In the group, we've been talking about keeping in touch when it ends, which would be great. This week's topic was flare ups.

Although I was able to return to the group, since I'd had the virus for two weeks and was hopefully not still contagious, I was still pretty ill, so it's been a bit of a struggle to remember much about what happened during the session. So, I will be relying on the handouts to fill in the gaps, and I hope that's ok and still useful. First of all, we compared notes on our goals for the previous week. Mine was still the same as the one before, and I cheated and wrote it in the cafe before the group started, but the group leader really liked it and asked if I could make a finished (ie, not in my rushed handwriting!) copy for the following week, so that it could be photocopied for the group. It basically consisted of a mind map, with all the different explanations for what 'OK' can mean. I won't put it here, as it's barely legible, but I will share the finished version. I also included a list of some of my favourite unhelpful comments I've had regarding my condition, which went something like this ... 

  1. What's wrong with you this time? 

  2. You should go back to the doctor until they do something

  3. Have you tried aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, etc

  4. You need to get more exercise

  5. Have you seen a doctor? or 

  6. Ask for a second opinion.

  7. You'd be fine if you just have to hold your stomach in more

All of these are probably valid points, except possibly the last one, but none of them are going to cure a condition that is, by various medical opinions, incurable, so it can get frustrating to keep having to field comments such as these. It turned out that the rest of the group had heard most of these comments too, which made me feel a bit better.

After which, we moved onto the main subject, which was flare-ups. First we discussed what a flare up was, although anyone with a chronic pain condition is probably all too aware. A flare-up is when your normal level of pain suddenly gets worse. A flare-up can be caused by a number of circumstances, often unique to the sufferer. For example, a flare-up could be caused by overdoing something, which is my favourite mistake. When you're a parent, or if you've got a demanding job, you can sometimes end up pushing yourself further than is probably wise, in order to keep on top of things. Tackling a task, such as lifting something that's too heavy, or twisting awkwardly can also cause a flare-up, if you are not careful. Illness can also aggravate an existing condition and even the  weather has been known to weather pain sufferers adversely.

We heard some about some helpful words that can remind us not to push ourselves to hard; plan, prioritise, pace and prepare. These apply to a lot of situations that pain sufferers can find themselves in, even socialising can cause problems, when you don't feel you can say no, or feel like you're drawing too much attention to yourself if you ask for a seat, etc. Or maybe that's just me. We were then encouraged to write down our own personal warning signs that tell us when we might be inviting a flare-up, so that we can think about ways to avoid it. Sometimes though, flare-ups are unavoidable, in which case you have to start thinking about how to manage a flare up. There are some suggestions below. It is also important to try to learn from it and reflect on what might have caused it and if there was anything you could have done differently.

Relaxation Tension can aggravate pain, so try one of the relaxation techniques from my earlier posts.

Exercise Gentle exercise can help, especially stretches.

Distraction Try doing something you enjoy like reading or listening to music.

Socialising Friends are a great way of taking your mind of things. Have someone over or pick up the phone.

Not all flare-up situations apply to everyone, so the important aspect, as with all aspects of pain control, to work out what works best for you. My goal for the following week, was to sort out a finished version of my 'OK' mind map, which was an easy one for me.



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