This past November I had surgery on my left foot for a tendon that I tore while running. The recovery time for the surgery was about six months, and for two of those months, I was not able to put any weight on my foot. I spent a lot of time sitting.
During that time, I started having extreme back pain. I went to my doctor, who immediately prescribed me oxycontin to help with the pain.
I’m three years into recovery from an addiction to alcohol, so I did not want to take the pills.
I was determined to find a way to manage the pain without taking the oxy. This has been a six-month-long journey for me of trial and error. I’ve compiled a list below of the things that have helped me manage my pain.
1. Reading. I dove head first into finding holistic ways to manage my pain and books were so helpful. The first book I read was The Pain Management Workbook by Dr. Rachel Zoffness. This book taught me all about the pain cycle, where it originates in the brain, and how to lessen my response to pain. It uses cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness techniques to teach readers how to manage their symptoms.
2. Podcasts. I found so many amazing podcasts that talked specifically about chronic pain as well as tips on how to manage it. Here are a few of my favorite episodes:
The Ezra Klein Show: This Book Changed My Relationship to Pain
Feel Better, Live More, Episode #310: How to Heal Chronic Pain with Dr. Howard Schubiner
Humberman Lab: Control Pain & Heal Faster with Your Brain
3. Meditation, or Yoga Nidra. At least once a day for about 30 minutes I meditate using the Calm App. If I’m not in the mood to meditate I practice Yoga Nidra. If you’re not familiar with Yoga Nidra it’s a state of
consciousness between waking and sleeping. It can be done through guided meditation. I use the app Insight Timer for Yoga Nidra.
4. Socialize. I have found that my pain is often the worst when I’m alone and isolated. We release oxytocin when we are with or talking to people we care about and this can significantly reduce our pain. Make sure you are seeing or talking to loved ones at least once a week.
5. Movement. I made the mistake early on of staying in bed when I was in pain. I thought that because I was in pain I needed to lie down. The opposite was true for me. The more I stayed stagnant the more my pain increased. Make sure you move a little every day.
6. Stretch/Yoga. I stretch every day at least twice a day. It helps my limbs from getting too tense. YouTube has some amazing stretching videos. Here's one of my favorites.
7. Eating an Anti-Inflammatory Diet. This one is hard because I don’t always follow it perfectly but I have found that when I eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet I feel so much better. Here’s the one I follow.
8. Keep a Pain Log. I write down my symptoms from day to day and how I feel. This is very helpful because it allows you to see what may have triggered your pain or relieved it. I’ve also found that it helps to look back and see that I’m NOT always in pain. I do have pain-free moments.
9. Heating Pad. This is a must! Invest in a good heating pad. I use mine when I meditate, and it’s been a game-changer!
10. Reflexology. I actually just started using Reflexology for pain and love it. Reflexology is a practice used to put pressure on specific points of the body using a tool or your hands. I bought this Reflexology tool on Amazon and it’s been so helpful.
11. Peer Support. Living with chronic pain can be isolating and I often struggle with depression and anxiety. I use the WhiteFlag App to connect with others who understand my struggles. It's easy to use, and I know I’ll always be able to find someone to chat with.
Lastly, I practice a lot of self-compassion.
There are a lot of things I can’t do because of my chronic pain and it’s often frustrating. I’ve learned to be kind and patient with myself. Living with chronic pain isn’t easy, but it definitely can be managed.
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