If you live with chronic pain, you’re probably all too familiar with chronic pain flare up days – when the pain that you already live with on a daily basis intensifies and completely levels you. In order to help minimize bad chronic pain flares, it’s helpful to know what triggers your physical symptoms and that can help you to cope with a chronic pain flare up.
How Does Weather Affect Pain?
When the weather changes to an extreme, whether from atmospheric changes or temperature fluctuations, it can affect certain types of chronic pain. This is especially true when your pain is related to your joints, such as with arthritis or fibromyalgia. If you start to keep a pain journal and record everything that occurred on the days when you had a flare-up, you might notice that your neck or knees hurt a lot worse when it rains or gets extremely cold. For others, extreme heat can trigger symptoms. Journaling can help you see what weather changes might be triggering you and help you to prepare for them in the future.
The Relationship Between Chronic Pain and Stress
Everyone experiences stress. Some women are living with chronic illness, multiple caregiving responsibilities, work demands and more. It’s overwhelming for sure but we’ve got to learn how to manage it. No matter what chronic illness you’re living with, stress will probably impact your pain levels and cause flare-ups. But be assured that while we can’t eliminate stress completely, effective stress relief methods can help to reduce chronic pain.
Hormones and Chronic Pain
For women, a big flare trigger for chronic pain might be as a result of fluctuating hormonal levels throughout the month. This might be related to PMS, where your pain is worse when you are about to start your period, or you might be experiencing more pain as you head toward menopause. This is yet another reason to keep a pain journal, since it helps you to notice these patterns. The more you know, the more prepared you’ll be for these potential triggers.
Nutrition and Chronic Pain
Eating inflammatory foods such as refined carbs, and sugar can increase symptoms for many people. Others might need to eliminate dairy and gluten. They key is to know yourself and track your symptoms. Again, a journal is going to be helpful here to track your symptoms.
How to Cope With a Chronic Pain Flare Up
Despite your best intentions, chronic pain flare ups can happen at any time. If you’re having a bad day, week or month…just step back and regroup. Think about what absolutely has to get done and let the rest go for now. If you need to spend a few days in bed, that’s perfectly fine. There are things you can do every day that help you cope with your chronic pain. Some things you might already be doing, while others are good to start getting into the normal practice of. It is important that you keep trying to make changes in your life for proper chronic pain management and mental health.
Take Intentional Action to Reduce Stress
Stress has such a large impact on nearly every facet of your life, including your chronic pain. No matter where your pain comes from, stress is likely to trigger chronic pain flare ups and make everything worse. The best thing you can do is figure out what is causing your stress and work to reduce it. Limiting time with toxic people, not taking on extra tasks at work, reducing unnecessary spending and just living a more organized life are a few ways to begin to reduce stress.
Get Those Endorphins Going to Ease Chronic Pain
You may not love exercise, but exercise definitely loves you! We all know it’s great for weight management, but it can also help to promote blood flow that helps to reduce your risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. Working out also helps to release endorphins, the happy chemicals in your brain. When this happens, you not only reduce stress, but your mood will improve and you’ll probably find that you can handle your chronic pain much better. And some types of chronic pain are reduced when you are moving your body more often, like mild forms of arthritis. (This has definitely been true for me in managing the pain from cervical dystonia.)
The Danger of Using Alcohol for Pain Relief
Drinking alcohol may temporarily reduce your pain, but it is only hurting you in the long run. Not only is there a risk of addiction, but alcohol can get in the way of your sleep. Sleeping is extremely important when you are trying to cope with chronic pain, so you don’twant to get into the habit of putting a Band-aid on the pain with alcohol every day. Plus, alcohol is a depressant, so it can make your mood highs and lows a lot worse. And don’t forget how miserable a hangover can be! Finally, mixing alcohol with other meds is extremely dangerous and can lead to catastrophic consequences.
Join a Support Group for Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is serious business. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by it and let it ruin your life. Unfortunately, even those who love you might not understand what it’s like. Finding a chronic pain support group might be one of the best things that you can do for yourself, whether online or local. You’ll feel less alone and much more empowered.
The Effects of Chronic Pain on Family
Chronic pain can cause a lot of family stress including social isolation, marital conflict, and feelings of anger and resentment. Be patient with each other. Let your family know where you’re struggling and ask for help with what you need. Let them know that you appreciate their support. Keep meals and expectations simple. Don’t take on any additional responsibilities. Finally, when you’re feeling awful…just do whatever nourishes your soul. Binge on Netflix, journal, listen to music that you love, take a long bath or spend some time outside. How do you like to regroup during a chronic pain flare up?