Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pain management and coping techniques

Pain Management and Coping Skills

Pain management has been somewhat of a hot topic lately.  Since I am on a little vacation, now seemed like a great time to talk about it.  When one has chronic pain, one needs to figure out what works for them to help deal with it.  We have found several things through the years.

Baths and water activities

Emily loves her baths.  Warm baths have a way of taking some of the tenderness out of sore joints and muscles. Sometimes we use epsom salts, which are known to help quite a bit.  Sometimes we use a scent that she really likes, like lavender.  Sometimes we use arnica oil, which is also really good for drawing out pain.  On really bad days she will use the epson salts in combination with an oil.

Water activities, like aquatherapy or water aerobics, are also quite helpful!  The joints are supported better by the water, causing less pain but a harder workout.  Many people that won't do a traditional workout will at least go walk around in the pool.  It is especially useful for people that have severe osteoporosis in their knees.

Paraffin baths

There's nothing like hot wax to help take the inflammation out of the hands.  Paraffin baths come in a variety of sizes, some with adjustable heat settings.  We have also found that you can add things into the wax, such as soothing oils.  We added some lanolin and essential oils to ours.  The longer you can hold the heat in, the better it will work.  It can be used for hands and wrists or feet and ankles.

Essential oils

Yes, we were very skeptical at first.  We really did not put much faith into them to begin with.  I know children that need morphine.  While they really needed it and it wasn't really by choice, it was an option that I did not want presented!  Lidocaine patches have worked for others in the past, but they did not work for my children.  We were running out of options, so we thought we would take a chance.  I still cannot believe how well the doTERRA Deep Blue works!  We use many oils now for many things, but our favorites are definitely the Deep Blue, and their headache blend, Past Tense.  Emily has a lot of headaches lately, partly because of her cortisol levels, partly because of the new hormones, and partly because of the sinus pressure the poor kid has in her head.  The two oil blends have helped her more than anything.  Also, the Deep Blue took her knee pain down to almost nothing.  (Please feel free to PM me if you are interested!  I am NOT a salesperson, but I can sell them if you are interested.)

Biofeedback and psychology

I had never heard of biofeedback before, but it's actually pretty cool.  When I was a kid, I was involved in every possible theatre class and production around.  My wonderful music and drama teacher in high school taught us relaxation techniques.  I tried to teach them to Emily, but, well, my last drama class was 1991.  I searched for apps, but at the time I couldn't find them.  I kind of let it go as a lost cause, until we started seeing our pain management doctor.  She is NOT the type who wants to push pills.  Quite the contrary; she did not want to add pills.  She decided to send us to biofeedback and psychology both.  Child psychologists are not the easiest to find, but child psychologists who deal with chronic pain patients seemed to be even more difficult.  We finally found one, but we had a 2 month wait to be seen.  We squeezed biofeedback in around psychology.  This was the coolest thing!

Maybe it isn't as amazing with adults because many adults have their minds set that this will not work.  (That is what our specialist told us, anyway.)  They talked.  Emily was hooked up to monitors.  Yeah, really.  They attach sensors to the sweat glands, and then show you how nervous or calm you are on the screen.  The great thing is that we could see that when we mentioned broccoli, her stress level shot through the roof.  (Seriously.  It's bad.)  However, after learning a few techniques, she could also see her stress level go down.  The cool thing about that is she could see how she could calm herself down.  The great thing is that these are techniques that she can use for the rest of her life.


I know- nobody wants to hear it.  I know I don't.  But it's true.  The days that I don't move, I tend to hurt more.  The days I make myself go to the gym, I have more energy and feel better.  If you can strengthen the muscles around the bad joints, the joints will have better support and hurt less.  Besides, we all know it is when we stop and try to re-start that we hurt the most.  Emily has to play on the Wii Fit at least three times a week.  I try to hit the gym as often as I can.  And I kick Zach outside to play with his friends.  

I have an amazing friend, also from high school, who has lupus.  She has had more back surgeries than  I can bear thinking about.  She is running marathons.  Yeah.  She totally puts me to shame.  I've been thinking lately that if she can do it, I can do it.  Right?  Maybe in time....

Stress Balls

For our hands we use stress balls.  Squeezing them can help to relieve some of the discomfort.  It's also good therapy.  Using your hands as much as possible is very helpful.  It can be hard when your hands are aching, but even wiggling them is good.  

Any activity is good activity! 

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