Dealing with chronic pain can make even the most mundane task unbearable. How do you keep it from wrecking your life? Today I’m sharing my experiences and tips for coping. Plus check out my review of Salonpas, an incredible suite of OTC topical pain relief products.
I never thought I’d be dealing with so much chronic pain at such a young age. I just turned 40 last July, but my chronic pain issues actually started years before that. In fact, my first episode of back pain started when I was just 13! In the last few years, I’ve been diagnosed with multiple herniated and bulging disks in my back, carpal tunnel in both hands, a pinched nerve in my neck that won’t unpinch itself and migraines that make my former chronic headaches feel like fairy kisses. Oh, did I mention the degenerative arthritis in my lower back?
What made me so messed up at such a relatively young age? That’s a good question. I wasn’t an athlete. No major accidents I can think of. I fell out of a few trees as a kid, but I always got back up. I never broke a bone. I drank my milk and took my yummy chewable vitamins every morning as a child. I think it must be genetics, though, because my mom has a lot of the same back issues and almost all of my aunts have carpal tunnel. Whatever the reason, living with chronic pain isn’t fun. In fact, it pretty much sucks the life right out of you. So how do you keep it from completely obliterating your existence?
Honestly, some days, chronic pain IS going to keep you from having a good day. That’s the sad fact of living with it. Other days, though, you can get out there and have fun! Check out how I deal with chronic pain.
Tips for Dealing with Chronic Pain
Affiliate links included below. I received the Salonpas products mentioned below in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Make others aware, and ask for help
When I was 18, my chronic back pain started acting up really bad after a long car trip to New Orleans and back. I was so embarrassed to be a teenager with a bad back that I didn’t tell anyone. I just suffered in silence. Even my early 30s, I didn’t want to be “that girl who whines all the time.” I figured people would think I was STILL too young for chronic pain and didn’t want to hear it.
When I finally started talking about it, though, I not only found others going through the same thing, I also found that my friends and family were more sympathetic and supportive than I gave them credit for. You’re not a complainer if you talk about it or ask for a little extra help when you need it.
Lower your stress. No, seriously!
Pain and stress seem to go hand in hand, at least for me. I ache so much that I can’t function. So I get behind. Then I get stressed and tense up, which causes more pain. Look, you’re never going to completely eliminate stress. That’s just the way life is. I was going to say that we live in really stressful times, but honestly, every time period has been stressful. I mean, look at the 1300s. Those people were trying to survive plague!
We all have different ways of reducing stress. I read, color in my favorite adult coloring books or binge-watch TV shows that I have saved on my DVR. Some people meditate, although I can’t do that. It actually makes me more stressed. Anything you can do to reduce your stress, do it.
Water therapy, aka hydrotherapy, pretty much rocks for relieving chronic pain. If you’re lucky enough to live near a pool, take advantage of it every chance you get. Whenever I stay at a hotel, I pack a bathing suit and hit the water! Hot tubs can feel good, but I get overheated really easily in them. If you can’t get to a pool, your bathtub is your next best friend. My cold care bath salts recipe also works great as a muscle soother, so check that out!
Alternate your pain management methods
When you’re living with chronic pain for a while, you’ll start to find that something works great one day but not at all the next. Talk to your doctor about different types of OTC and prescription medications that you can alternate (even if you do have something you have to take daily), so your body doesn’t get too used to a certain type of medicine. Use OTC pain relief patches like Salonpas (reviewed below) for mild to moderate pain. Try hydrotherapy one day, then massage therapy the next.
Change Your Bed
Getting a good bed is one of the best things I’ve done for my chronic pain. I have a Serta Perfect Sleeper. My mom has a GhostBed. Both are fantastic. When you shop for your new bed, make sure you lay on it the way you actually sleep. Don’t just plunk down on it on your back. I’m a side sleeper, so I needed something with a little give to take the pressure off my hips and shoulder. If you can’t afford a new bed, get a good bed topper.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy is pretty awesome for certain types of chronic pain. Lately, I’ve been getting this big recurring cyst on my wrist. It’s in a spot that pulls on my tendons and is quite painful. We have a little TENS unit here that I use on it and it really helps. It also helps with the pinched nerve in my neck, but doesn’t do much for my back pain. Granted, the relief doesn’t last all that long, but any relief is good when it really hurts! Only use a TENS unit after talking to a physical therapist or doctor about proper placement. You can’t use them for longer than about 30 minutes at a time (at least not the type I use).
Move as much as possible
I abhor those chronic pain relief tip articles that say “exercise is great for chronic pain!” I mean, it definitely is, but really, when your back is killing you, who wants to go run a mile? Still, you do need to move as much as possible. Yoga is actually pretty easy to do when you have back problems. Not that bendy, twisty kind, but basic poses. Swimming is also really comforting. Just clear any new exercise routine with your doc.
Salonpas Topical Pain Relief
When it comes to managing chronic pain, you’ll find yourself trying a lot of different types of topical pain relief options. I know I have. Of all the different types I’ve tried, Salonpas is one of the absolute best you can get without a prescription. I even took my box of Salonpas Pain Relieving Patches to my pain management doctor, to make sure I could use them along with my regular medications, and he said “use them, those really work.”
Salonpas has a pretty diverse range of topical pain relief products, from sprays and gels to their new and improved smaller patches. I’ve tried pretty much all of them already. The Pain Relieving Patches are my favorites. They’re small enough that I can use them on the back of my neck, and flexible enough to use them on my wrist. Most important of all, they really, really work.
Some topical relief products simply distract you with alternating cold and hot sensations. Three minutes of burning pain, three minutes of frostbite sensation, then “gee, how often can I apply this stuff?” Salonpas is actually different. You get that familiar comforting tingly feeling that comes with a menthol-based pain reliever and then some. While the cooling sensation soothes, the active ingredients are going to work to really help your pain. The Methyl salicylate passes through your skin and goes right to the source of your muscular or joint pain.
Another great thing about the Salonpas Pain Relieving Patches: you can wear up to four at a time. With the larger patches, you can only wear one at a time. While those are spectacular for dealing with my back pain while watching TV, when I’m working, I need more coverage.
I also really love the Salonpas Jet Spray. The scent isn’t as strong as the patches, so it’s perfect for when I’m going out. Just point it at the achy spot and spray to “freeze” it away.
All of the Salonpas products really do work fantastic. The Pain Relieving Patch is the only FDA-approved OTC pain patch, and they just made major improvements to it by making it 20% larger and more flexible. If you’re not sure they’re right for you, you can get a free sample and try them out.