Good news and bad news

The bad news is I have the flu and am currently not in a bloggable condition (urgh...) Feeling so sick reminds me of taking cell poisoning, a fate even worse than watching political debates or trying to communicate with bad doctors...


I'm going back to bed.

eh, and the good news?

Is that it will be over soon.

I hope.

#58 Employ yourself

Congratulations! You're hired!

I would like to propose an idea. Imagine that as of today you have a new job... it is your job to get well.
From now on you are your own physician, nurse, counsellor, physiotherapist, advisor and personal trainer.
Imagine yourself being hired - by you - to do the most important job in your life - that is taking care of your health!

Can you imagine being pain free and perfectly healthy? Then you have taken the first and most important step on your road to healing. How close are you to working full time on your own health today? How many hours a week do you spend on health-maintenance? Are you up to a regular work week yet, or more?

When I was on disability and was spending three days a week in hospitals for different treatments and tests, I used to get queasy every time anybody asked me about what I did for a living. Being young and on disability or extended sick leave is generally frowned upon, and it doesn't help if you have an invisible handicap. It usually means you have to tell a short version of your health story, which most often is a definite party stopper, and means the other person is obliged to say things like "Oh, that' s too bad!".... "I'm so sorry" or even worse: "You know, my aunt also had cancer, and she went to this doctor who said she should eat algae every day for a month, and she did, and she's all good now!" or something like that.

You know what I'm talking about: It just gets very awkward.

Well, here's the idea: As of today you can choose to see yourself as a Professional Patient, with a Licence to Heal... give yourself a nice snazzy title that fits your situation, and try introducing yourself that way next time random people at parties ask you what you do for a living. Take your healing every bit as serious as you would a well paid day job, make a plan, and stick to it.

It's a career choice you will never regret :)

#57 Squat!

A simple exercise that works up to 75% of your muscle at the same time, strengthens back and stomach, trains balance, heart & lungs and gives you a cardio workout, no equipment required... you can do it anywhere anytime... how cool is that?

As cool as squat.

Simple knee bends, where you align feet shoulder-width apart, keep back straight, bend knees over toes, go down gently as deep as you're comfortable with - but never more than to a 90 degree angle.
Do it right. Follow these guidelines.

Squats are not just for weightlifters, and they don't need to be very advanced. Be careful to warm up your knees gently first, and start at a level that feels right for you; don't go too deep but try to get your thighs working. It's a perfect exercise to start with at home, you can do 15 repetitions waiting for the kettle to boil, another 15 while the tea is steeping. Max effect for minimum time!

#56 Get really worked up about sports

I’m one of those people who hardly ever gets worked up about anything sport-wise. My great grandaunt Inger said it so well, when she commented on a soccer match on TV: ”Why are all those men running around in the mud fighting for that ball? Can’t they just have one each?”... which are my sentiments exactly.

But last night all of that changed. Last night Sweden and Norway were competing for another olympic medal in cross country skiing, and THEN finally my Norwegian genes kicked in...

Maybe it's because while my family is gathered (rather; snowed in) on my Mom’s farm in Dalsland, we have nothing else to do than dig snow caves, mess around in waist high snow with planks on our feet, play board games and watch the Vancouver Olympics. And it's so much more fun to watch sports together with somebody who actually cares, like my stepdad, who REALLY cares, and knows all the details about all the runners, and how they've performed the last 10 years and what injuries they may or may not have...

So last night, we were watching the relay run, 2 whole hours of adrenaline and suspense before the Swedes kicked our ass and won the gold medal... which is... the first time in 22 years for them ... Congratulations Sweden! ... and pretty tragic for us.

And I realized, adrenaline is a pretty good painkiller... maybe sports isn't so bad after all?

#55 Write a poem

I don't agree that it is "The new and hip way to express yourself"(lol...)  but writing poetry has always been an effective way to vent and possibly work through emotions. Who cares if it's "good", or if anyone else wants to read it? Write for your own sake, it's therapeutic and can help you heal.

For seven years while my back fracture was unstable, I lived with intense daily pain and was gradually worn down by it. After successful surgery and several years of rehabilitation I wrote a book about that period of my life. It's called Learning To Fly, and it's not published yet. In it I wrote a lot of lyrical prose about living with pain. Here's a small excerpt:

The pain is like music, it comes in waves. 
A silent symphony runs through my body at night. 
A solid note that does not bend, waver, shake or stir. 

I never knew it would be like this.

Sounds and suffering awaken slowly,
the night so coarse you can’t see for the sadness.
Rise with the new day.
Stretch like a lover’s wing under the dawn.
I’m awake, still awake, and I don’t want to feel, 
I don’t want to know this ensnaring chasm that lies ahead. 
Trembling feet reaching timidly into the depth of darkness.
I am here, I am here. 

But where are you when I call your name?


Once you've written your poem, you can decide whether to shred, save or share it. If you want to share, The American Pain Foundation has a collection of poems about pain and encourage people to submit their own.

#54 TENS your body

You know what they say: "It's never too late to learn how to electrocute yourself!" or... wait a minute, maybe that's not what they say... or, who are "they" anyway, and what are they doing in my blog?


This is a TENS machine, and TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, which might explain why I'm quite happy using the abbreviation.

A TENS unit is a small batterypowered thingy that lets you electrocute yourself, or give yourself mild electric shocks through sticky electrodes placed on the skin. Now why would anyone want to do do this, you might ask? Well my friend, turns out that zapping yourself with high frequency electricity at low voltage blocks the pain signals to the brain and stimulates the production of endorphins.

Simply speaking: Zapping yourself with a TENS unit 20 minutes a day can relieve your pain.

It doesn't work for everybody all the time, and some people prefer opioids and other narcotics, but if you're looking for safe, non-addictive pain relief, TENS is definitely worth a try. Most health insurances will cover the purchase of the unit.

There are different places you can zap for different effects, and most units have different programs, that combine high and low frequencies for best effect. Safety rules: Never use TENS around your heart or neck, never use it if you have a pacemaker and always always always consult your doctor before trying TENS or any other new treatment.

#53 Balance your blood sugar

This is a general mood-enhancing tip, not just a chronic pain tip. But hey, being in pain usually dampens our mood quite a bit, so we need all the help we can get!

Several years ago a doctor specialized in arthritis and nutrition told me that sugar in general provides extra fuel for inflammation and thus provokes auto immune diseases. I figured it would be worth a try to cut sugar completely, but never really managed to stick to it.

Last year I stumbled upon a book called "Potatoes not Prozac" while I was doing random research for my next book. It had a really interesting theory of how some peoples brains have more than average receptors for beta-endorphin, which make them sugar sensitive, prone to mood swings and more succeptible to addiction. After reading about this, and learning more from different sources, I tested a blood-sugar balancing diet for a few months, and wow, what an amazing difference it did to my mood and general productivity!

Usually, I'll have lots of energy in the morning, and always experience a severe dip in energy levels in the afternoon. My mood is generally unfathomably unstable, but when I started eating small meals every three hours and cut refined sugar from my diet it only took a few days before I was functioning at a level I've never experienced before. Big improvement is all I can say. Of course... I didn't manage to stick to it long term this time either... I think a stray cinnamon bun caught me off guard, and it went downhill from there... but maybe next time around?

This diet is apparently really good for steady and sustainable weight loss too. Which may be ok if you're not underfed and skinny. I'm quite happy being curvy, but good mood and stable energy reserve might just be worth the effort:)

#52 Look for "what's right"


A big part of working on healing and rebuilding after my third back operation was purely mental training. At the time I didn't understand why, but I noticed that it made such a huge difference what I focused on. Some days this simple thing could literally mean the difference between being able to walk or having to stay in the wheelchair, or even worse, stay in bed.

Gradually I noticed that in any given situation, I had a choice what to focus on. Very bluntly put, I could focus on what was wrong, or I could focus on what was right. Focusing on "what's wrong" seemed to be a pretty good survival strategy, and had often been necessary earlier in order to function with  arthritis, a crushed spine and whiplash. But once my back fracture was stabilized, thanks to a three level spinal fusion with steel implants, I could start rebuilding myself safely.

Then I found out that my brain really wasn't helping me get better by being on crisis alert and looking for everything that could go wrong in any possible situation. I needed to retrain my brain to start focusing on what was right and what was good in those same situations that had seemed challenging before. Since then, I have learned a little about positive psychology and neuroplasticity. With basic training in Neuro-Linguistic-Programming I learned how to start looking for what could be positive in any given situation, and lo and behold, as I did, the positive stuff grew!! I quickly realized that when I succeeded in maintaining a positive focus, I had much more energy throughout the day, energy I could use to rebuild myself physically and mentally.

It's very easy for people to say that we should "think positive", but due to the way or brains are wired after living with health problems for a while ("cells that wire together fire together") that may actually not be physically possible straight away. We may have to train that ability gradually, and the first step in that direction is to start looking for what's right.

#51 List pain-increasing activities

Last Saturday's post was about listing all the things that make you feel better and help your pain. Today's pain free tip is to write down all the things that increase or provoke your pain.

These two activities together can have a bigger impact on your health than you realize.

It's amazing how much we really know about our health & well being that we don't consciously think about... and what a huge difference it would do if we did. Just by doing MORE of the things on you "feel good list" and LESS of the things on your pain-increasing list, you may be able to cut your pain by more than half. That's what I did.

But everyone is different, and only you can know what's right and wrong for you.

Writing your very own "Not to do-list" can be an eyeopener. Some of the things you can't or won't want to change, and that's ok, but just knowing that you have a choice may feel good.

#50 Dance


Why wait till Saturday night, when you can dance right now? 
Calvin and Hobbes have a great routine going on here, and I'm not saying you need to involve any stuffed tigers or other imaginary friends in this activity, but you can ...

It's great physical training, it's fun, you can do it anywhere (it's especially fun when done in wildly inappropriate places, like.. standing in line at the tax office) and there's no "right" or "wrong" dance style. Dead simple, just put on a swingy song, get up - or roll out your wheelchair - and move around. I like the 3 minute "get your blood circulating"-dance in the afternoon. If I've been stuck in front of the computer too long, and I notice some muscle pain is creeping up the scale from 3 to 4, I'll switch to my happy-list on Spotify (it's collaborative, so you can add your own) and dance to a song or two. I always feel better afterwards, and my colleagues usually do too... at least they smile more;)

#49 Grieve


The last few Thursdays' empowerment topic has been linked with the Kübler-Ross grief cycle, and different stages of grieving. Breaking denial and reaching bottom are important steps to go through. But at some point we need to let go and just grieve.

Whatever trauma you've been through, and whether it was an accident, injury or disease that brought this pain into your life, what happened has happened. Life will never be the same, and everything turned out different than you wanted. 

It sucks.  

The suckiest part may just be that there's absolutely nothing you can do to change the past, you're powerless there. 

But it's okay to be sad. It's even okay to be REALLY sad... to bawl and cry and just be a huge sniffling, scruffy mess. For however long you need to in order to move forward, let it out, you're entitled to it, and no-one can tell you otherwise.

#48 Allow some everyday craziness

You don't have to go and do anything silly like infect yourself with mad cows disease or anything, I'm just saying: Crazy people have more fun. People who have more fun are less likely to have a lot of pain.

So allowing some everyday craziness to enter your life is a healthy step on the way to a pain free life.
Imagine all the muscle tension we build by holding all those crazy ideas and wacky wishes inside!

Yes, it's totally okay to bring a whole bunch of pink ballons to the office with you, just because they make you feel good. Do so with a smile. Yes, it's totally okay to proclaim that "Tuesday is pyjama day!" and wear your favourite jammies, slippers and fluffy robe to the Tuesday lunch meeting. Once in a while.

Personally I love climbing on things that grown ups aren't supposed to climb on, balancing on fences and climbing on statues and trees. I love bringing stuffed animals to work with me and calling them colleagues, asking for their opinion.

I should probably get one of these buttons, just to warn people... I'd wear it with pride:)

#47 Spike it up!


This little thing is one of my very best friends. 
A spiky plastic massage ball.
I can roll it against my shoulders when the muscles are really stiff and painful, and it  always helps.

#46 Foot treatment

Happy feet makes the whole body feel happier. Just try it, you'll see...

Today's pain free tip is to pamper your feet with a "happy feet" - treatment consisting of soak, scrub, foot massage and lotion.

Start by filling a tub with hot water, and add juice from one lemon, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a little milk. Varieties with lavender, peppermint oil, honey or epsom salts can be nice, just try out and decide what you like the best! Soak feet in this as long as it feels good.

Prepare next phase by having a small cup of white granuled sugar ready, and when you remove feet from soak, scrub them with the sugar to remove dry skin.

Then massage as well as you can (this part is way better if you can exchange foot treatment with a good friend or partner), making sure to gently rub all sore parts but not hurt any aching joints or ligaments. For the finale, smear in some good creamy lotion.


#45 Remind yourself


Next step after identifying and writing a list of things you can do that help your pain, is choosing your ten favorite tips. Write these out on individual, preferably colorful, notes and post them around your home and on your possessions, in places where you will see them often. 

That way you will be reminded of things you can do that will help reduce and possibly prevent the pain.

#44 Write a feel-good list

Today's pain free tip: write a list of all the things that help your pain.

What things can you do, eat, rub, use, make, sit on, lie on, look at, feel that help?
What activities help?
What places make you feel better?
Which people can you think of, talk to, write to, meet, hug, kiss, cry with, listen to that help?

Start your list at random, it doesn't have to pretty, just set aside 15 minutes for this now, you can always add more later, but start your list and just let all the things that come to mind pour out.
Nothing is too big, nothing is too small.


#43 Sit well

not like this...
....not like this...

...really...not like this....
and not like this either....


We spend a whole lot of our adult lives sitting. 
How do you sit when you are in pain, and how can you sit to relieve your pain?

Now of course, while writing this I am slouching in Samuel's couch looking like a sack of potatoes... but IN THEORY... I know that sitting well is one of the most important things I can do to avoid letting the pain in my back, neck and head build up. 
(short pause while Anna corrects her posture)

I've found that sitting dynamically is the best way for me, preferably staying mobile while I sit and also getting up and moving around at least 10 minutes every hour. 

I love the exercise balls that you can sit on, they are great for keeping your blood flowing and muscles active while sitting, but unfortunately I don't have one right now. Ooooh, imagine decorating a whole room filled with exercise balls in different sizes and colours... now THAT would be a room I'd be happy to work in!!

This might work well for some...

...but what works best for you and your pain?

#42 Reach Bottom


Sometimes life sucks and there doesn't seem to be anything you can do in order for it to get better. If you have lived with chronic pain as a big part of your life, you know the powerlessness, the frustration, the grief and the guilt that comes with it. Sitting inside on a sunny day when everyone else is out, again, clenching your teeth through the pain and counting the hours till you can take the next dose of medication without it losing effect.

I've realized that for things to get better, they usually need to get pretty bad first. And in order to get to the light at the surface and breathe fresh air, we may need to go really deep and reach bottom first. Because when we've reached bottom, we can get a good steady grip with our feet and kick our way back up.

Maybe it's true that we need to give up fighting before we can find real solutions. As long as we're "fighting to get well" we're not accepting all the help that's already around us... we can't even see it...

I think that all the solutions I needed were around me all the time while I was dealing with severe pain every day for 10 years, but I just couldn't see them. I had to reach bottom and give up fighting, get out of denial and start working with myself before I could find solutions and start building a healthy and happy life. And feeling like a victim and focusing on all the reasons why I could feel sorry for myself sure didn't help one little bit.

Someone once told me that whenever you put down your shovel and stop digging, that's when you reach bottom. And then you can start getting better. Maybe it's true?

#41 Play a board game!


Get your mind off pain, doctors, medication, physiotherapists and all other health related things for a while, and do something social that does not require strenuous activity or stress: Play a board game!!!

Time required? 20 minutes to unlimited.

Featured game: Carcassone with the Princess and the Dragon expansion set. Absolutely pain-free recommended!

#40 Buy a chronic pain awareness bracelet


Chronic pain awareness bracelets made by Heather Jordan, she also makes beautiful ones that you can put on even with arthritic and stiff fingers.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics more than one-quarter of Americans (26%) age 20 years and over - or, an estimated 76.5 million Americans - report that they have had a problem with pain. Studies from the Pain Management Research Institute reveal an annual cost of $1.85 billion per 1 million people.

In my home country, Norway, the cost of chronic pain is spiraling out of control as more and more people are unable to work. Now almost a quarter of the population is some kind of pension or social security, and there's only two million people left in the workforce. If we didn't have the oil, we'd be so screwed...

In an article on what they call the "Pain Epidemic" The Science Daily quotes neurologist Anne Louise Oaklander, director of the nerve injury unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston as saying "Pain is the No. 1 reason why patients seek medical care, but until recently it hasn't been part of the medical school curriculum. Many physicians and nurses feel uncomfortable and unqualified to treat these patients."

...well...that certainly explains alot...

So.. today's pain free tip is to support awareness about Chronic Pain, for example by getting one of these bracelets.

PS: I just got a message that my book, :KRONISK: about my life as a professional patient, set to be published in Norway this fall, has received a huge grant from a free-speech foundation!!! Yayy!!! Time to celebrate!!!

#39 Acupressurize yourself

Exactly how acupressure works is still a mystery to me. Maybe I'd have to grasp the deeper workings of chinese medicine to understand it...ehem, and that's not likely to happen any time soon...

But it works. It's as easy as this picture, grasping the flesh between thumb and index finger/hand, push and hold for as long as you can muster. This point is one of the classic pain-relief acupressure points. Yes it hurts, maybe because it releases endorphins, maybe because it does something "magic" to your energy, whatever it is, it works.

There are lots of other good acupressure points you can use too, find the points in your face/temples/neck that are sore, push gently, hold and release. It's that simple:)

(If this has good effect on you, you may want to check out this book on trigger point self therapy for pain management)

#38 Soak up the Sunlight


Getting enough sunlight is important in order to maintain production of serotonin and Vitamin D. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that is associated with many important functions, such as sleep, mood, appetite, sex drive, and muscle contraction. Chronic pain is often medicated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and it's known that pain and depression often go hand in hand. A simple way to put it is: if you're feeling down, the same pain signals (same sensory input) feels way stronger than if you're feeling happy. That's why there's so much yadda yadda about positive thinking involved in chronic pain management.

So seretonin is important, it makes us feel good. And far from having to go on Prozac or anything like that for the rest of our lives, we may benefit a lot just from soaking up the sunlight in small doses when we can, because serotonin is produced when daylight hits the optic nerve.

Staying indoors where a normal living room has 50-80 lux (light units) may feel like it's bright enough for you, but outside in the daylight, even without direct sunlight, you are exposed to 10,000–25,000 lux... which is like... ehem... 200 to 500 times more... And direct sumlight has 32,000–130,000 lux... phew... that's not even comparable to indoor lighting.

Sunlight is also the best way to secure production of Vitamin D. Researchers at the Mayo clinic have linked chronic pain to Vitamin D insufficiency, and lack of Vitamin D is also linked with higher mortality from heart disease.

Doctors say that it's nearly impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from your diet, and that sunlight exposure is the only reliable way to generate vitamin D in your own body. Apparently 10 minutes of sunlight midday in the summer is enough for most people to produce sufficient Vitamin D. 

Okay, so this might not be so easy for those of us who live in the cold and dark northern countries - during the winter atleast... but it just means we need to take the opportunities that we get, put on our good shoes, go outside and soak up the sunlight.

#37 Write a pain journal

Have you started using the pain scale yet? If not, check it out. Today's pain-free tip is to start keeping a pain journal.

Most doctors find it very helpful, and recommend it to their patients. If you're in the position that you haven't had a chance to meet a pain specialist yet (most of us don't until we've had chronic pain for many years... I met mine by chance while I was doing a pilgrimage to Santiago), starting to keep a pain journal now will enable both your MD and any future specialist to get a deeper understanding of your symptoms and provide you better treatment.

Typical entries in a pain journal would be:

  • Date and place
  • Pain levels throughout the day
  • List of activities with times
  • Amount of medicine taken
  • Effects/side effects of medication
  • Reflection:
  • Did the pain limit your activities today? If so, how?

Try to keep it simple, even a very short entry is better than nothing:)

Contact CT Pain Foundation (email) to receive your own detailed Pain Notebook for free. The American Pain Foundation has a detailed Pain Notebook which you can download as a pdf and use the way it is. Or you can make your own, scrap book style, where you can paste in some mementoes of your patient-career, and hopefully someday you can look in it with wonder and think "Wow... I'm so glad that part of my life is over and I have no more pain today".

#36 Warm water training


It's fun, it's great exercise and you won't drown if you just keep your head above water. Warm water training, or Hydrotherapy as it's sometimes called, will make your muscles smile and reduce aches and pains.

A study done by scientists in Ireland in 2008 to examine the benefits of hydrotherapy for treating fibromyalgia states that "Positive outcomes were reported for pain, health-status and tender point count." A similar study was done in Spain the same year which found that "Patients (that had participated in an eight month test with hydrotherapy) had reduced pain, as well as increased strength, flexibility and endurance. They also had improved sleep, better mood and increased confidence in being able to perform their daily activities."

Hydrotherapy is one of the best forms of exercise if you suffer from rheumatism, and because water has 12 times the resistance of air, water training is great for building muscle. At the same time as you're targeting specific muscle groups your small stabilizing muscles get a great work-out just keeping you balanced upright in the water,  and the water supports the body's weight, reducing strain on joints and minimizing pain.

But be careful with heat if you have active inflammation, because it can increase your symptoms.

In Norway my rheumatology hospital organized warm water training for the patients who were well enough to train twice a week. The water was around 34 degrees celsius, so just below body temperature, and there was a physiotherapist who held the class and showed us what to do. It was quite fun, but didn't really feel like I was exerting myself very much - until I got out of the water... then I felt how much I'd been training. After a few weeks I found that I was getting noticably stronger and had less pain.

#35 Break your denial


Recognizing and seeing through one´s own denial can be quite entertaining when it's at the "Problem? I see no problem?!!" stage, especially when it comes to breaking bad habits or just a general disposition of self-delusion. But sometimes it's way more than that, sometimes denial is a matter of life and death.

When you've been diagnosed with an incurable disease or have been seriously injured in an accident, denial is an essential survival strategy. Whether it's waking up in a hospital ward with tubes sticking out of your body, or sitting in the Doctors office being told that "The tests were positive" (positive, that means it's good, right??), the ability to filter the shock is a great strength. Your life is changing, you have no control over what's happening, and you just can't handle it all at the same time. That's why we have this built in denial-function that softens the blow and tells us "its not so bad, it will be ok". basically trying to normalize and stabilize in what feels like a life threatening situation.

In the Kübler Ross grief cycle, which is recognized by psychologists all over the world, denial is identified as the first in the five stages of grief.

I remember the nurses telling me about this as I was trying to learn to walk after breaking my back, they said: "You will most likely go through different stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance." Ambitious patient as I was, I smiled gracefully and thought to myself; "Yeah right, screw that. I'm not in denial, I've already accepted this" .. which was.. in hindsight... of course just my denial speaking.

For the next 7 years or so I refused to accept that my life had changed, and insisted on trying to live the same way I'd done before breaking my back, which of course just made it more difficult to get well. How could I get well, when I deep down wouldn't even admit that I was seriously injured in the first place?

Sometimes the ability we have to deny what's happening and construct our own reality is amazing, but in my experience denial is also a slow death. Because to stay in denial, with a cramplike "Everything is ok!" attitude, you need to suppress, filter or simply hide different aspects of your life. Basically you need to lie to yourself, and in order to lie to yourself, you also need to lie to the world.

With chronic disease the shock does not necessarily go away, many times you keep getting new blows (bad test results, the meds don't work, the operation failed) which means that you may have to keep your denial really strong for a long time. Gradually the filter spreads, from blocking out just the fear and grief, after a while it starts blocking positive emotions too. You may find yourself feeling distant from everything, not being able to feel strong emotions of any kind, just swaddled in a growing gray cloud of discontent.

I think all change starts with wanting change. So if you want to move forward and get better health, what can you do to break your denial? What can you do to start seeing things as they really are, so that you can focus your strength on getting better, instead of spending it all on maintaining your own illusion?

Red pill or blue pill? Choose wisely!

PS. It's completely normal and OK to get angry at people who mess with your self-deception. That's all part of the deal.

#34 Collect jokes

Exactly when you thought laughter was the least likely thing to strike you today, I'm going to give you a little challenge. Today's pain free tip is to start collecting jokes.

Dr. Morreall at humorworks explains that:
  • Physically and mentally, humor is the opposite of stress. Laughter lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation, reduces muscle tension and pain, and boosts the immune system.
  • Humor fosters mental flexibility, blocking negative emotions and allowing us to think our way through problems instead of feeling our way through them. It makes us more creative and better at coping with change.
Sounds pretty good, huh?

Humor increases our quality of life and improves our relationships, but just like any other capacity, it needs to be practiced. What better way than to start collecting jokes and spreading the fun? My father is notorious for sending out massive amounts of emails with witty jokes and pictures, sometimes several times a day. When I'm in my painful little bubble, filled with stress and worry, I can get rather annoyed at all these big emails crowding my inbox...

Then I take a look, and more often than not, I have a laugh... sometimes I even forget I am in pain.

So. This blog post is going to have a follow up further down the line...but for today:

1. Open a new word document
2. Sort through your inbox and find the very best jokes you have received
3. Drag and drop or cut and paste them into your word document
4. Save document under "my very own comic relief" or some other nice name...
5. Lean back, read and laugh

Here are a few links to get you started:

Or some slightly weirder humor: the comic Axecop, written by a five year old, drawn by his 29 year old brother.

Then the nerdy humor (gotta love those nerds) XKCD  and just a very small Darth Vader pun... (can't help myself...)

If you're interested in this topic, check out this audiobook by Dr. Bernie Siegel about Humor and Healing, which can also be bought on iTunes music store.
PS: And this is a special challenge to my Dad: Paps, if you start a blog with a collection of your very best jokes and funny pictures, we can all share in the fun;)

#33 Weatherproof your pain

Humidity, temperature & barometric pressure affects joint pain, migraines and muscle pain (for example in fibromyalgia). 

What can you do about it? 

Well, apart from moving to the Sahara desert, or a similarly dry and exciting place, you can buy a good hygrometer and barometer, and notice how your pain scale is affected by the changes in weather.

Once you have some basic understanding of how your aches and pains respond to changes in the weather, you may be able to implement different strategies at an earlier time. Instead of being hit with the surprise super-migraine every time the pressure drops dramatically, and feeling like a giant failure for not being able to cope with your responsibilities that day, cut yourself some slack. Grant yourself a soft "stay-at-home-and-be-kind-to-yourself-day" - maybe using some of the other tips in this blog - when you see the telltale signs of a painful weather alignment coming on.

Bring out the dark chocolate, ointment, woolly clothes (or furry friend) and call your friends.

That way, the pain may still come, but you can limit how much it wears on you, and you won't necessarily feel so bad about it.

#32 Give yourself a massage

Massage helps chronic pain

Okay, so it's not exactly independent data, but interesting all the same: a few years ago The American Massage Therapy Association found that 47% of the people polled in a consumer survey were using massage therapy specifically to relieve and manage their pain, and 91% said massage therapy was effective in reducing pain.

In another survey done in 2005 patients rate massage as equally effective as medication to treat pain.

Some research on effective use of massage to treat pain:

  • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis - Parents massaged their arthritic children and found they experienced less pain and had less morning stiffness following the massage(Field et al, 1997).
  • Fibromyalgia - Patients with fibromyalgia slept better and had less pain following a month of biweekly massages. (Field et al, 2002).
  • Back Pain - Participants with low back pain were found to have a reduction in pain and an increase in their mobility after massage therapy (Hernandez-Reif et al, 2001).
  • Labor Pain - Massage therapy was given to pregnant women during labor and they demonstrated a decrease in anxiety and pain as well as had shorter hospital stays (Field et al, 1997).
Do you have a good massage therapist? If not, maybe it's time to try?

Massage also works well if you do it yourself, but of course there are some limitations on what part of your body you can reach... Might be wonderful if you have a friend or loved one who is willing to practice their massage techniques on you, or maybe a masseur or physiotherapist in training?