#90 Give your diagnosis a cool name

Some things are simply tragic, and getting a life-long chronic diagnosis is a shock and nothing anybody says or does can take away that fact.

As I went through the stages of the grief-process (I was in denial for roughly 7 years, and no, it didn't help me much) I chose some new words to describe my situation. When I broke my back and had to wear a huge aluminum corset for almost a year and a half, I was frustrated, but took the nickname "The flying corset", because once I learnt to walk again I was always speeding around like a busy bee. Later when I'd had two spinal fusions and had steel implanted in my spine, I was the "woman of steel", which in Swedish would roughly translate to "superwoman"... and used to laugh at how my bolts would set off all security alarms in the airports.

If you don't like the label that the doctors give your diagnosis, make your own label! Being an R.A. survivor means you are a Really Awesome Survivor, and suffering CCD can mean that you are a Completely Competent Driver.

Humor always helps, and If someone asks what I do for a living I always quip that I'm a "professional patient", because it sounds more fun than being on disability - and it is the truth, taking care of my health is my job.

#89 Make a flare kit

Some days are worse than others. Some days our pain flares up and we are at a screaming level 8-9-10, and it may take several days to get the pain down to bearable levels again. If you are a chronic pain patient, chances are you've already tried all the treatments that can help at this stage, the doctors say there's nothing more they can do and right now you just have to deal with it.

That's when a good flare kit comes in handy.

It can be a little box or a bag you have in a drawer, where you place those things you need to get through a flare, for example some calming music, soothing eye patch, pain medication, pain balm, a chart of acupressure points that relieve pain, chocolate, heating/cooling pads, light reading/distraction, your favorite DVD  and photo or letter of loved ones that helps you feel better.

And remember, you are not alone.

#88 Scalp massage

Because a great deal of the human nervous system is located in the head, it's not so strange that your head feels the effects of stress, tension and strain. Just like a massage for your aching muscles, a scalp massage increases circulation, aids relaxation and is the perfect way to ease away the tensions of the day.

Instructions (from ehow)
  1. Step 1
    Tap gently from the base of the neck up to the hairline and back with your fingers, as if tapping on a desk. Repeat this step at least three times.

  2. Step 2
    Apply gentle pressure and move the pads of your fingers in a circular motion at the base of the neck, slowly moving up towards the hairline.

  3. Step 3
    Quicken the pace of the circular motions and increase the pressure slightly as you move from the base of the neck up to the hairline and back again.

  4. Step 4
    Open your hands and widen the pattern of the circular motions to move up the middle of the head to the front hairline and down the sides of each ear.

  5. Step 5
    Rake your fingers through the hair, gently scratching the scalp with your nails, starting at the base of the neck and working towards the hairline and back.

  6. Step 6
    Wrap a moist, warm towel around your head and relax.

#87 Have a Pity-Party

As you already know, I believe all chronic pain persons are survivors; we are strong, capable, amazing warriors. However, being a warrior does not mean we have to hold it together every second of the day. During my own journey, I realized I was doing myself more harm than good by keeping all my frustrations bottled up inside. At some point, we all need a moment to just throw our hands in the air and grieve!

This is why my mom and I use to throw mini “pity-parties.” While I did not have one every day, each day I did allot myself seven minutes to do whatever I wanted – scream, curse, cry, feel sorry for myself, you name it! Then, when the time was over, I was ready to focus on healing and living ... because at the end of the day, all we have is the here and now. Therefore, we need to enjoy this moment to the best of our ability.

Pity parties were very beneficial to me because it allowed me to have a moment to acknowledge the disease and its affects on my life. However, I did have rules. A pity party could not last longer than seven minutes, and at the end, I had to take a deep breath to let it all go and then laugh or smile. The most important part (which my mom and I did not add until a much later date) was for me to finish by saying, "I am healed."

At first, I only would say "I am healing," but my guided imagery practitioner did not like that. She said the energy you put out is what you create; as long as I kept saying, "I would heal" or "I am healing," the Universe would continue to make sure that I was doing just that: healing—but what I wanted was to be "healed." It took me some time to get used to saying "I was healed" because it felt wrong, but after awhile it became a normal part of my life. I started saying it in the mirror to myself every day, along with "I am beautiful, I am loved, I am strong," and when I would utter those magical words, I actually would feel my heart race and circulation pump.

I do recommend pity parties because they allow you to express what you need to, and then move forward. BUT you must let go of the anger/fear/despair after the seven minutes, and begin living for the moment again.

I am sending my best healing wishes to each of you. Keep your amazing resilience and know you are never alone. Together, we are going to find our light again.

Believing in Miracles,

#86 Realize you are not alone

Did you know that according to the World Health Organization, 20% of the world's population suffers from chronic pain? And that of those 1,3 billion people, only 2% get to see a pain specialist?

According to the European Pain Survey my native country Norway is at the top of the list worldwide, with a whopping 30% of the population reported to suffer chronic pain. But still... even though it's one of the richest countries in the world, only 8% of those who suffer chronic pain in Norway have ever seen a pain specialist. The numbers from the US vary, but the American Pain Society quotes research that shows that 35% of the population suffers from chronic pain, and the actual numbers are said to be between 50 and 90 million, depending on severity and length of pain.

“Chronic pain is one of the most underestimated health care problems in the world today, causing major consequences for the quality of life of the sufferer and a major burden on the health care system in the Western world," said Professor Harald Breivik, President of EFIC "We believe chronic pain is a disease in its own right."

Maybe this seems depressing, but I believe we can find strength in numbers, and just in knowing we are not alone - even as we each often are depressed and isolated in our homes trying to deal with our pain as best as we know how... we are not alone. There are so many out there working to help, both organizations, doctors, caregivers, fellow patients and individuals. And sometimes, all you need to do is reach out your hand... touch the keyboard, and link up.

For example to a pain forum - like Heroes of Healing.

#85 Go for a walk

Spring is coming, and most of the snow has melted here in Gothenburg. Only a month ago we had the biggest snowstorm in ages, all the streetcars were stranded, my car was stuck in a drift of 4 feet of snow and there were 6 feet long icicles hanging from the rooftops in our neighbourhood. Brrrr!!!

And now it's just gone...

Here in Northern Scandinavia the first true sign of spring is dry asphalt.

For me and so many other pain patients, it's a relief when the ice and snow on the pavements has melted, and you can actually walk on dry asphalt, without risking a slip, stumble and fall. Not only does the cold make you tense your muscles more, always increasing pain levels, but the added stress of walking on ice makes it even harder to walk, usually leading to less activity which again increases pain.
Today when I left my manuscript to go for a walk in nature, I walked on bare asphalt and could really let my muscles move freely for the first time in months. I also heard bird-song and came across the very first spring flower, a tiny but beautiful crocus:

Sigh... walking in nature may be one of the very best pain remedies I know. Fresh air, sunlight (adding Vitamin D) gentle movement, added circulation... all free and readily available. Even if you can't walk far, or you're in a wheelchair, most of these benefits are still available, so go on, take a walk in the woods!

#84 Clean your space

Our surroundings affect how we feel, and how we feel affects our health. When working on our own healing and restoration, it's extra important to take care of our surroundings, and to create and maintain a healing space. Of course, the problem is... when you suffer chronic pain or disease, you don't have the energy to take care of your home, and so that too becomes a mess, leading you to feel even more drained and unwell.

But how can you heal in a messy and cluttered space?

The solution is to start smaller. No need to be over-ambitious, you don't have to do it all at once, and this is a great activity to use time-boxing on. If you set aside 30 minutes today, and focus on only one area in your home, you will get a lot done. And if the whole task just seems too daunting, remember CANI ... you can do it, take baby steps in the right direction, and you are going to get where you want to go.

Feng Shui is great as a guideline to cleaning you space. I read this book called Clearing the Clutter, and it helped me systematically sort through my home and get rid of stuff I didn't need or didn't use. It took me a couple of months of gradual work but it's given me a better quality of life that has lasted years! Charity shops are great by the way... you can clean your space, help a charity of your choice, give your belongings a new home where they are more wanted AND do something good for the environment at the same time.

A really good place to start is the bathroom, because that's the room where you clean yourself, it's important that it feels good to be there and that it is truly a cleansing area in all respects. Emptying and sorting out a cupboard or drawer is a good start for one day. Maybe if you feel strong enough you are able to do more, but don't push yourself. A good friend of mine manages to make cleaning fun by putting on dance music and dressing up in a nice dress, that way she feels better through the whole process:)

#83 Change perspective


It's such an eye-opener when we manage to see things from a new perspective. Sometimes I get stuck in a rut, where every day just seems like a struggle to get through from morning till night. I burrow my head in the sand and start feeling sorry for myself for all sorts of crap.

Then something happens... like... I get a letter from a loved friend I've known all my life, saying "Wow, Anna, you're doing so well!" or I receive an sms filled with gratitude from someone I've helped. And then I change perspective, get out of myself and have a look around... oooooh, is this what my life looks like? Ok, so I haven't done the dishes and I'm behind on my deadlines.. but in the big picture... things are pretty darned sweet... I'm not in a hospital bed or a wheelchair today. I can walk! Maybe I forgot about the waves and started identifying with a temporary low tide? Maybe I was too busy writing my to-do lists and running from one time-box to another, and forgot about how these things always change?

Because I'm so grateful for all the great things in my life today. And I know that usually a crappy day is just caused by a period with more pain than usual, leaving me tired, behind on my projects and slightly depressed. I hope that the next time I get stuck in a rut, some friendly, loving person will give me a nudge in the right direction. Maybe it will be you?

#82 Sign a subscription

As a chronic pain patient, staying updated on what's happening in scientific research and getting the latest tips on pain management is crucial for your quality of life. That's why you can't trust just one single doctor to give you all the answers, nor you can you trust this blog, or any online newsletter to give you comprehensive and unbiased updates.

One of the things you can do is to get a subscription to Pain Pathways, which is the World Institute of Pain's quarterly magazine for acute, chronic and cancer pain management. I've read it and I love it. Unfortunately I haven't found anything like it here in Sweden, but I've been able to order back copies shipped here by the help of their excellent staff.

Reading this kind of publication may inspire you and serve as a very important reminder: You are not alone! 30% of the adult population, or 70 million people in the US suffer from chronic pain at some point in their life. Link up and learn more of how you can get a better life with the health you have.

#81 Unclench your jaw

This is a tip especially concerning whiplash pain, migraines and headaches. I learnt it from my amazing chiropractor Kyrre, who unfortunately passed away too soon.

If you have suffered even a very slight whiplash injury, more often than not the neck extensors become over-stretched and as a result your neck will become slightly unstable. To compensate for that you may unconsciously begin to tighten your jaw muscles in order to stabilize the injury. Going months and years with clenched jaws leads to all other kinds of problems, most notably tension headaches and neck pain. This is what in many cases exacerbates pain in whiplash injuries that are too small to be detected.

By working to unclench and relax the jaw muscles, and then gradually training the small support muscles in the neck that are supposed to hold the weight and stabilize your neck, you will remove a common source of pain, and relieve yourself of many headaches, quite literally!

#80 Relieve nausea and upset stomach - Nicole's 3 best tips!

I wish I'd read this many years ago!!! Here are Nicole Hemmenway's three best tools to aid upset stomach, a common side effect of living with chronic pain:


During my recovery journey, I faced extreme bouts of nausea, indigestion and acid reflux. Not only did my pain cause these issues, but also many of the medications I was taking exacerbated my upset stomach. The queasiness became so intense that at times, I refused to eat or drink; I just wanted to avoid making myself feel any worse.

I tried everything in order to obtain relief – prescription medicine, over-the-counter drugs, and natural therapies. Since nausea is a major complaint for many chronic pain survivors, I wanted to share with you three healing remedies that helped me the most.

And remember: we are all survivors. We all courageously live each day in pain while continuing to search for answers. As a chronic pain survivor, we hold onto hope and never stop believing in miracles.

1.    Peppermint Tea
  • Peppermint is a relaxing herb that contains various properties that seem to assist in decreasing stomach inflammation. “Yogi’s Peppermint Tea” is my favorite. In fact, I probably drink at least a cup four days a week. It naturally soothes my unsettled stomach bringing me the relief I need so I can eat and go about my day feeling strong. I definitely would recommend 100% natural Peppermint Tea to anyone dealing with nausea. By far, drinking tea has been the most beneficial anti-nausea treatment for me.
  •  I also use Peppermint essential oil to help me breathe and alleviate nausea. I dilute five to seven drops of the oil in a cup of unscented, organic lotion, which I then rub on my collarbone and chest (for breathing) or on the bottom of my feet and different pressure points (to help with nausea)!

2.    Ginger
  • As it naturally aids in digestion by increasing the production of certain intestinal enzymes, ginger is a known alternative option to ease nausea. I personally use ginger chews, ginger tea and ginger snaps!
3.    Emetrol
  • Emetrol is an over-the-counter liquid nausea medication for children. It has no salicylates, antihistamines, alcohol or caffeine. Although I am not a fan of its taste, Emetrol does calm my upset stomach. It has helped me tremendously.

I am wishing all of you healing, love and happiness. Continue to believe in the unimaginable and know you are never alone.

Believing in Miracles,

PS: I happen to know that if you want to talk to Nicole, you can link up with her on the Heroes of Healing forum!

#79 Mindfulness

Have you heard of it?

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that brings your senses to the present and quiets the mind. Grown from traditional buddhist meditation practice, it has been brought to the west by teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh, a buddhist monk who has written many books on the subject, and Jon Kabbat Zin who is a professor of medicine at University of Massachusetts Medical School.

I first started practicing a similar kind of meditation in 1996 directly after I broke my back, and found it was helpful for my pain, though really hard to stay disciplined with home practice... Now there are many scientific studies that have examined the use of mindfulness to treat chronic pain patients with good effect and it is widely used in hospitals to treat chronic pain, stress and depression.

The most basic form of mindfulness-meditation is that you sit comfortably and calm down, pay attention to your breathing for a few minutes, then focus on the auditive, visual and sensory signals in the present moment one by one:

1. Focus your attention on the sounds you hear around you, choose one sound especially, preferably a beautiful sound, and try to let that one sound fill you entire mind while you breathe slowly in and out.
After a short while you change focus to visual:

2. Open your eyes, and rest your eyes on an object, preferably something that you enjoy watching. Observe every single aspect of that object and concentrate solely on that.
After a while change focus again:

3. Close your eyes again and find a sensory signal in your body that is comfortable (find a place in your body that doesn't hurt...can be difficult sometimes, but it may help by placing your hand on your arm or thigh and stroking it gently)

And there, you're done. If you want to learn more in depth, check out this video, it's a mindfulness meditation class with Jon Kabbat Zin.

#78 Qi Gong warm-ups

Pat yourself on the back.

And shoulders. And arms, legs stomach, feet, hands.

Very briefly explained, this is a qi gong warm-up exercise, which gently stimulates the body's energy lines - the meridians - that chinese medicine and acupuncture see as essential in distributing  energy in the body.

Qi gong is a medicinal variant of traditional Chinese martial arts, a branch of Kung Fu, like Tai Chi but even gentler and wholly specialized for healing. It is now used also in western hospitals in many parts of the world as mild and effective form of exercise that works well also for people with serious health problems.

This is a common start-up exercise in Qi Gong:

You stand with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.

Start by rubbing the palms of your hands together, and then begin patting your face gently with your hands. Continue this patting movement around the head, down the neck and throat, over the shoulders down on the front of each arm and up on the back. Then pat down your back and buttocks, down the back of your thighs and calves to your feet, where you change direction. Keep patting, moving up th efeet, legs and belly, and maybe finish by patting down the front side of your arms again.

Stand still for a moment afterwards and breathe slowly, just feel your body tingle with new energy, before you go about your day:)

I'm spending two hours in the car today driving to Oslo, so I've been doing my Qi Gong routine now to prevent the pain from building. Hope it works for you too!

#77 De-victimize yourself

If you look closely at this picture you may notice TWO things:

1: I have cut my hair
2: My handicap parking badge has expired

One of these things is simply good news, the other is a slightly traumatic change. Can you guess which? Aaaaaaahhhhh... OK so I don't feel ready to give up my handicap parking badge! It sucks!!! For ten years I have had this magic blue card that lets me pass through the super expensive toll booths around Oslo without paying, and to park anywhere downtown in ALL European cities... for FREE?!!

But... I can walk now... I'm not in a wheelchair anymore. I am able to live an almost normal life today so technically I don't deserve to have a handicap parking sign anymore.

I'm not sick enough.

I wouldn't feel comfortable applying for a new blue badge, it would feel like I'm milking the system.

I want you to know I've been preparing myself for this day for many years, I know it's part of my de-victimization process, and it is NOT easy! It feels like I can't get well if I keep focusing on my limitations and keep relying on my identity as handicapped or disabled. I simply have to remove that badge from my windshield AND from my personality... and move on... and define my new and healthy identity... whatever that is?

#76 Laugh Out Loud

I've heard it said many times that "laughter is the best medicine" but never really thought my life with chronic pain was much to laugh about. But a few years ago I was taking a language course with a group of very humorous people, and every week we had to meet to discuss different possible interpretations of translations we were doing. At the time I was suffering severe pain after my second car accident, my back fracture was unstable and I was pretty much invalid. But these people made me laugh. I remember lying on the couch in the classroom laughing so hard that my muscles were sore afterwards... and it didn't take long before I realized that I was taking way fewer pain killers.

Now I've heard about how laughter releases endorphins and reduces stress among many other health benefits. So apparently, you can laugh your way to pain relief... But since life with chronic pain isn't very funny, we might need some help... Welcome all clowns, comedians and cartoonists! And thank God that Dr. Kataria developed Laughter Yoga!!! (I haven't tried it yet... but I want to:)

#75 Start taking Vitamin D

If you suffer from chronic pain, you may have a Vitamin D deficiency. Simply getting enough Vitamin D through sunlight exposure, diet or dietary supplements, may relieve your pain a great deal.

None of my doctors ever told me about this... maybe it's because the science is quite recent? Another reason to see a pain specialist maybe...

Mayo Clinic researchers reported their findings from clinical research linking chronic pain to vitamin D deficiency in March 2009. This Medscape article cites scientific research that concludes that inadequate Vitamin D may even create or sustain pain.

According to the patient brochure from pain topics.org, patients suffering from migraines, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, myalgia, diabetic neuropathy, chronic fatigue syndrome, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can potentially benefit a great deal from Vitamin D treatment. Read more about this here.

#74 Share your Daydreams

Last night I was driving home from Stockholm together with my friend Siri, and through the 5 hour long car ride we were talking about all those important things we never have time for in our busy schedules.... like life, love, relationships, dreams, and what we want to do in the future.

Siri suggested we practice our daydreaming, and so we started recalling all those vivid daydreams we've had through the years one by one... from childhood dreams of finding a wild horse to ride on the way home from school, dentist chairs made of candy, to how it would happen when I find my dream house and have my dream career....We were both relating all we could remember - from silly to serious one by one, and it was so amazing hearing the dreams said out loud, because they have always been in my head... Somehow they seemed more real when I said them out loud, which was oddly liberating and also exciting. Hearing how my friend's daydreams were so similar to mine, made me forget that grown-up voice that says "stop daydreaming!" and we agreed that it felt like an important thing to do to keep our dreams and imagination vivid.

I think my most important turning point in relation to my health problems, was when I had a very vivid daydream of being WELL and looking back at my life with constant debilitating pain.

In the dream I was surrounded by friends and family, I was wearing a summery dress, there was music, laughter and good food, and I was talking to a stranger, briefly mentioning how I had had serious health problems when I was younger. And the fascinating thing was... IN that daydream as I was relating my past... the painful and hopeless existence I was talking about - my reality at the time - felt just like a daydream!!!

That pain was part of my life for 15 years... but now it's not, and somehow it felt like the strength of that dream is what pulled me forward. The feelings in the daydream were so real, that I could actually imagine being there, being HERE and having that pain-free joyful life.

I just wanted to share that with you:)

#73 Maintain an Attitude of Gratitude

I am very happy to introduce our very special new guest blogger Nicole Hemmenway today, with her first tip for the readers of the 365 pain-free days:

As we all know, chronic pain has the ability to change our lives forever. It did for me. I remember being seventeen and a senior in high school with many aspirations for my future. Then, in a span of seconds, the life path I believed I would be embarking on vanished. Immediately, my entire world, my entire identity, was crushed. I wondered if life would ever be the same, or if I somehow lost my chance to be happy. 

Chronic pain affects every aspect of our lives. Too often on our recovery journeys, we feel alone, frustrated, or defeated. These are normal responses to the pain, and yet if we let these feelings consume us, the pain wins. During my nine-year battle with complex regional pain syndrome, I had moments when the doubt, shame and guilt became unbearable. I had times when I wanted to curl up in a ball and say, “I’m done.” But I refused to give up. I refused to believe I would be sick forever, and I adamantly refused to let the pain control me.

Since I knew I needed to find a constructive way to release the emotional and mental angst, I contacted my spiritualist and mentor. She explained the concept of an “Attitude of Gratitude” journal, and encouraged me to begin my own.
It was imperative that I begin concentrating on the positives in my life. Although I was dealing with disabling full-body pain, had lost complete mobility of my right hand, and relied on my family for all my most basic needs, there was still light and happiness in my life. She told me I had to focus on the joy: the moments of meaning and purpose.
While I no longer had use of my writing hand and was too sick to write full journal entries, I jotted down simple phrases in my “Attitude of Gratitude” diary that I personally named “Waiting for my Miracle.” For every struggle and frustration I recorded, I wrote three encouraging and optimistic points. While this was difficult to do at first, I soon saw its significance. I realized where I focused my attention was what thrived in my life.
I invite each of you to start your own “Attitude of Gratitude” journal and see what you discover about yourself. For me, keeping a record of my highs and lows made a considerable difference in my overall healing. Not only was I more equipped to cope with the flare-ups, but I also had a new tool that helped me gain insight and perspective. It made me realize that although my life might not be the same, I was still living. I soon understood that I needed to hold onto hope for a brighter future while finding a way to live in the present; because in reality, that is the only moment we are truly guaranteed.  Even though I had faith that I would someday find my answers, I had to look at this day and find pleasure. I had to find meaning in the darkness ... and I did. I hope you do too.
Remember to continue to believe in the unimaginable, and you are never alone on this journey. I am sending each of you healing thoughts.

Believing in Miracles,

#72 Take a weekend course

Learning new stuff is fun. Whether it's work related, sports, a hobby or pure self development, taking a course gives new insight, knowledge and inspiration. AND you get to meet new interesting people!

I try to attend a weekend course in something fun that is not directly work-related at least 3 times a year. NLP, photography, juggling, surfing, diving, kung fu saber form and Acro Yoga have been part of my "fun-curriculum" the last few years. Ok, so I can't necessarily do all of those things very well, but I tried, learnt a little, practiced and got better, and had a lot of fun in doing so...

This weekend I'm attending a weekend course at the institute for medicinal yoga in Stockholm. It's part two in a "yoga against stress & burnout" series, and it's pretty awesome.

I've found it easier to fit in a weekend course than a regular evening class, because the pain can often make it difficult to follow a regular activity every week. Even if the topic isn't specifically health-related (or maybe especially when it isn't...it's nice to get a break from that and just focus on something entirely different once in a while) I find it to be really beneficial to my overall health and pain level.

So that's today's tip: Is there some thing you've always wanted to learn but never got round to, or thought wasn't possible?

What kind of course can you take to start moving towards your dream? How about Chinese calligraphy? Or french cooking? Or book making?

When and where can you start? Why not sign up today?

#71 Rolling back massage

An awesome back massage you can give yourself at any time, this rolling back yoga exercise is one of my favorites. Even though I have steel bolts fixed in my lower spine I can do this and it seems to really aid circulation in a gentle and stimulating way.

Lay down on a carpet/ blanket or exercise mat, bring your knees up towards your chest, grasp the knees or the thighs and gently curve your spine and roll back and forth along the spine in a rocking motion... sort of like this image, only you don't have to go as far backwards. Find your own balance, rolling smoothly back and forth:

#70 Put yourself first

I always used to hate to when my father told me that I needed to learn how to "prioritize". He told me that I couldn't do everything, and that sometimes choosing to do one thing would mean choosing to NOT do something else. I don't always agree with this, but in some cases it's true. I can't be two places at the same time (until I fix that cloning machine...) and I can't do anything for anyone else if I don't first take care of myself.

Many chronic pain patients are extremely generous, loving and caring people, who give freely of themselves and their time. Sometimes giving is easier than receiving, and we want to do so much, and be so much that we end up with no strength left for taking care of ourselves. We put our own needs last.

But... whichever way you look at it: You are the most important person in you life

Starting to put yourself first is not about being selfish, it's about respecting yourself and also others.  It's about recognizing your own needs and learning to fulfill them. Nobody else can do it for you. If you have health problems, you and your health should be your first priority, because if you don't take care of that, you won't be able to have any of the other stuff.

You are amazing. You are wonderful. You are valuable.

Show that by putting yourself and your body's needs first!

#69 Acknowledge ALL of yourself

It's natural when we have pain that we want to pinpoint the cause as exactly as possible, and then get that problem treated, so that we can live happy and pain free lives without having to deal with health problems.

But for very many pain patients out there, it just doesn't work that way.

Many painful conditions are incurable. Many injuries lead to secondary problems, which again lead to others, which in time affects the whole body. What affects the body will at some point start to affect your state of mind. It's difficult to be happy, joyful and exuberant when you are dealing with pain and limitations every day.

Like many of you out there, I have met doctors who questioned and even ridiculed my symptoms and said it was "all in my mind". And that's with my quite simple, well defined diagnoses: spinal fracture due to a traffic accident, and rheumatoid arthritis. It's pretty crazy how someone can say that it's "in your mind" when your back has been broken and it hurts, isn't it? Well, imagine what it's like for those suffering RSD, fibromyalgia and many horribly painful syndroms that aren't properly researched and understood yet!?

I feel insulted and angry if anyone, doctor, teacher, friend or family member implies that the pain is in my head and "I need to deal with it". Part of me will shout back: "The pain is in my BODY and I need it treated!"

But at the same time, today I can choose to see myself as a whole.

I am not a random mass of cells put together for no apparent reason. There is a complicated system controlling how those cells interact and change, that neither I nor the doctors fully understand. If we did, there would be no more disease.

What happens to my body affects my mind, and what happens to my mind affects my body.

Choosing to see it this way is empowering me to be in charge of my own healing process. This way, no judgment made by any other person, be they a friend, a colleague, a doctor or other professional health practitioner, can block or stop me on my way towards a pain-free life.

#68 Meet the pain specialists

Since I know that many of you won't be able to see a pain specialist right away, I've taken the liberty of getting some advice to share with you directly from the doctors at Arizona Pain Specialists. Being a full time pain patient for so many years, I've met a lot of different doctors. I always find it fascinating to hear the stories behind their career choice, so I asked the doctors at Arizona pain why they decided to specialize in pain management and what their advice to a pain patient was.

Dr. Paul Lynch and Dr. Tory McJunkin have been best friends since college, and they chose to go into pain management because of a loved one’s personal battle with pain. When Paul's mother-in-law was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer, he spent significant time researching a way to provide relief for her debilitating pain and in doing so, learned about interventional pain management and the impact it could have on changing a patient’s life. When Paul told Tory that he wanted to go into pain management, Tory saw that it was the specialty for him as well, and the dream for Arizona Pain Specialists was born. Together they now help thousands of patients every month.

Paul and Tory explain, "Every day, we have patients come to us and say: “I wish I would have found you five or ten years ago,” or “had I known my painful condition could be treated, I would have come in.” Because of this, we work hard to constantly educate on painful conditions and non-invasive treatments available."

The Doctors at the Arizona Pain Specialists say that the best advice they can give for someone in chronic pain is to find out where exactly the source or causation of your pain is.

"Every day at Arizona Pain Specialists, we see patients that have come to us for a second opinion after they have been told surgery is their only option. We have seen patients that have been told they need to have a hip replacement when, in actuality, they had a pinched nerve in their back and could be treated with an inpatient, non-invasive epidural steroid injection procedure."

"If you suffer from chronic pain, we would recommend being referred to an interventional pain specialist. They are trained to find the source of your pain and often can offer relief in a non-invasive way."

"We also recommend becoming as educated on your condition as possible. By being educated on your condition and treatments available, you are actively involved in your journey toward becoming pain free."

-Dr. Tory McJunkin
-Dr. Paul Lynch
-Dr. Jonathan Carlson
-Dr. Patrick Hogan

#67 Consult a pain specialist


As a chronic pain patient, it often takes a long time before you get to see a doctor who specializes in chronic pain, and some patients never do. Unfortunately many General Practitioners have a very limited understanding of the complex issues surrounding chronic pain, and are not able to give you the best treatment available. I advice anyone out there who has had the same kind of pain for more than 6 months to consult a pain specialist, even if it means travelling far or having to work hard to get support and finances for this.

When I first developed chronic back pain, in 1996, my doctor knew very little and I never got to see a specialist before I was completely broken down by the pain, many years later.

A clinic like Arizona Pain Specialists has specialized exclusively in pain treatment, and it's doctors are updated in the newest research in treating pain and use the best methods available in the field. The two doctors that founded the clinic have close family members who have suffered from chronic pain, and are passionate about treating pain. They also advice combining conventional and complementary treatments, attending support groups and work to empower the patient. A conversation with a doctor like that can make all the difference.

If Arizona is too far away, find out about pain clinics closer to you, consult the National Pain Foundation's guide, and check with a patient organization or support group in your area which clinics are regarded to be best. This site may also help you: ucomparehealthcare.

#66 Believe in miracles - introducing Nicole Hemmenway

Believing in miracles sounds just like a dream to many of us, but if you've had the privilege of talking to Nicole Hemmenway, you start thinking that anything is possible.

An amazing young woman who suffered severe chronic pain from the age of 13, Nicole managed to take a proactive attitude to her own healing. Through finding right treatment and working hard, she made her way from sitting in a wheelchair to running a marathon, and she has worked together with the National Pain Foundation spreading inspiration and hope to all who meet her. Just a few weeks ago, Nicole started the Heroes of Healing community, creating a new and empowering meeting place for chronic pain survivors from all over the world. Her book "No It's Not In My Head: The Journey of a Chronic Pain Survivor from Wheelchair to Marathon" shows us all that there is hope, no matter how painful or hopeless our condition, no matter how tired we are or what the doctors say.

If you have ever met anyone suffering Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS, also known as RSD or causalgia), you know what a terribly painful disease this is. That someone can overcome this disease as Nicole has done and live to tell how she did it, is a huge inspiration to all of us.

So it is with great enthusiasm that I can tell you that in the coming weeks, Nicole will be sharing some of her best pain management tips here at the 365 Pain Free Days blog!

#65 Spread good thoughts

Thoughts are like a virus, they spread...

Through your thoughts, words and actions, you are leaving an imprint on the world around you. The people you meet today will in some way be affected by you, and then spread their thoughts, words and actions to yet more people, who do the same, who meet others, who do the same...

I chose to believe that this how we can change the world :)

How can we use this to help people who are living with pain, health problems, economic difficulties or conflict?

What can you do to spread good thoughts today?

I think I'm going to smile a lot to people I meet, write some optimistic postcards, and send them to some of my winter-struggling friends, reminding them that spring is coming, and that I think they're amazing...

#64 Keep moving

Today's pain free tip is shared from Dr. Michele Gargan, PsyD, who has been treating pain patients for over 30 years, and is one of the advisers for the CT Pain Foundation.


Pain and Activity: Use It or Lose It

"The human body is meant to move. Yet a person who experiences intense, persistent pain will probably move less and less over time. He or she is also likely to develop a number of “pain behaviors” such lying down for long periods, using unusual postures to brace against the pain, or favoring one side of the body over another when moving. After a while, these pain behaviors take on a life of their own and actually add to the pain.

Long periods of immobility disrupt the body’s pain sensing mechanisms because pain perception relies on feedback from normal muscle activity, particularly the larger muscle groups of the body. Avoidance of activity under stimulates the large sensory nerves and results in more pain when movement is resumed. The habitual use of unusual postures results in secondary pain in other areas of the body as certain muscle groups go into chronic spasm while other muscle groups atrophy from lack of use. So, rather than decreasing pain by avoiding certain patterns of movement, a person is actually increasing his or her pain as well as creating new pain."


Wow... she says that so well... almost like.. she's been treating patients like me for 30 years ;)

#63 Teach your friends your pain scale


When I told my best friends about my personal pain scale, it really helped me function in social situations. People who know me well are always able to tell when I am in pain, but the best thing is if people can tell a little before it hurts too much, without us having to actually talk about it.

It's so much easier hanging out with people who can just ask, "Where are you at?" and I'll say "5" and they know that means we ought to be heading home soon. That way I don't have to even think about the pain, or try to convey that it hurts so much that I may need to lie down soon.

As a chronic pain patient you don't want to nag, complain or focus on your pain in any way at all. It's a matter of life, you deal with it.

Sometime I want to design my own T-shirt with a meter gauge on it, and I can just adjust the arrow to my pain level. Non verbal communication, I love it:)

#62 Space travel - in your own bed!

Tempurpedic mattresses have been getting way too much attention, and they are too expensive.
But I must admit, since I broke my back in 1996, I have been an ardent user of all things tempurpedic.

It feels so strange when you lay down on it, how it's hard at first, then adapts to your body temperature and moulds around your body like clay. And every time I go to bed I can't help thinking it IS really cool to be sleeping on space travel material, sort of like my bed is a space shuttle preparing for take off every time I go to sleep...  The legend has it that the material was developed by NASA, so the human body could withstand the G-forces involved in space travel... and today, it's in beds all over the world.

But anyway, the material was adapted for use by Swedish scientists (go Sweden!) and the good thing about THAT is that some other Swedish designers, yes you guessed it, it's our favorite blue and yellow furniture chain, has developed a way cheaper alternative. I've tried it, it's great!

Healthy people spend a third of their life in bed, and some of us professional patients spend way more than we want to there. I know at least for back and neck pain, it makes a huge difference if your spine is well supported as you sleep. All I can say is, "Beam me up Scotty!"

#61 Try fire cupping (if you dare)

Definately one of the weirder pain treatments I have tried, fire cupping is absolutely exotic.

from wikipedia:
Fire cupping or simply cupping is a form of traditional medicine found in many cultures world-wide. It involves placing cups containing reduced air pressure (suction) on the skin. It is known in local languages as badkesh, bahnkes, bekam, buhang, bentusa, kuyukaku, gak hoi, hijama, and many other names.

I really don't think I would advice you guys to try this... I was exposed to it while living in Indonesia, and yes, it actually did work really well... but.. why??? How??

#60 Reach out and touch faith

March is outreach month at the 365 Pain Free Days blog. We've got more and more readers (now 500!!) and this month we'll be publishing some great guest entries from other writers who know a lot about pain, either as patients, caregivers or doctors. I'll be talking to people who have worked with and overcome debilitating pain conditions, and share links from organizations and networks that can help chronic pain patients in all phases and conditions.

It's a common sideeffect of living with pain to become isolated, which increases the negative pain spiral. Once you're cut off from social networks and don't have meaningful activities in your daily life anymore, the pain has a way of "taking over" - claiming more and more space in your life till there's little else left.

So don't let it.

Reach out to someone else, a friend, family member, fellow patient, neighbor or health care provider. Try to get out and do something with someone else every day, even if it's just a walk around the block or a trip to the mall.

PS. And feel free to share links and info to good pain resources: We are stronger together!

#59 Treat yourself to looking your best

Ok, so you may have been inside watching TV and guzzling pain meds for a week trying to deal with a recent flare up. You're walking around in your track suit and feel about as miserable as you can possibly do. Why should you bother fixing your hair, putting on nice clothes and maybe some make-up? You're sick. Nobody's gonna see you anyway, right?

But... wait a second...

YOU are going to see you. Are you calling yourself a nobody?

Actually, all of today, you have a healing date with yourself. You are at home, doing your most important job, which is taking care of your health.

So why not dress up and make the most of it? Put on some NICE and COMFORTABLE clothes that make you feel good... why save that good dress or pair of slacks till you're going out? Today is much more important. Ladies, pamper yourself with a good skin care session and do your hair and make up. You're worth the effort, and by the way, it's your first day in your new job, remember?

PS: One of my Swedish friends has a super sweet blog where she posts a picture of a dress every day, it's such an inspiration!!!