#334 Impulse shop in the produce aisle

Impulse shopping is fun, but can get expensive if one does it at the wrong place. Impulse shopping in the produce aisle on the other hand is completely harmless, stimulates cooking creativity and is even fun when you're on a budget.

I wonder what that red spiky thingy is...? And would it taste good in a smoothie? Or in a curry sauce with cashew nuts and rice? Maybe both?

Sometimes my private chef (Mattsui, the rice cooker, Matt for short) and I invite friends to bring a random fruit or vegetable and we practice creative cooking together. We "take what we've got and see what we get". Its great fun, and most of the time is both nutritious AND tasty! (Uhm, maybe except the infamous yam fondue incident of 2008... which is best forgotten)

#333 Love your body

Not just on "Love your body day", but every day! Even if it is slightly broken and hurts quite a lot, I choose to love my body just the way it is. My body is doing it's very very best to heal and function as well as it possibly can, even with RA, a steel bolted back and whiplash injury. That's awesome!!! My legs carry me around, I can use both my arms and hands, I can eat, smile, talk.... I can watch a beautiful sunrise, listen to music, hug a friend and even dance  - it's wonderful!!!

I'm grateful for my body today, and I choose to show it by spending time and energy on things that I know are good for it. A body living with chronic pain deserves applause and TLC every single day.

I also make an effort to talk good about my body, stopping the negative dialogue that only brings me down. For some inspiration on spreading self love, check out the amazing Operation Beautiful - transforming lives one post it at a time.

#332 Plan for a pain-free holiday season

Holiday season is not an easy time to live with chronic illness. Many of us find that when we are sick, social obligations are extremely difficult to deal with. We want to be close to our family and loved ones, but we have so little energy that it is very hard to participate. Being afraid to provoke further pain flares may lead us to set boundaries and say no to practically all social engagements, but it's hard to enjoy staying at home when everybody else is out sharing the good cheer.

What with the brain fog that often comes with living with chronic pain, plus the effects of stress on our pain levels, good holiday planning is simply a must, so here are a few project management tools that can help you make this holiday season as pain-free as possible:

1. Making a timeline of the weeks from now until New Years, and placing all the dates when stuff is happening helps to get a visual overview of the whole period.

2. Think about what's most important both for your physical and emotional health during the holidays, and then select the activities that are most important to do and the events that you choose to participate in. If it's hard to prioritize you can make a chart where you graph your options to see clearer.

3. Write all your To Dos below the timeline, so you get a neat list of things to do every week from now until the holiday is over.

4. Making a mind map for the christmas gift list may help to make sure you're not forgetting anyone. If you write christmas cards, plan to take a quiet break every day when you write a couple cards in stead of doing a mad rush. If writing is a big strain, send e-cards or sms greetings in stead. It's the thought that counts.

5. Plan time for resting and self care, book it in your calendar and make sure there's a good break in between every planned activity. If you're planning to travel or stay with family, make flare-preventing preparations by talking about what you need in advance, make sure you pack your health tools and extra meds just in case.

#331 Break rules

If you want to be friends with everyone all the time, chances are people will step on you and not take you seriously. There are some health care workers, doctors and therapists who don't see the person, only the rules, and they don't want you to think for yourself. They tell you what you have to do and don't let you participate in making decisions fro your own treatment. One of my early doctors told me to stay at home and do nothing about my RA, just rest, eat the medication and not try any "diet fad" to search for a cure. Thankfully I didn't listen to him! Two years later my RA burned out after a few weeks on a gluten free diet.

As a chronic pain patient you may find yourself being carted from place to place, being told what to do, having to pay huge sums of money and spend lots of time in treatment but still not being seen or listened to.

Sometimes the answers we need are not available in the health care system that is most readily available to us. We may have to search extensively for our solution. Remember, the goal is your healing, not that they get to test their newest hypothesis/drug/treatment. That's when it's important to recognize the need to break an occasional rule. Respectfully, honestly, always taking care to not hurt anyone... but just a little rebelliously;)

#330 Cut alcohol

A small exchange that your body may enjoy: Water instead of wine

Pain makes sleep difficult, and alcohol can make sleep problems worse. It may feel like it helps you sleep, but alcohol actually reduces REM sleep so with alcohol in your system you wake up feeling less rested than before. It also interacts with common pain medication in ways that are potentially life hazardous. If you're living with chronic pain, drinking less or no alcohol can improve your quality of life.

#329 See beyond black and white

When it comes to health there are a lot of fundamentalist attitudes around. People will tell you what is wrong and what is right, either based on their own personal experience or by claiming universal truth through their current belief system, be it science, spirituality or something else entirely.

It's problematic that when faced with chronic illness, we are both drained of energy and desperate for solutions at the same time. We may really want to believe the hype and simple solutions that various health gurus or medical magicians extol, and often have our hope of a pain-free life used by others' lust for money or influence.

Locked in polarized thinking it's easy to fall prey to depression, a good friend and common side effect of chronic pain.

I've explored various extreme theories on my road to healing, and while sometimes losing my balance, I am gradually finding a middle ground. Removing the self-imposed black/white, healthy/sick, good/bad filter on reality is an awesome experience in technicolor. I'm realizing that the same problem may have an infinite number of possible solutions, that my current truth is only a snapshot of the present moment and that the only thing constant is change. If I combine the solutions that ring true to me and constantly keep my mind open for new ones, whatever ideological system they come from, I don't have to follow any one fundamentalist view but can build my own road map to a healthy life. 

#328 Relieve back pain

About 80% of us have low back pain at some point in our life, and in 75% of the cases doctors can't find any specific reason for the pain, so there is no specific surgical or medical treatment. Meaning most of the time, we just have to learn to live with it.

Back pain has perhaps been my strongest and most recurring pain, and after undergoing three major operations to stabilize my crushed lower vertebrae it just is what it is. Sometimes it hurts like @%&#. Sometimes it's better.

Two weeks ago I wrote about preventing and reducing recurring back pain, and here are my best tips for relieving chronic back pain when it's there.

NB: These are only tips based on my personal experience in treating chronic recurring pack pain that has been properly examined by a doctor. This is not medical advice. Always check with your doctor if you have new pain or before you make any changes to your treatment.

1. Start with your mind. Tell yourself its not dangerous, repeat that everyone has back pain once in a while. Force yourself to smile,  calm your mind and repeat affirmations like "I'm safe. My back is stable. Everything is ok. This is going to go away really soon". Then do some deep breathing while you focus on relaxing all the muscles you can.

2. Heat works well if it a muscular pain that has no active inflammation (if you have recurring pain you know yourself which is right, ice pack or heat). Try a heat pack, hot bath or shower and wear wool close to your skin.

3. A good ointment or pain relieving balm plus whatever painkillers the doctor recommends you are essential to get the acute pain under control. If you have a TENS device now is the time to use it, if not consider getting one if you have recurring pain. Lying one one of those bed of nails mats also releases a lot of dopamine and endorphins which provide instant natural pain relief.

4. Try to keep moving if possible, gently patting your body to stimulate circulation, also stroking the skin to activate other nerves and trick your sensory system to block the pain. I have herniated discs and pinched nerves, so gentle traction therapy always helps temporarily. I do a rolling back massage and some gentle stretches as soon as I possibly can, and try working on my balance to not compensate in a way that will add increased strain on the back later. A good friend of mine completely cured her debilitating chronic back pain through yoga, though it may not be first on your to do list, consider it for prevention!

5. I've found that activating the nerves in my feet seem to distract and immediately reduce the back pain quite a bit, I don't know why. So foot treatment, foot massage, or wearing those painful spiky sandals can help relieve back pain too.

I hope some of these tips can help you next time the back pain strikes, or maybe just remind you of things you already know? As soon as the flare is over, go back to back pain prevention,  support your spine and try to build strong and balanced core muscles, that way you may avert future pain flares.

#327 Express yourself

As a a person who lives with chronic illness I have a very different life than most people I know, yet I may not want everyone to know that when I'm out in the real world - beyond waiting rooms and hospital beds. 

At a workshop for a project I was working on last year I heard this marketing mantra:

"Everything communicates. Always."

And it made me think differently about a lot of things. What am I communicating through my clothes, my walk, my language? I don't want to communicate that I'm a sick person, or that people should feel sad for me or help me. I'd rather be either anonymous, or communicate joy, strength and humor. Sometimes I wear "power-clothes", that make me feel stronger than I really am, sometimes I wear a T-shirt that says "fragile, handle with care". I often choose to wear something quirky or slightly funny, when I'm actually feeling down. It cheers me up, and cheers others up too... Making other people laugh usually makes me feel better. 

Even when my life is filled with chronic pain, I don't have to be invisible. Today's pain free tip is to dare to be different.

#326 Deep breathing

Woops, I forgot to follow up on the very important topic of Stress&Pain... sorry to leave it hanging!
Here's the breakdown: Sometimes I get caught in the pain-stress cycle. I have a stress response going on in my body, I start breathing really shallow breaths and tense my muscles... this affects my pain levels, which stresses me further. Then I get afraid that I won't be able to bring the pain down again and get even more stressed... and... then I'm caught in a negative loop.

The best tool I've learned to break a stress-pain response is to take a few minutes to practice deep breathing. Apparently, just the act of using the deep belly-breathing that we do in deep and comfortable sleep sends signals to the brain that "everything's ok, you can relax...". So even though nothing around me changes, my stress response is shut down and I can then start doing things to alleviate the coming pain flare.

If the pain is already spiraling, I put on a CD with 15 minute instructed deep breathing technique (part of a stress management kit). Then I can just listen to the instructions and do what it says. It always has some positive effect. If I catch the stress response earlier on in the cycle, I can do this:

1. Stop whatever I'm doing
2. Close my eyes
3. Inhale deeply through the nose while letting my belly expand to draw oxygen down to the lower part of the lungs
4. Hold my breath shortly
5. Release and repeat 10 times

This can actually be enough to break the negative pain/stress spiral. If I follow up immediately with some happy music and a 3 minute workout to get my circulation going, I may be able to stop an incoming pain flare.

#325 Find a safe outlet

Art by Rimfrost on Deviantart

The last week has been pretty wild. I was on Norwegian TV with my book, and participated in an online discussion with readers and viewers afterwards. The discussion reminded me of something I don't often talk about here on this blog:

Living with chronic pain is torture.

Actually, it is pretty close to hell.

People can get angry at my "positive thinking" angle, and I totally understand that. Positive thinking doesn't make the pain go away, and when your nervefibres have been screaming every day, year after year, hearing somebody say "think positive" is enough to put most of us in a completely understandable homicidal rage.

I have needed to find a safe outlet for my pain, grief, trauma and despair. I have found it in music, writing and painting. I also attend self help groups and I have had great help from good counselors.

For me, being proactive about healing and working to think positive is simply a matter of survival. When I'm depressed my pain signals intensify, this is partly because chronic pain and depression share the same bio-chemical messengers in the brain. Simply put: Gravity is constant. When I don't work continuously on myself, my health declines, and my pain gradually intensifies. I´m so afraid of going back to that place of constant agony that I hardly ever talk about it. I just smile and say "it's over now" - not even daring to think that it may come back at any time. My healing is fragile - and keeping it up is a full time job.

I choose not to talk very much about the negative sides, because talking about it actually activates the pain center in the brain and intensifies the pain. I also choose to not share all my pain with my closest friends and family, because I want to have a positive, uplifting exchange with them and not be a victim or a martyr. But I have my safe outlets for talking about the worst parts of living chronic pain, and those are invaluable.

#324 Activate your placebo

I recently wrote about Befriending your placebo  as part of a pain management program. As we know the placebo effect is a response to sham or fake treatment, and is effective in roughly 1/3 of patients in scientific studies. It's a powerful tool, and one I have used actively while pursuing my own healing. I want to write a little more about what exactly you can do to activate your placebo. My definition of the placebo effect is "my body's own healing mechanism, over which I have no voluntary control"

I believe that activating the placebo effect has a close connection with trust.

If a doctor I really trust tells me that...lets say... carrots will cure my shingles, and she can give me a good rational explanation for why this is the case, I will try it whole heartedly. Then I have a 30% chance of activating my placebo and getting great relief.

So in order to activate my placebo, I can use the element of trust. I can work actively to build my own healing team with people I respect and trust, and not waste my time on the ones I feel I can't work with.

Secondly, I can increase my chances of activating the placebo effect by retraining my brain. I work hard to practice positive thinking, eliminate doubt, focus on my goal of a healthy, pain-free life and consistently choose to believe that healing is possible. I practice selective hearing and accept that I may have to take a few detours in order to maintain my dream and not lose hope even when times are rough.

This may not be a miracle cure for chronic pain, but it may be as close as I'm ever going to get:)

#323 Create sweet art

Being cheerful is good medicine, not only because smiling releases happy hormones like endorphins and dopamine (but it helps). Enjoying some everyday craziness is one of the ways I process my battle with chronic pain and invisible handicaps, and grief can be a great catalyst for art.

Combine all of these three and you have an amazing pastime: Sweet art!!!

"Sweet art" is a pun on "street art". As far as I know the term was coined by Navid Modiri at 365 saker du kan göra, and it's a way to beautify your town with a hint of crafts and tagging. Grafitti knitting is one of the things you can do, other good examples are making small decorations and placing them in the street picture where people can notice them if they are aware of their surroundings, like little drops of hope in a sad city. I think of it as a way to spread joy and inspire others, just because I have a chronic illness, doesn't mean I have to mope and feel useless.

#322 Validate your pain

Your pain is real.

Don't give up, just because others don't understand.

Maybe you will never get the explanations or the validation that you need from others, and why should you waste your life waiting? Start by validating yourself. Listen to your body, validate yourself and care for yourself. It has to start there.

#321 Have healthy snacks on hand

I'm a firm believer in DIY health solutions. Living with chronic illness is an enormous challenge every single day, and I've noticed that all the small things I do have a snowball effect on my overall health.

Everything that gives me more energy, helps me stay fit, happy and cheerful - affects my health and also my pain levels. When I take care of the small things, sometimes my health works so well that I almost forget I have arthritis and a broken back!

On the other hand of the scale, if I'm in pain but trying to do stuff anyway, I often overexert myself, get stressed and forget to eat. Then the pain escalates, my energy level drops and if I keep pushing I get very very weak and have trouble walking. My "invisible handicap" becomes visible. That's why keeping small and healthy snacks on hand is one way I take care of my body. A simple thing like keeping my blood sugar level stable has a surprisingly strong affect on my well being. So I try to have nuts, fruit and fruit juice available instead of going hungry and resorting to coffee and chocolate - that way I am helping my body do the best it can!

#320 Read a patient's memoir

A memoir is a self-biographical book, i.e. a book about somebody's life. Many people who have gone through serious life altering disease have written books about their experience, and on my healing journey I've found their stories to be a source of strength, comfort and hope. My own memoir was recently published in Norway and I hope it can inspire others.

Some of the best patient memoirs I've read are both humorous and moving. In "I had brain surgery, what's your excuse?" Suzy Becker writes and illustrates her journey through treatment for brain cancer with startling wit. She describes going through surgery, rehabilitation and how fighting illness and handicaps affects her relationships with family and friends - and also her identity.

I'm currently waiting for Paula Kamen's book "All in my head" - (An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache) - which is rumored to be one of the best patient memoirs to be published in recent years, and I'm still very much inspired by Nicole Hemmenway's memoir about her journey from sitting in a wheelchair to running a marathon while living with and overcoming RSD, "No it's NOT in my head".

#319 Prevent back pain

The last few weeks I have met some amazing people who have one thing in common: They all suffer from back pain. Stabbing, aching, debilitating. They do their best to participate in everyday activities, but walk around like frozen statues, aching with every step. Talking to these people inspired me to put together two posts especially about preventing and overcoming back pain, based on what I've learned about it the last 14 years.

PS: these are only tips based on my personal experience, and are not medical advice. Always check with your doctor before you make any changes to your treatment.

Back pain prevention 101:

Whether you've gone through several back surgeries or you have a recurring backache that is just a constant part of your life, these are some simple tips that may help prevent more pain.

1. Prevent flares. If you have a condition which gives you back pain regularly, focus on preventing pain flare ups instead of becoming frustrated and seeking treatment every time the pain becomes acute. Try to avoid activities that you know provoke your pain, adjust your schedule and pace yourself so you don't overdo it on good days and provoke a new flare.

2. Get physical and keep moving... Only a very few and extreme cases of back pain require bed rest, for most types of back pain, resting just makes it worse. Start by building support core muscle, through balance training, pilates, chi gong or specialized physiotherapy and work from there.

 3. Watch your posture, both when you're sitting and standing. Tuck in your chin and keep your back straight. Practice variation, swap between sitting, standing and moving around. Make sure you carry balanced if you carry at all, if you bring a laptop around with you, carry it in a backpack.

 4. Do some kind of gentle warm ups first thing in the morning before you start using your back for anything heavy. Start your day with a cold shower, then scrub or brush your back and legs and switch to hot water to increase circulation.

 5. Have a good bed, and support your spine with bolster shaped pillows or wedges.

#318 Shake loose

Dogs may or may not be man's best friend, but they sure have some smart tricks. It took me quite a while living with chronic muscle and joint pain before I found out that a quick and invigorating shake all over actually provided some immediate pain relief. Just standing up and shaking my arms and legs as well as I can really stimulates circulation and is great as a physical pain distraction - activating other neural pathways and reducing pain. If you're too weak to do this standing up, you can sit on a chair and shake one part of your body at a time, it works just as well.

And for some shakin' musical inspiration, play an old Elvis classic...

#317 Do random acts of kindness

For some strange reason people rarely wear a "Help Wanted" sign when they need help. Sometimes it seems like the more a person actually needs help, the less likely he is to ask.

That's one of the reasons why I'm a big fan of random acts of kindness.

Just... doing small but meaningful things for other people, whether you know them or not. Giving somebody a ride home in the rain, cleaning litter when you see it, opening a door for someone or getting a cup of coffee. Maybe just sharing a warm smile with someone who may need it. If I have a bad pain day, I try to get out of my self by thinking about what I can do for others. Maybe I can help others by sharing my experience? If I'm in shape to cook, can I prepare a couple portions extra and bring some to a friend who is going through a rough time?

Anything that makes me feel better also reduces my experience of pain.

#316 Learn new things

It's never too late to learn something new, no matter what your health situation is like.
Whatever you want to learn, there is a handbook for it or a course you can take. My favorite way of learning new things is to find people who do what I want to learn and ask to learn directly from them. Then I offer to teach them something in return (for example, I make a wicked 7-fruit marmelade). As long as I'm learning, I'm growing.

There's a Spanish saying that goes: "Dejar de aprender es empezar a morir"
which translates to..."To stop learning is to begin dying"

Nobody says you have to become an instant master at any new skill, but you can always start by learning the basics. What kind of things have you always wanted to learn? What's the first step you can take to do something about it?

#315 Physical distraction

The pain is there, and if it's chronic recurring muscloskeletal pain it's probably not going to get better just by resting. In my experience being still when pain is increasing just gives the pain signals more space and makes the pain feel more intense. Anything you can do to activate other nerve signals will reduce the experience of pain, so whatever level pain you're on, try using some physical distraction to gain control.

Use movement or physical stimuli to draw attention away from the parts of your body that are hurting and activate nerves in a part that is not hurting.

If it's really bad and you're horizontal, just stroking your skin, flexing your toes or tapping one hand against the other is activating other neural pathways - thus reducing the mental and neurological space for the pain. Is pain building in your shoulders? Try massaging your hands to draw the nerve impulses to that part of your body instead.

If you're still able to move around a bit, break the pain signals by doing a three minute workout, a mini dance session or rolling back massage to get your circulation going. That releases endorphins and reduces pain.

Hot baths, Sex, ice packs, bed of nails and reflexology also work well for physical distraction.

#314 Mental distraction

Yay! I can reduce my pain just by thinking about something else :D Using mental distraction to blank out the pain signals can work well for dealing with low to medium strong chronic pain.

Following an interesting twitterstream, playing video games, chatting online, reading, participating in online forums or solving sudoku puzzles. It's all good mental distraction, drawing your attention away from the pain and easing the pain experience.

In using mental distraction for pain management it's good to have a variety of activities to choose from, some work well when you have low pain, but have to be abandoned over level 5. Some work well at any time.

With mild pain I can usually engage in forums and social media online, I can read quite complicated books and articles, plan projects and come up with good ideas. The stronger the pain, the more passive I need to be because I have less energy to focus, but I can still draw, play games, solve sudoku puzzles or crosswords, read, watch TV or movies, listen to audio tapes or radio.

Practicing cognitive training of any kind that improves concentration might make this easier and give greater pain relieving effect. Meditation is widely used for pain management.

NB: Of course distraction is a technique for chronic pain, i.e pain that you have regularly and know the reason for. New or acute pain should always be examined!

#313 Change your wardrobe

For my Australian readers I'm sorry for the seasonal discrepancy, but it's that time again... Winter has come to Scandinavia and white fluffy stuff is muffling all sounds, lighting up the frozen landscape and stranding many pain patients indoors.

My back pain always increases with this kind of weather, so I'm tempted to take an indoor day and use the time to reorganize my wardrobe to prepare for the new season... Pack out the wool sweaters and cozy scarves,  put away short dresses and T-shirts. But then of course I will need to have another staring match with those scary planks (aka skis) up in the attic... My Norwegianess still hasn't led to any lasting interest in winter sports, but I'm hoping those genes will kick in soon!

Remembering that wool is good for pain relief, maybe I should order one of these bolero/shrugs from Crochet Butterfly on Etsy?

In the meantime I'm grateful for Maria, who reminded me of this classic winter song, INgrid Olavas version of Jokke&Valentinerne, "Her kommer vinter´n"!

#312 Have a health folder

An essential part of the professional patient lifestyle is to have a well organized health folder. Everything else may be out of whack if you're going through a bad pain phase, but at least you know where your last test results are.

Journals, pharmaceutical information, results, letters from the hospital... I try to keep it all in one place and file it so it's easy to find (of course I prefer to colour code it - just because it makes me happy). In my health folder I also file research I've done on my condition, inspiration and interesting information about new treatments.

I am not so organized that I file everything straight away, but once or twice a month I'll empty the case on my desk and get great pleasure from sorting everything in neat piles... It makes me feel slightly nerdy... Oh, the joys of order!

#311 Beware of bad science

If you set up your "scientific study" right, more or less anything can be proven - and unfortunately there are very many who are interested in earning money on our dreams of a healthy and pain-free life.

I realize I've fallen into the trap of the hasty blogger. I'm not a journalist. I scour through tons of health news every week, I bookmark articles I like and pass things on via Twitter and Facebook and also this blog... but am I taking responsibility for the information I 'm spreading?

The answer is nope.

I don't have time to check my sources correctly or do thorough research for every blog post.

My plan with this blog was to spread ideas and inspiration for self-help to people living with chronic pain - based on my own experience. A lot of the "research has shown" links that I post here are pretty random. Personally, I don't actually believe I need a scientific study to back up everything I say... I'm not trying to fool anyone or sell any miracle cure. Quite often common sense and experience can go a long way, and sharing opinions and ideas are my key reasons for starting a blog in the first place!

Of course we shouldn't trust all those "get great health today!" or "instantly pain-free with new herbal remedy" ads and brochures. We all know that. But scientific studies published in news media aren't necessarily truthful either, and the studies that journalists write about may be downright rotten. I'm currently reading Bad Science by Dr. Ben Goldacre, who gives both the so-called alternative quacks and the pharmaceutical industry a good whacking in his weekly Guardian columns. His book is a real eye opener.

I've also been very inspired by reading about Dr. Ioannidis and his team in Greece, who are doing thorough investigation of medical research to improve the system and alert other doctors of bad science and methodological loop holes.

So far this is just reminding me of what I already know: there are no quick fixes when it comes to chronic disease! Getting results takes time and effort, but that doesn't mean we should stop trying.

#310 Look outside the...

Sometimes I'm surprised at the fear and hostility that is generated in certain circles when the subject of health and healing comes up. Apparently it's a huge insult to share the story of how you got well from serious illness - at least in my native Norway, where two women were attacked by a horde of pitch fork-carrying cybercritics this week for doing just that.

Maybe these people are just trolling for attention. But I've experienced similar attacks in international online health forums, where the idea that "people can get well from chronic disease" generates intense hostility.

It seems to be a question of different world views rather than simply a question of different experiences with medical treatment. When you've struggled with chronic and incurable disease for a while, bitterness is almost invariably one of the gremlins you have to fight. When the doctors had given up on me, I'd tried every treatment in town and was broke, down and weary, the cheery notion that I could get well by taking responsibility for my own health felt almost akin to a rude accusation: "You aren't doing enough!"
This kind of interpretation fuels frustration and fear, and in a hypersensitive state I could start blaming myself for not getting well; "What am I doing wrong?!"

But is taking hope away from a person a better solution?

If you suffer from a disease or condition which modern medicine has no cure for, isn't it only wise to try looking outside the box? And who has the right to tell me I should give up and succumb to the constant torment of chronic incurable pain instead of trying any and every option to overcome it?

Hiding behind the wall of the currently accepted health paradigm and shooting sarcastic cyber-insults at everyone who dares to try a different route seems to me to be an extremely cowardly strategy.

Today's pain-free tip is:

Don't be afraid of thinking outside of the box, many times that's where the answer lies.

#309 Practice hand coordination

Concentrating intensively on small hand movements is one of my flare control & pain distraction techniques. Whether I'm staying straight edge or waiting for pain meds to work, I've found that I can reduce the impact of my recurring chronic pain by focusing intently on the tips of my fingers and moving them in a slow and deliberate manner. I slow my breath, imagine that I'm breathing to my fingertips (this usually heightens sensitivity - drawing attention away from the pain), and hold my hands together, letting the fingers tap in rhythm, thumb against thumb, index to index etc.

I can do a number of variations of these, with one or both hands. Keeping an even rhythm, combining breath, movement and right/left coordination seems to have best effect.

Maybe it's working because I'm drawing focus away from the pain, or because I'm tricking my sensory system by activating other neural connections. I don't really know. But it has no side effects and can help me get through a flare.

#308 Eat more fish

From Hyperbole and a half.

In a feature article about chronic pain and supplements, WebMD says that fish oil can ease the inflammation and pain caused by many chronic conditions. And we've heard it many times of course. Being of a less than disciplined nature when it comes to taking supplements, I plan to try following the Norwegian dietary recommendations instead... which means I will eat fish 2-3 times a week.

For example some baked salmon:

...because unfortunately this doesn't qualify as health food even though it has little fishies in it...;)

#307 Listen up

Who says it's going to come from your doctor, or the sources you expect? Maybe your key to healing is going to come from a wildly improbable direction!

It could be the neighbor, who knows someone who knows someone who got treated for your condition. Or an article in a magazine that interviews someone about a new scientific breakthrough. Your general practitioner can't be expected to stay up to date on all details of all conditions, that's what we have specialists for! Unfortunately chronic pain patients very rarely get help from chronic pain specialists, (only 2% in the latest european study.. :( ) and there are way too few clinics specialized in treating chronic pain and complex pain syndromes. Sometimes you have to be your own advocate.

Keeping an open mind and taking notes when you hear of different treatments may prove to be a great help. After a while, you'll be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Your collected notes will be a great reference and by listening to your body you may be able to find just the combination of activities, treatments and tools that are right for you.

Remembering that you are the expert on your own health, to choose your input and not listen to stuff that brings you down is essential. There are a lot of people interested in making money on your pain, and it's important to invest carefully.

#306 Oversee your investments

I know it's easy to get desperate when your pain is increasing. If health problems and pain are gradually taking over more and more of your life, it's easy to jump from one treatment to another and be willing to try just about anything. You invest both time, money and energy in all of these treatments that may or may not work, but the most costly investment you make is your hope.

Because for each thing you try that doesn't produce the desired result, you become a little less optimistic and a little more apathetic. After a while it's so easy to just give up and stop trying. So overseeing your investments is an important part of the professional patient's job.

Trying too many things at once may burn you out, both financially and physically. That's why I've found that I have to listen to my body and:

1. Follow my gut feeling
2. Follow my doctors advice (respectfully, though never blindly)
3. Choose carefully which treatments and methods I invest my hope, time and money in

Sometimes it seems like everyone has opinions about how we should handle our health, but only YOU have to live in your body, and your journey is yours alone. Sift through all the life style advice out there and all the well meant advice from your peers and choose only that which rings true to you.

#305 Have slanted humor

Knowing how much laughter reduces pain, and also reduces stress hormones, I try to have a slanted sense of humor and find things to laugh about every day. I try not to laugh at others too much, but I laugh at myself as often as I can.

Today for example I am having an all-day pajama party. It's 4 PM and I am still in my pink striped flannel jammies - and I'm planning to stay that way all day thank you very much. And I really do apologize to the (slightly delayed) Halloween kids that I didn't have any candy for (ate it all) and may have traumatized only a little bit, and to my next door neighbor, who seemed a bit upset when I was hovering in the hallway waiting for my friend who was coming over for fika... She was in a burqa, I was in my pink PJs, we were a good setup for many funny jokes! So, sorry if I upset anyone, but I was setting myself up for some good laughs and a healthy dose of healing humor.

I also take every opportunity I can to laugh about my handicaps. I call myself a Hændiss, a Funkis, a Professional Patient and crack as many jokes as possible about my health problems. Some people laugh with me, some people get shocked or offended. But for me, laughing is still better than whining any day.

Did you hear about Norman Cousins, who healed himself by watching recordings of candid camera and the Marx brothers and set a new standard for psycho-neuro-immunology? That's pretty cool:)

What makes you laugh?