Building a pain-free life

The most important discovery I've made so far in my struggle with chronic pain, is that I have lots of options for pain relief. If I see my goal of having a life unrestricted by pain as a building project rather than as a race, I am free to choose different building blocks and combine them in various ways in order to find a combination that I am happy with.

Personally I don't believe in miracle cures any more. My first few years as a chronic pain patient I was desparate to find a cure and willing to try just about anything. Always hoping that this treatment, this operation or this medicine is finally going to make it all go away... and being disappointed time and time again. But as the years go by, I've tried hundreds of techniques and treatments and have gone through both good and bad periods. Now I have finally come to accept that sometimes it hurts more, sometimes less, sometimes I understand it but quite often I don't.

It's not a magic miracle cure I need, it's a lifestyle that lets me enjoy life whether I have pain or not.

Taking care of my health by doing the right things in my daily life is my preferred cure for chronic pain today. Eating habits, sleeping habits, exercise... essentially everything I do and how I do it. Each choice and each action is one small but vital piece in the structure I am building. They all count towards my pain prevention and when put together they can result in long periods where I am well-functioning and pain-free. Completely without drugs or tiring and expensive treatment.

This building project is both empowering and enlightening. For every building block I find that helps me improve my health and well being and reduce my pain I regain some of the power and some of the freedom that my chronic illness has taken away.

The source of the pain may still be there, but it doesn't affect me as much anymore.

Pain-free tip: Move to a warm climate...?

I can sympathize with this mammut. Living with RA + having about half a pound of steel in my spine makes winter a challenging time to say the least. I'm visiting my native Norway this week and there are still several feet of snow here, while in Gothenburg 3 hours south all the snow and ice melted several weeks ago - but it's still cold as #&%. Sometimes I wish I could live in a warm climate, without having to leave my home, family and friends.

Maybe I'm a bit slow, but it actually took me several years living with RA before I realized that generally, every year, winter was tough with a lot of pain and stiffness and summer was better.  Now I've been even slower in realizing that maybe, perhaps, I should take this into account when making plans! It's not particularly smart to plan intense periods of activity (like launching a book and moving house) during the part of year when I have more pain. Basically it's a great way of wasting spoons.

Ok, so theoretically, living further south would be good for my pain, but I don't want to be a "climate refugee". But this year I can plan smarter, by doing fun and active stuff during summer to build my strength, and planning for a calmer less active winter season with at least 2 weeks holiday in a warm climate somewhere in the darkest months.

Doesn't actually sound so difficult, so maybe I won't have to end up like poor Uncle Hector and get caught in the ice.

Either way, I find the pain isn't half as frustrating when I understand why it's there. Then it's easier to accept the ups and downs and choose a strategy.

Paying the price of enthusiasm...

Ten days of level 6-9 pain after one botched pilates class... what's up with that?! It's been a gnawing constant ache in my neck and upper back for the last week, inflammation? Overstretching? I don't know what it is, only that whatever it was that went wrong has set off my old pain so now I'm right in the middle of a strong flare.

I went to the doctor - new doctor in my new hometown - and apart from telling me that neck pain is a typical "woman problem" he didn't offer much help. I'm now quickly losing faith in all drug-free forms of pain relief and wishing there was something more radical I could do.

This is typically depressing, I was doing so well with new excercise, but now it's hard to push myself to do very much at all. I just want to be more like this...

and less like this...

So that's my news for now. Sorry for the depressing attitude, but I've said I wanted to "increase awareness about chronic pain" and this is the real deal... Seems like I'll be heading for a pain clinic in my new home country soon. I hope they don't have as long waiting lists as they do in Norway!