Easing Pain Without Meds
I just read a brief article in the new issue of Arthritis Today magazine listing readers’ tips for helping to ease pain without using medication. There are quite a few good and helpful tips in there, some of which I actually try to do myself. Although I admit that getting into the habit of practicing these things isn’t as easy or convenient as popping a pill or two when you’re hurting. I’m trying hard to change that, though.
Some of the pain management tips listed in the article
- Lifting weights
- Exercising every day
- Water aerobics and water physical therapy
- Heating pads/ice packs
- Using a TENS unit
- Taking things easy on bad days
The pain management tips I put into practice
- Bike riding
- Swimming/water therapy
- Ice packs
- Taking things easy on bad days
- Relaxing with a book
- Getting more sleep
Realistically, what have I been doing lately and right now from my list? Um, well, not all of those things sadly. I’ve barely been on my bike this summer mostly because the weather here has been so disgustingly hot and humid which greatly increases my pain levels. The thought of pedaling around sweaty and miserable in such heat and swampiness feels too much like torture when my RA is flaring anyway. Now that autumn is quickly approaching, I hope to ride my bike a lot more when the weather turns cooler and drier. It’s a delicate balance, though. Biking can be hard on my body but it can also help a lot, too.
Pain management through water therapy and ice packs
My local swimming pool also hasn’t been getting much action from me, which is a shame. There’s a fantastic warm water pool that I go to, actually, at the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Center. I have a hard time making myself physically go over there because of some admittedly lame excuses: I don’t feel like driving there and back, I don’t like being in the changing room, I don’t like wearing a swimsuit in public, I don’t like getting wet and having to shower after using the pool. And I’m sure I could think up some more if I had to. BUT! Once I get there and get into the pool, I’m always glad that I did so. It’s just getting my butt into a swimsuit and out my door that’s the problem. Good news: I just renewed my monthly pool pass this week so I have no excuse not to go! I’ll let you know what happens.
I regularly use ice packs to wrap around my swollen and painful feet and ankles. THANK GOD FOR ICE PACKS! That’s all I can say, really. They help a lot to numb the pain and decrease swelling. I don’t know what I’d do without them! Sometimes when I’m traveling and I don’t have actual ice packs handy, I’ll whip up my own little makeshift pack filling plastic baggies with ice cubes. This method isn’t that great, but when you need to ice angry, hurting joints, you make it work. Frozen bags of peas or corn can also do the trick, if necessary.
Massages…what can I say about massages? They are WONDERFUL. And I wish so much that insurance paid for them. Living with pain every day causes my muscles to involuntarily tense up and sometimes it’s so bad that I get miserable chronic headaches on top of dealing with RA pain. Massages greatly relieve this pain and tenseness, yet I hardly ever get them. Why? They’re too expensive. So I try to relieve the pain and tension myself by using self-massage techniques (although this is tricky due to RA pain in my hands) or rolling a couple of tennis balls into the back of my neck and back. I’d much rather just go get a massage, however.
Pain management with the help of a good book
Probably the only other thing that I do regularly on my list is relaxing with a book. I love to read and it’s a calming way to relax my body and escape a bit from the pain attacking my joints. My former pain management provider told me once that reading is not a form of self-care because your brain is working too hard to process and analyze what you’re reading. Hmm, well, I don’t know if I agree with her on that. Actually, I don’t. Reading is something that makes my body and soul feel good, so I think it’s an excellent form of self-care. For me anyway. It makes me feel more peaceful and restful, which is something I rarely feel most of the time, so I think it’s a pretty good thing to keep doing.
For the rest of the list, those are things I need to work on: getting more/better sleep, yoga (it really helps but only if I actually go), acupuncture (make myself go regularly), stretching (I rarely do this even though it feels good), and taking things easy on bad days. Well, I definitely “take it easy” on days when my pain is really bad, but can I do it without feeling guilty? No, not really. Must work on that. Allowing yourself the freedom and permission to rest when struggling with pain is another important thing to remember and practice, I think.