Chronic pain flares are so intense it can feel like you are dying
It feels like someone has been using your body to train apprentices in the art of medieval torture. Your limbs feel like they were stretched beyond their capacity. If the pain were visible it would show a beating of immense brutality. Some of us have fatigue and weakness that make it feel like we are walking through quicksand. To top it all off we have to find a way to get through flare days without medicine due to new legislation.
When you have an autoimmune disease or chronic illness, flares can happen quite a bit. Your joints hurt beyond description. Your whole body is in agony. I’ve tried describing my pain before. All I could say was that it felt as if I were being crushed like a car at the scrap yard or someone had me in a vise grip while tightening it up more. Even that doesn’t describe the intensity of the pain.
With America’s war on opioids, you may be hard-pressed to get medication that adequately manages your pain
Many of us with chronic pain or invisible illness suffer through days that would make the of strongest people cry for mercy. When you have a flare day it can be frustrating as well as painful. Sadly, too many of us know this all too well. We have an insight into the despair many feel every single day. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.
If you are feeling depressed, hopefully, you will connect with me or someone you trust to talk about it. You can contact me on my Facebook Page and in my Facebook Group. I suffer from the same fatigue and pain as many of you so if I don’t answer right away, I WILL get back to you as soon as I am able.
So what can we do to get through flare days without medicine?
There are a few things I use regularly to manage my pain. Make no mistake, I understand none of these suggestions is a real solution. Believe me, I know you know this all too well too.
One day we may have a more realistic, educated and, hopefully, empathetic society that allows us to use the medications we need. Until then, I will share as many ideas as I can so they may help you get through your flare days.
Here are my top 7 go-to’s for managing my flare days:
- A really hot shower. I live in an RV so baths are out of the question. If you have a bathtub, I recommend a bath with some epsom salts. Sometimes I take a shower until the hot water is gone. Every flare is different so sometimes this works and sometimes not.
- Water and electrolytes are a MUST. If you get dehydrated, everything feels worse. Live Strong says “Staying properly hydrated throughout the day gives your body several advantages. Water helps you maintain an adequate blood volume so that nutrients can move through your blood and into your joints. If you think of your joints like a sponge, imagine how much more easily two wet sponges can move against one another than two dry, hard sponges. Water also allows waste products to move out of the joints.”
- I use a larger than normal heating pad that I can move around depending on where the pain is worse. Recently, I bought a heated blanket on Amazon. I can wrap it around my legs when they hurt too bad to walk or take a hot shower. I’ve had it for about a month and have washed it. It still works wonderfully. The heat helps me get through flare days without medicine much easier than without the heat.
Some apps on my phone and tablet can keep my mind occupied. I try to distract myself from the pain using games and other apps that keep me busy. I like solitaire and poker but there are copious amounts of apps whether you are an Apple or Android user. Coloring books seem to be popular but I haven’t tried them yet. Let me know if you have recommendations for apps you like to use when the chronic pain hits.
- Music. One word but it can be so much more. Get Spotify, Pandora or anything that makes listening to music easy for you. Create some playlists of music you love and turn it up. This may not work if you are sensitive to sound but if not, music can be a pain reliever itself. Psychology Today writes “Research looking at the link between listening to music and pain tolerance suggests that it is not only effective in relieving acute and chronic pain but can also help patients manage anxiety and depression. According to one study from 2012(link is external), two daily sessions of music listening helped a sample of chronic pain patients relieve symptoms related to conditions such fibromyalgia, inflammatory disease, or neurological conditions as well as the anxiety and depression linked to chronic pain.”
Keep snacks nearby so you can nibble throughout the day. Some of my medications require that I eat before taking them. Being in pain can cause me to be nauseous so I try to keep my snacks simple. Try some crackers, dry toast, chips or anything that works for you. Flare days are the time I let my diet go by the wayside. I don’t stress myself out worrying that I’m not eating according to plan. I’m just trying to survive and keep stress to a bare minimum. When I’m in that much pain I can’t cook anyway and I usually don’t have anyone to help.
- Magnesium oil has helped me more times than I can remember. I use it all over my body and let it soak in for about 20 minutes. If I’m able, I’ll take a shower to rinse it off as it can become itchy. You can buy the oil premade or buy flakes and make your own. Add some peppermint essential oil, this will also help with pain. I like to add some lavender essential oil for the calming effect.
- I know I said 7 things but I can’t do without my hot teas. There is something about swallowing the warm, flavored drink that makes me feel nice and cozy. If you don’t like tea, have some coffee. Either way, remember to keep drinking water. Some teas and coffees are dehydrating.
Whatever methods you use to get through flare days without medicine, keep the medicines you do have close at hand
Use a basket and keep your medicines next to your bed or the couch. This will make it easier to reach when you are unable to get around due to chronic pain.
Sometimes we think of great things we could have used during a flare day yet we forget them due to our brain fog. I have started making a list of things that I wanted during a flare. Now I keep a notebook near me and a running list of what I'd like to have. When I have a bad day or I'm bedridden for any length of time I have quite a few things to take my mind off the pain.
I know the strength it takes for you to get through each day let alone a flare day. I don’t have any magical cures but I will keep posting ideas as I think of them. Maybe you can tell me some things that help you get through a flare? I’m always interested in what others use to survive a high pain day.
I love hearing all about how you tackle your struggles with chronic illness!
Do you have other tips you can share with us? Most spoonies have found workarounds for all types of things and I’d love to share your advice.
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Kim is a freelance blogger, writer and VA. She loves sharing resources for other “spoonies” to help them create lives they love. Hoarding crochet patterns on Pinterest is her second favorite thing.