I’ve had chronic migraines since about age 8. As a child and as a young adult, I generally just learned to live with them, because I didn’t know everyone else didn’t have frequent headaches. I remember once telling a coach in high school because I had a particularly bad headache and I didn’t feel like playing that day, and he made a big deal out of it. I had a headache most days! My point it is, if you have chronic pain, it is just normal for you, and you live your life in it, with it. You know what I’m talking about. In the same way, you can learn to live a satisfying and fulfilling life, even if you do have chronic pain.
Here are some tips for managing pain:
- Try tracking your pain for a week. Log time of day, what you ate, weather, how much sleep you got, and any event that occurred before your pain-triggering episodes. If you notice any patterns, try to reduce the pain triggers.
- Minimize people and situations that tend to stress you out, if at all possible. If you know you are going to have to go into a stressful situation (e.g. a family gathering with people that always stress you!), plan in advance your strategy for dealing with it.
- Learn to identify when you are feeling overwhelmed. If you can identify feelings of stress, anger, or frustration, you can de-escalate the the situation before it gets out of hand. Try some deep breathing or take a few moments away from the situation to decompress if that is possibility.
- Do your best to avoid processed foods, salty food, and alcohol. These can all trigger pain episodes.
- Don’t smoke. This spikes your blood pressure and can also trigger a pain episode.
- If the pain is intense, distract yourself if at all possible. Call a friend, play with your pet, or do an activity you enjoy. In particular, endorphins from social interactions help combat the pain.
- If you are able and if it doesn’t worsen your pain, exercise. Again, the endorphins combat pain! If you are not sure if exercise is safe for you, talk to your doctor first.
- Different relaxation techniques work for different people. Some swear by yoga or mindfulness meditation. I like the meditation technique where you let your thoughts just pop into your head, don’t try to judge or analyze them, then watch the next thought pop into your head. It’s strangely relaxing!
It can be hard to implement some of these suggestions on your own. If you need support, please feel free to get in touch.