Daily Living & Chronic Pain by Diane Parkes

This article first appeared in the Fibromyalgia Magazine. Why not subscribe and receive the latest Fibromyalgia News every month?

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It is a sad but true fact that approximately 1 in 12 of the population suffers from some type of chronic pain causing condition. Fibromyalgia is obviously covered in this broad description. Arthritis and rheumatism alone account for 1 in 5 visits to a doctor. That is an awful lot of pain – small wonder that in Britain alone approximately £205 million is spent on painkillers every year.

Be it fibromyalgia, arthritis or other types of chronic pain – even undiagnosed pain – for long-term chronic pain sufferers the future often can look bleak and depressing, let along coping with the more mundane chores like getting by on a day-to-day basis. However, there are ways, other than conventional drug treatments, of helping yourself to cope better. Hospital run pain management programmes are one option, these places are not miracle cures but they can help you come to terms with, and learn to live with, your pain. There are also support/self help groups, these can help and support you through critical periods, and they can put you in touch with others in the area where you live.

Coming to terms with the fact that you have this condition can be a long and painful process – in more ways that the obvious! The pain tends to encroach on to all aspects of daily life, and one of the dumbest phrases ever said to me was “just try to ignore the pain” Easier said than done obviously.

Learning to co-exist with your pain can be a long and difficult process. Try to accept and work on your own personal strengths and weaknesses, and try to remember that what has happened to you is unfortunate but that is the way it is. The situation is not likely to change in the immediate future, if at all.

Chronic pain/fibromyalgia sufferers can literally waste years of their lives going from one specialist to another, always looking for that elusive ‘miracle cure’ which sadly does not exist – not yet anyway! Each time you are told, yet again, that nothing can be done for you, the feelings of desperation and depression get that bit worse.

Learning to live with your pain is the other option to ‘Doctor Shopping’ – which is what I have just described in the paragraph above.  This sure is not an overnight process, it took me many years, and eventually sessions with a Psychologist, before I came around to acceptance. Even once a level of acceptance has been reached there will most certainly be lapses in times of flare and stress. During these times, no doubt you will find yourself wishing for that ever-elusive miracle cure again.


Good Days & Bad Days:


The stresses and strains of daily life can put a great strain on the body of a chronic pain sufferer – quite often simply getting from one day to the next can be an achievement in itself! We all have ‘good days’ and equally so, we all have ‘bad days’. So what do we do on the days we wake and realise that this is a good day? We overdo things!  So many things tend to get left undone on bad days, so that when a good one creeps in we try to get done all those little things that have been overlooked or ignored. Therefore, the next day is so obviously going to be a bad one. This can quickly become a vicious circle, resulting in serious flare-ups.

You need to work at becoming slightly more relaxed about chores such as housework, and all other aspects of daily life. So what if the hoovering or the dusting is not done, this is not a crime. Why spend hours cooking when so much excellent convenience food is available. Maybe you could have ‘take-away’ once a week? Just cutting back a little on daily chores could result in you being less tired, having lowered pain levels and therefore more able to relax and enjoy your life that bit more.


Hobbies & Interests:


Whatever your general state of health, or disability, try to make both time and energy for a hobby or special interest. I can almost hear the cries of “I haven’t got the time” or “I haven’t got the energy”. Even so, it is vital that you make the time, these things are important. Cutting back in the more mundane areas of your life will hopefully give you the energy required. You are still a person, entitled to as fulfilling a life as is possible – you just have to work at it a little harder than healthy people do. Having a hobby or special interest will work in your favour in a big way too – distraction. It is a proven fact that when we are engrossed in something we enjoy doing, whatever this activity may be, we are much less likely to focus on our pain. It will still be there of course, but it will not be the one thing consuming your thoughts. This fact alone turns your hobbies and interests into a unique form of therapy.


Partners, Spouses & Friends:


We all need, maybe even should expect to a certain degree, love and empathy from our loved ones. Nevertheless, we do owe it to ourselves and them not to cling to them. It is very important you to retain your dignity and whatever levels of independence you can manage. Not for one moment am I saying do not ask for help, we all need help and reassurance, and indeed should ask for it if need be. On the other hand we do need to try to give a little back, however small this gesture may be. These are the people who love and care for you, let them know how much they are appreciated. Even if it is painful and tiring, occasionally make the effort and go out with your partner/friends, etc. Would a day at the coast or a drive in the country really be such a bad thing? Remember the distraction therapy, it could even do you the world of good to get out occasionally.


Work out a routine:


For fibromyalgia and chronic pain sufferers, especially on those bad days, every little task and chore has to be planned out like a military operation. A routine for daily living can seem a little regimented at first, but it could also be a blessing. Make a rota or timetable, include essential tasks for the day, plenty of rest periods, and do not forget leisure time for those all-important hobbies and interests. For a pointer, maybe you could start with the time you usually get up in the morning – do you need time to ‘come round’ from medication taken at night. It could be an hour or more before you can even think of getting dressed – I know I have this problem. Also try to never plan two fairly big tasks back-to-back, instead think logically and split them into different parts of the day; even better; plan them for different days altogether, preferably after rest periods.

Do you have many visitors? Do not forget to allow for this, it is surprising how exhausted you can feel after visitors have gone. In extreme cases, you may even need to put a time limit, say of about an hour and a half, to each visit. After that time it is likely that you are too exhausted to entertain them any longer, or indeed take in what they are saying to you. Some may be offended, but if they are true friends, they will understand why this is necessary.


Self Help/Support Groups:


I briefly mentioned self help and support groups earlier in the article. These are many and varied, but remember, think carefully about what ‘you’ want, self help or support, there is a difference. If you live alone, and/or are feeling isolated from society, many of these groups can put you in touch with other sufferers in your area; maybe even set you up with a pen pal. By attending meetings, both your social life and confidence can be given a boost, perhaps you could even offer to get involved with activities, such as fund raising or helping out on open days, etc. if you help out in some way, however small, this could be yet another variation on distraction therapy.

Having said all this, the only person who can ‘really’ help you change your lifestyle and improve your day-to-day living is you. Life, at times, really is what you make it.

This article first appeared in the Fibromyalgia Magazine. Why not subscribe and receive the latest Fibromyalgia News every month?

More information here.