To Rest or Not to Rest? Managing Pain Flare Ups When You Have Chronic Pain.
Living with chronic pain is like living with constant heavy metal music playing: you can’t completely get rid of the music, but can turn the sound down to a level where it doesn’t affect your day-to-day life. Sometimes, for whatever reason, your ability to control the volume of this music is disrupted and the volume gets turned up and affects your day-to-day life.
When living with chronic pain, it can be normal to experience flare ups in your pain that is more intense than what your normal pain is. Pain flare ups are generally a temporary period where your pain intensity is increased, which can last hours through to days and often has no warning signs accompanied with it. It can be alarming and debilitating, and it is important to know what your can do to manage and prevent future pain flare ups.
The first step is to identify is it a flare up in your usual pain or is it a new pain.
New pain: new location, new symptoms, new pain. Generally new pain is different to what you normally experience. If the pain you are experiencing is new to you, it is always important to get it checked out by your doctor to rule out any underlying causes, such as infection or injury.
Pain flare: normally it is your usual pain but in greater intensity. It is generally in the same location, same type of pain and similar pattern to your usual pain.
So now you have identified that you are experiencing a pain flare up, what should you do?
1. Don’t panic! Pain flare ups, while highly distressing and uncomfortable, will resolve with time.
2. Move! Movement, in most cases, will not worsen your pain, but may in fact help to ease it. When we talk about movement, we are not saying that you should go and run a marathon! Frequent changes of position and posture throughout the day coupled with regular physical activity and exercise has been shown to help manage and maintain your independence regardless of your pain. The focus here is on moving and living despite your pain.
3. Just because it hurts doesn’t mean it’s broken/damaged. Normally, pain acts as an alarm system. When we have chronic pain, this alarm system becomes faulty and may start to give your body warnings despite the fact there is no potential for any damage or danger. When you experience a pain flare up, it is often this alarm system ‘short circuiting’. Being able to identify between ‘hurt’ and ‘harm’ will help to reduce any fear or worry you might have during a pain flare up.
4. Use pacing strategies to manage both your pain levels and your activities of daily living. When you are experiencing a pain flare up, your pain will make it hard to do all the things you would normally do. By breaking up your activities throughout the day, you will ensure that you are never exceeding your pain tolerance thresholds but still be able to accomplish all those chores around the house or at work.
5. Eat well, sleep well and manage your stress. Ensuring that you eat a healthy, balanced diet, getting enough sleep and looking after your emotional and psychological health will ensure that you not only survive this pain flare up, but also reduce the risk of having other pain flare ups in future.
If you’re living with chronic pain and are struggling to manage it, come in to see the staff at SCREP. We are both equipped and experienced at helping people live and manage their chronic pain to get you back on your feet and moving again.