The Arthritis NewsletterFall 2016
How to Get Back Up When Arthritis Pain Kicks You DownBy Alexandria Klemm
I’m 25 years old and never thought I would need to cope with pain on a daily basis due to arthritis. Sometimes it can be a mental struggle, in addition to the physical pain. Medication is great, but sometimes it doesn’t meet expectations. There are days where even the thought of getting out of bed can seem impossible. Each person copes with pain differently. Even though we all may have arthritis, there is always a difference in severity or how it affects each person individually. What works for one person may not work for another.
My place of balance with my arthritis is my ‘happy place’. For me, my happy place means that I have found a mental/physical balance where I can ignore the pain and be able to function. Reaching this balance when the pain is too much to handle can be difficult. When I have to switch biologic medications due to one failing, the pain can become almost overwhelming. My optimum way of coping with pain is to not let it beat me mentally. I still always try to look for the bright side even if it may be hidden behind a lot of doom and gloom. Sometimes this requires assistance from friends and family, with fun activities like seeing an improv comedy show, to bring out the belly-aching laughter.
Some techniques I’ve used to help cope with the pain are deep breathing exercises combined with muscle relaxation exercises and stretching. The application of heat and cold can do wonders for arthritis flares. The heat helps with muscle relaxation while cold helps reduce inflammation. I’ve invested in a few small-sized quality electric heating pads that I can plugin (one for the office, home, and car) and I also make sure to always have an ice pack in the freezer. Hot showers and warm baths with stress release bath salts are a great way to relax before bed to encourage more restful and replenishing sleep.
Keeping your stress levels down by focusing on finding peace and balance helps you cope with pain better. To help with this, I also see a counsellor on a regular basis to help me explore further pain coping strategies that I have found helpful, such as hypnosis. Achieving success with hypnosis has led me to explore further imagery coping techniques. You may find it helpful to engage in a creative activity you love, whether it be baking and decorating cakes or cookies, painting, drawing, crafts, or cooking a new dish.
Pain can be fatiguing, so be sure to schedule time in your day to press pause and mentally check out through calm activities that allow you to escape to another reality, whether it be by reading a book, watching a movie or taking a walk. Most of all, remember to always take care of yourself by eating healthy, exercising (within your physician and healthcare team’s advised limits) and taking breaks from staring constantly at screens.
It’s sensible to aim for a full night’s sleep of 7 to 8 hours, even if you don’t always achieve it. Some of these things may not always be feasible, but as long as you try to the best of your ability, it will always better than doing nothing at all.