We asked women in Northern Ireland with chronic pain - including members of the Chronic Pain Support Group at Lisburn's Healthy Living Centre - to share their coping mechanisms. Here’s what they said.
Note: These aren’t meant to be medical advice. They’re tips that have worked for others and might work for you. Think carefully about your own situation and what works for you before trying anything new. Consider checking with others including your doctor before you use them.
We'd like to thank the Resurgam Trust in Lisburn for taking part in this article.
Pop on a playlist of soothing tunes
“I like to make classical music playlists as they relax my mind and body, especially when I’m driving in rush hour traffic. I have a back injury and when the pain hits I can get anxious but if I put my playlists on I can hold it together and the hours fly by.”
Lose yourself in a creative hobby
“Knitting has been the perfect distraction to help with anxiety from my arthritis. I can’t feel stressed when I’m counting stitches! It gives me a sense of progress on days when I’m not well enough to achieve much else.”
Try Tai Chi to improve your posture
“I’ve had a bad back for over 5 years now and it’s been getting worse over time, so I’ve taken up Tai Chi to help me to relax. I get so much out of it! I find gentle stretching really helps to improve my posture and ease the pain in my lower back.”
Seek out a massage designed for your type of pain
“I have fibromyalgia and when I stopped going to hotel spas for massages and found a medical massage therapist who knew where my pain spots were, it was a ‘lightbulb moment’. It’s worth doing your research to find an experienced practitioner.”
Embrace the comfort of a warm bath
“I get achy joints from my fibromyalgia and I’ve found a warm bath every morning can help to ease the stiffness. I add Epsom bath salts and soak for as long as I can. It keeps the pain under control and allows me to keep going throughout the day.”
Download the Pain Toolkit for added support
“The Pain Toolkit is a simple NHS-endorsed information booklet with advice on how to live better with long-term pain. I downloaded it online at www.paintoolkit.org and found it made a lot of sense to me and the way I’m coping with my fibromyalgia.”
Solve puzzles to focus your mind
“I’ve taken to going online to do Sudoku puzzles and word searches to distract from my back, neck and shoulder pain. It keeps my brain sharp and I find that focusing on a logic problem with a definite solution is very comforting.”
Stock up on heated wraps and cold packs
“I suffer with arthritis and I find that wrapping a heated wheat bag around my hands helps to ease the pain. However, if my hands are swollen, heat can make them worse, so I use an ice pack to ease them. It’s worth trying heat and cold therapies until you find the right combination for you.”
Use mobility aids when you need them
“My feet are in agony at times with arthritis, so I have to use a walking stick to get around. Usually, I don’t care what people think but if I’m feeling a bit vulnerable and don’t want to attract attention, I’ll mask it by using a long umbrella instead of a stick.”
Join a support group to meet people who understand
“Finding a good support group can do wonders for your positivity. I go to a chronic pain support group in my local community centre and if someone in the group sees you looking sad, they’ll send you a text, later on, to check you’re okay. It’s reassuring to know people understand.”
If you suffer with chronic pain, you might want to discover more ways to take care of yourself. So here are some quick resources:
- Here are more ways to relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
- If you have arthritis, here are some chair exercises to help you stay mobile.
This is a weekly series in May. Got a self-care tip to ease chronic pain you’d like to suggest? Share what has worked best for you in the comments below and your response could appear in an upcoming MyNI health article.