Pain is an output of your brain telling it about problems or danger in your body. Those of us who live with chronic pain must find ways of lessening the pain with management and learning to cope with it on a daily basis.
Your doctor may prescribe you medication that helps, but here are some additional strategies that can help you manage and cope with your pain:
When you are in pain you tend to hold your breath which worsens the pain. To help with this you can do some simple breathing exercises, the first being to observe your breath. Take notice of the texture, the speed, the shallowness or deepness and where you’re breathing from and into. Try some intentional slow deep breaths. Learn to focus on your breath. Gentle Yoga and meditation can help with this. Learning to be emotionally aware of your thoughts and letting go is helpful. If you focus on the pain, it will be worse, so finding a way that works for you not to focus on it may be helpful. There are some free phone applications that can help. One application is called calm by calm.com.
Movement is important when managing Spondyloarthritis. When you exercise, endorphins are released that help with pain. Do gentle stretching exercises and slow walking. Avoid high impact exercises or extreme stretching. Exercise can prevent further problems and flares from getting worse. Also reach out to your physiotherapist and get advice from them. It is recommended to exercise 30 minutes a day either all once or in two 15 minute or in three 10 minute increments.
Massage increases blood flow to sore, stiff joints and muscles. The brain releases natural pain killers during massages.
Finding ways not to focus on something other than pain can be challenging but very effective. Find something that you like to do that requires your full attention to distract yourself. Some things that may help are video games, knitting, coloring, exercise, reading, crafts, writing, going for a walk in nature, meet with a friend etc.
Learning to relax will lessen stress. Stress makes pain worse. Here are some things that may help: floating in a pool, soaking in a tub, reading, watching TV, listening to music, meditation, or lying a beach.
The pain cycle (lack of sleep, anger, depression, stress, increase in pain) is hard to break so spending time with others who understand and discussing management techniques is always helpful. Finding the right pain specialist doctor and working to find the best medication is also important. Speak to your doctors, ask for help from family and friends and discuss ways on how they can help you on your bad days. Reach out for suggestions to the Canadian Spondylitis Association. We have in-person groups in some cities a Facebook online support group.