If there is one thing that I have a lot of experience with it's pain. Let me start out by saying, if you are here reading my Tips and Tools for Living with Pain, "I see you and feel for you!" I had chronic sciatica pain for 15 years. I know all too well the frustrations of living with pain.
In my 30's I started experiencing sciatica pain that would not go away. I am a leg amputee and this pain was on my good side. Stabbing pain in the low back that radiated all the way down to the big toe was constant and relentless for 15 years.
The frustrations of living with pain
If you are in pain I probably don't need to explain to you the frustrating journey of pain management.
I started to realize if I ever wanted to get off horrible meds and stop the cycle of endless doctor appointments I would have to take matters into my own hands.
I searched for experts who were teaching holistic “whole body” techniques and dedicated time to learning and paying attention to what helped and what didn’t.
I learned that I had to redefine what pain management meant for me and my body. Instead of managing the pain I learned to manage my self care and began to feel less pain. This meant less visits to the doctor and reliance on pain medications.
When acute pain becomes chronic pain
We need pain and don't want to mask it or ignore it. Pain is a signal in your nervous system that something may be wrong. Pain becomes chronic when it lasts for a long time and doesn't go away.
Pain is not always curable, but there are many ways to treat it. Treatment depends on the cause and type of pain. There are drug treatments, including pain relievers but these are not meant for long term use because of the side effects and damage they can cause to our organs.
There are also non-drug treatments, such as acupuncture, physical therapy, massage, etc... This is where I found relief but nothing lasting. It became very expensive and I was reliant on these appointments for temporary relief.
Get out of pain and stay out of pain
I wish my younger self understood how important self care was (and still is) for my body as an amputee. My hope is that by sharing my experience others can learn for themselves and find relief too.
The key to getting and staying out of pain is you! Are you willing to take time for yourself? Are you with me? You can feel better but it will take some commitment on your part. You are worth it!
Trying new things can get overwhelming. Rather than make too many adjustments at once try one new thing at a time. It will be easier to tell if something is helping or not.
I also want to emphasize that I live with pain and will never be out of pain. But! daily self care is how I enjoy life and don't have to take medications that were once ruining my quality of life.
Tips and Tools for Living with Pain
As you read through this I hope to inspire you with some ideas and keep in mind this is my advice from my healing journey. Nobody knows what is best for you better than you.
My definition of Pain Free Living means that I can walk my beautiful 65 lb. Lab/Shepherd rescue dog daily or I can sit in a chair longer than 5 minutes without wanting to scream. I still have pain but it doesn't rule my day anymore. On a bad day I can turn to these tools and take care of myself. It's EMPOWERED SELF CARE and it's wonderful to feel like I am living again.
If you are under a physician's care or have concerns, I encourage you to seek advice advice from a medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only and not intended as medical advice. This includes some affiliate links and I may earn a small commission on products recommended at no extra cost to you.
#1 Start a journal
When you are supporting your body and its natural healing process you will experience lasting changes. But sometimes they are not felt immediately and take time. A journal will help you see patterns and learn what is helping and what isn't.
Grab a notebook and start writing down your day or download an app on your phone that will hold notes.
New research is proving that what we tell ourselves our bodies will believe. Every cell in your body is listening to what you are telling yourself. This is why keeping a journal or notes is so important. There will be good days and bad days. It's helpful to look back at your journal and remind yourself what is helping and focus on what you can do especially on the tough days.
#2 Self Talk
I think most of us talk to ourselves. I talk to the animals and I think I probably sound a little crazy. My husband says, "as long as you don't hear them answer we won't worry." Well, thankfully I don't hear them answering.
Like I mentioned before our bodies believe what we tell ourselves. I am not suggesting you make up things that aren't true. But a positive affirmation or reminder can do wonders for your mood and attitude on tough days. For example, I wake up with back pain and for the rest of the day I say over and over, "I am in so much pain." I am just going to feel worse as the day goes on. What if I changed my thoughts to, "I am in a lot of pain today, but I know what to do to care for myself so that I can feel better."
Think of affirmations like that phone call to your bestie who tells you everything is going to be okay and gives you some positive advice.
#3 Self care
- Schedule your self care and show up for yourself!
- As you learn stretches, breathing techniques, strengthening exercises, etc.. that help you want to keep doing them and NOT stop doing them.
- Sleep is when our bodies recover and healing takes place.
- Managing stress is important for every system in our body. When we are stressed our bodies enter what is called a "fight or flight" state. This is helpful when we need to run from a wild bear or stop our child from running into the street but we shouldn't stay in this stressed state.
- Participate in physical activity daily if you can like a walk outside. The benefits are both physical and emotional.
- Get up and move every hour at least. Our bodies become stiff when we sit because our connective tissue becomes dehydrated. Set an alarm and get up every hour and move around. Motion is lotion for your joints.
- Give yourself a "time out" daily if you can. Do you meditate or pray or like to take a nice warm bath?
- Modify everything! Do you need to hire someone to help you clean? Can a neighbor help you with yard work? Can you put your laundry basket on wheels? I literally have everything on wheels and try not to lift anything.
Are there foods that could be causing inflammation in your body and contributing to your pain. I learned that removing grains from my diet helped. Maybe investing in a nutritionist to help you identify foods that are causing inflammation in your body would be helpful.
Digesting food requires a lot of energy. Intermittent fasting allows our bodies time to rest and heal. I really like Mark Sisson and his book called "Two Meals a Day." It's actually pretty easy to stay within an 8 hour eating window and there are many health benefits.
Are you drinking enough water every day? The recommended amount of water intake daily is half your body weight in ounces.
#5 The Melt Method®
From the first Melt class I quickly realized this was something different. Finally! Something I could do ON MY OWN to support my body’s natural healing ability that did not cause more pain.
It's a science-backed self-care technique that anyone can use AT HOME to stay active, enhance performance, and get out (and stay out) of pain. MELT is not exercise or a workout replacement, it’s not stretching, and not your typical foam rolling. We use a special soft foam roller that allows our spine and joints to decompress. This is very different from traditional foam rolling where you roll into the pain . . . ouch!
The tools (soft foam roller and balls) to practice MELT cost less than the massages I needed every month. My reliance on expensive treatments (massage, chiropractic, etc…) were greatly reduced and I didn’t have to go as often.
And more good news: the commitment is pretty minimal. Just 10 minutes, three times a week has been clinically proven to help ease pain and restrictions.
It was empowering to be able to care of my body AT HOME. I also found that not many people knew about the Melt Method so I became a Certified Melt Instructor.
#6 Essential Oils
After "stumbling" upon essential oils many years ago while trying to help my daughter, I saw how much they helped her and have been using them ever since. I love that she is empowered with natural self care tools such as essential oils.
Pure essential oils are 100% safe and have no side effects. Essential oils are not intended to replace medical care but can be a wonderful tool to help support the body and its natural healing process.
Some of my favorite essential oil uses are for sleep, stress management and digestion. My favorite product for the relief of minor aches and pains is the Deep Blue Stick.
After using essential oils for many years and experiencing how much they helped me and my family I became a doTERRA Wellness Advocate. If you would like to learn more about essential oils, I can help.
#7 The Sacro Wedgy®
Turn on the Real Housewives (I won't judge!) and lay on The Sacro Wedgy® for 20 minutes every night. This tool was and still is a game changer!
How does it help? A common cause of sciatica pain can come from a tight piriformis muscle irritating the nerve. When you lay on The Sacro Wedgy®, gravity takes over and the hips relax, and the piriformis has a chance to stretch a little.
There is a male and female version of The Sacro Wedgy® because of the difference in the shape of the sacrum. The average female sacrum is slightly wider and shorter, because of the birth canal, than the more narrow, longer male sacrum.
Taller women and some women that just have a longer, narrower torso do better on the male version. I am 5'7" and use the male version.
I have a routine of stretches that I do every night while I watch my favorite television shows. These aren't my videos but Dr. Jo (who I don't even know) does a great job demonstrating piriformis and hip flexor stretches. These are very important if you have sciatica pain. I find that I am able to get a better stretch after I have used the tools for pain free living that I am going to talk about next.
- Figure 4 stretch
- Knee to opposite shoulder
- Seated twist stretch
- Pigeon stretch (I do this modified in bed with my leg off)
- Seated figure 4 stretch
Hip flexor stretches
Tight hip flexors pull on the lower back and could be contributing to lower back pain. As an amputee this is an area that needs to be stretched.
If you sit or drive a lot this is an area you are definitely going to want to stretch.
In addition to the stretches I will also lay on the floor on my stomach and lift my chest, put my arms in front of me bent and relax on my forearms.
Hopefully you found my Tips and Tools for Pain Free Living helpful. If you have questions, I can be reached at email@example.com