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Ways to deal with chronic pain

As someone who has suffered from chronic pain for around 10 years, I’ve almost forgotten what life is like without some form of pain. I was a keen runner and managed to complete a marathon before the pain forced me to quit running, despite several attempts to return to it. Now every day is a battle against the pain, but that doesn’t mean pain is all I have in my life. I’ve found ways to make my pain more manageable.

What works for me

Over the years, my pain has spread from my neck to my shoulders and back. On my worst days, the pain spreads across the back of my head to the front and gives me headaches which can last for days.

The gym equipment got me moving. This stopped my neck and shoulders getting locked up, which in turn reduced the stiffness and pain, and prevented some of the headaches. I would set the gym equipment to a lower resistance level so I wasn’t causing myself more pain. The aim was to get my body moving, rather than become a lean, mean fighting machine.

Now I have a routine to keep the pain at a more tolerable level. In the morning before I start working from home, I spend 20 minutes using a massager on my back, neck and shoulders.

I also have an ergonomic chair and footrest which makes working from home more comfortable for me. I bought a laptop stand to adjust the height of my laptop screen and started wearing glasses. Before, I was leaning forward to read words on the screen, which made the pain worse. All these little things make a difference.

Another thing I did was go for an acupuncture session. There, I was introduced to kinetic tape, which I now use to help correct my posture. With the tape, I feel a gentle tug whenever my posture is off, and it offers me some support to receive the right posture.

It would be easy to just let the pain take over my life and for me to stop making the most of it. I still recall the agony I would be in after several hours of standing in a crowd at a gig. It’s enough to make me never go to a gig again, but the memory of the pain overshadows the gig itself and how much I enjoyed it, at least until I reached my pain threshold.

So I push myself to do things, but equally, I sometimes have to tell myself No. If I have plans for three nights out in a week, I have to prioritise. I go to bed at 8pm some nights because I know my body has had more than it can handle. Yet if I get a good day or week, I make the most of it because it gives me something to remember on the bad days.

Avoiding medication, but knowing when to take it During the first few years of my pain, the doctors suggested medication to help with the pain. Although I never imagined it would last as long as it has, I knew pills were only a temporary measure.

When I realised the medication wasn’t working, I decided I would have to help myself. This doesn’t mean I don’t take anything for the pain, but this is often a last resort.

This is what has helped me manage my pain. It’s not the life I would have chosen for myself, but I have made it work for me although I’ve had to adapt. I may never run again, but I haven’t completely given up that dream.

Amanda Nicholson

Amanda Nicholson

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