A little over a year ago, I was shuffling around the house only with the assistance of a walker (outfitted with a basket filled with necessities like the TV remote and compression socks), "sleeping" on an extra-large orthopedic dog bed on top of my Tempurpedic mattress, and wearing a sleep mask like a headband. I was in excruciating, unrelenting pain. I couldn't sleep, sit, walk, stand, or lay down without feeling like a hot electric knife was cutting into my leg from my ass to my calves while simultaneously being zapped from the inside by an equally as treacherous fire-prodder.
I know how overwhelming it is when you are in pain -- especially when that pain does not go away no matter what you do. I've spent enormous amounts of money, time, and effort to find relief. I put together this library section for those of you (SO MANY of you) who go through this every day. I've selected only the items that have actually worked well for me in managing and alleviating my own chronic pain.
My first advice is to consult your medical care provider as soon as possible. The below are not substitutes for professional medical intervention and only worked for me in tandem with NSAIDS, epidural injections, and strict adherence to my physical therapist's recommendations and instructions. Also, just to be super clear, I am in no way a medical professional qualified to give medical advice. So don't substitute this for that.
With that said, I hope that you will find this list helpful. It is a living document and I'll be adding and revising as necessary.
I'm putting together more posts detailing my story and sharing ideas for dealing with "painsomnia," the numerous tiny changes I made to my lifestyle, travelling with chronic pain, and a whole host of things I learned through this process. No matter where you are in your pain journey, I hope you will benefit from all the trial-and-error learning I did trying to heal myself.
Resources for advice:
- the best meditation exercises to deal with pain when you are at your wit's end and NOTHING is working; it was developed by two people who suffered horrific injuries and used these methods to manage their pain. There were dark moments when nothing worked for me -- except these exercises. I also often played the whole tape while I slept (one earbud in), which would often help me fall asleep.
- this book detailing the Gokhale Method; especially for pain associated with the back. My particular problem prevents me from doing all the exercises in the book but the concept of lengthening the spine is part of how I move all day, every day now. Be sure to read the warnings clearly stated in the book.
- my go-to mega ice pack, which you can freeze folded in half and use when you need an ice pack that also provides support (like at night or when sitting). Yes, it's designed for pets. I slept with it folded against my back for the better part of a year.
- these smaller gel bead ice packs that you can switch out regularly (buy multiples!)
- these medium size ice packs for when you need to cover more (again buy at least two so you can switch them out)
- these disposable one-time use instant cold packs for when you are nowhere near a freezer
- my favorite heating pad (it's super-sized, plush, has multiple settings, an automatic shutoff, heats up quickly, and is pretty warm)
- combination heating pad/ice pack/Velcro back support (I used this the most after each epidural injection when I was trying to increase my walking. It keeps an ice pack in place while providing support when you are healing. It also plugs in and provides heat. Very versatile!)
- adhesive disposable heating pads for when you are nowhere near an electrical outlet (great for travel! I put one on as soon as we clear security at the airport.)
External creams, gels, salts, etc.:
- my daily Epsom salt soak (every single day and sometimes multiple times a day depending on whether I am in a flare up, or in maintenance mode)
- magnesium gel that I apply to my back and legs every morning (I've used the lotion, too, which works just as well)
- my number one life-saving lumbar pillow that I use wherever I sit at home (and it's gone to the dentist's office, the movie theater, the car, the hair salon, restaurants, planes, everywhere!)
- the lumbar pillow I use to prop up my back at night because I can't sleep flat on my back without pain
- this knee-ankle support pillow that I put between my knees when I sleep at night (super necessary when you need to stabilize your spine while you sleep)
- neck pillow for when you can only sleep in the upright position (also for travelling); I keep this one near the couch for napping
- the stretch-and-sit pillow which is used with the Gokhale Method but is also just a really great compact pillow to put in your bag for emergencies
- waterproof inflatable pillows for the pool (these may not be useful to all of you, but I found I could no longer recline on a pool chair. These prop me up so my back is supported and at the correct non-pain inducing angle)
- when walking is unbearable, this foldable, wheeled walker (equip with tennis balls so you can shuffle about without scratching the hardwoods); you can buy a basket to attach to it or just hang a tote bag on the side to keep everything you need in there (TV remotes, phone, medication, anything you don't want to move to find)
- this foldable cane (I have this next to my bed in case I need help getting up and I have taken it with me on vacations for the same reason)
- this eye mask for when you need to be able to sleep when you can, anywhere (wear as a headband as needed!)
- these tight but not too tight compression socks for when your legs swell up because you can't sit down and have to stand all day
- this roller, which is much like the one my PT uses for working on stiff muscles and in particular, the wretched piriformis muscle
- an inexpensive TENS therapy unit for when you need distraction from your pain
- this super cute, useful, and oddly-satisfying-when-you-push-the-button pill organizer
- this portable folding stool for when you need to bring your own place to sit (like a parade, concert, the beach); super lightweight but very strong (holds up to 400 lbs!)
- the perfect under seat rolling backpack that my lumbar pillow will fit into
- the best bag for carrying a lot of stuff without hurting yourself (the medium size is good for travel but a small is better for everyday use)
- this small, glow-in-the-dark water bottle that you can fill to take your pills, without adding to much weight to your bag