Gettting Things Done with Chronic Illness: Chronic Pain edition

Today I thought I’d provide a personal update on how my Rule of Life formation is going in light of a flare-up of back pain. Thankfully, I’ve been free of chronic back pain for eight months since going on a new medication–which has provided the first remission since I was pregnant 18 years ago. However, 12 days ago it flared up and so I’ve been challenged to remember my coping skills. Thankfully it has not been 24/7 pain and so I’ve been able to follow the basics of my simple Rule much of the time but sometimes I’ve forgotten things due to the pain. Since the pain is not constant–which is different from my decades long struggle with chronic back pain–I’m not sure if I’m handling my pain meds the best way so I have finally promised myself to call the doctor’s office when they open today and schedule an appointment for some help with my medication strategy, etc. If things don’t improve, I’ll be needing a massage or two to get my pain levels down and although I enjoy them immensely they aren’t covered by insurance so in my present circumstances they are third line treatment, meds and lifestyle accommodations being the first and second.

Aside from not enjoying this return of something I had hoped might be gone forever, my son graduates from high school in one month and we’ll have grandparents here for five days and, as always, I need to step up my game regarding the level of my housekeeping. Aside from the normal challenges of ongoing decluttering, back pain doesn’t exactly make cleaning the most appealing task in the world. So, I’m having to dip into my old toolbox of tips for living with back pain and come up with some helpful reminders of things other than medication that will allow me to get housework done when my back is being cranky or even outright uncooperative.

My first and best tool is music therapy. I can either put my phone in my pocket and use earbuds or AirPlay the music off our TV (which has the added benefit of giving me access to my husband’s iTunes library; woo hoo!) as well as listen to favorite songs I don’t own via YouTube. This helps put some pep in my step and whether or not I’m capable of singing along while performing my household tasks it definitely makes them go by faster!

Another tool–one particularly helpful when the pain levels are higher and/or I’m just worn out from coping with the pain–is watching something on Netflix in spurts. Currently I’m gearing up for the final season of Person of Interest by going back through all the previous episodes. The way I use this tool is to watch for a set amount of time–e.g., 10 minutes–and then get up and work for a set amount of time–say another 10 minutes. This is really helpful to me as it gets my mind off the pain and I get more done than I usually would with just taking plain reading or music video breaks (although these are also good alternatives to TV). I’ve also found that if I’m rewatching something, as in my current POI situation, I can often just listen to the episode while working at mindless tasks–dishes, laundry, dusting, putting things back where they belong–and this strategy keeps me on my feet longer than I usually would be willing to try. I just have to be careful not to overdo how long I’m working when engaged in a particularly interesting storyline!

The last tool I’ll share today is aromatherapy. Using a wax melt burner continuously with whatever scent seems appropriate for my needs on any given day–or even during a certain segment of the day–has become a daily tool I use even when I don’t have back pain as it assists with improving my mood and energy, something I can always benefit from every day.

Additionally, from my work-in-progress Rule I use the Liturgy of the Hours Divine Office app’s audio option to pray when I’m feeling frazzled and need a boost and want to do something that will help me as well as fit in with my desire to live a more prayerful life. The daytime hours’ offices are often around 10 minutes and so this makes them very doable while I’m experiencing pain or brain fog or even just plain old fatigue.

I hope these ideas have helped. Perhaps you have some of your own that you’d like to share in the comments; I’d love to hear them and I’m sure they’d be welcome by this blog’s readers with chronic illness. Despite whatever physical and/or mental illness you’re struggling with today, I wish you a meaningful and productive day–whatever that may look like with your current limits. Enjoy!

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