Managing Chronic Pain
This is a post written by a friend of RMA about her experiences with Endometriosis and what she did to deal with the chronic pain caused by it. She hopes that sharing her story will help answer questions that others with similar issues may have.
Before I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2012, I did everything I could to make it through the day. Most people know that endometriosis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, and it has a wide variety of symptoms including debilitating stomach cramps, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, pain with urination etc. Eating a variety of foods such as gluten, chocolate, caffeine, soy etc. can aggravate the inflammation. Also when a person has endometriosis a lot of times they are susceptible to contracting certain diseases such as hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia and certain cancers. These diseases just add to the chronic pain that endometriosis already causes.
So how should you manage chronic pain and continue living your life? Unfortunately, most doctors don’t provide many options to manage chronic pain unless it’s through prescription drugs containing codeine that can cause constipation and other stomach issues or through laparoscopic surgery. Excision surgery, which cuts the endometriosis out, is the preferred method over ablation, which burns the endometriosis off at the surface but leaves it susceptible to regrowth.
Usually most women take over the counter drugs such as Aleve to help with the pain but many explore non-conventional methods such as acupuncture, physiotherapy, TENS therapy etc. to help with the pain. I had success with acupuncture as well as physiotherapy, but I also found that a warm bath, charcoal tablets and a heating pad worked wonders too.
Another way to cope with pain from these debilitating diseases is to manage your stress levels. Have you ever noticed when something goes wrong the stress seems to add to the pain? It especially seemed to be this way in my case because I had a lot of on-the-job stress as well as family issues and trying to cope with it all was very overwhelming. Unfortunately, stress seems to affect inflammation and when you’re inflamed it causes excruciating pain and when you’re in pain your physical appearance suffers. By drinking green tea, I noticed that it helped calm my body aches and pains as well as reduce my stress levels therefore making me look and feel better.
“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” --Victor Hugo, Les Miserables. In other words, think positive because positive thoughts breed positive results. Your thoughts are much more powerful than just electric signals between synapses, they affect your life and those around you.
Another pain coping mechanism is to become active and participate in activities that you enjoy. By being active, you’re likely to forget about your pain temporarily, which can cause you to be less depressed about your situation. I found when I got outside and enjoyed nature by camping, kayaking, hiking etc. that it helped to put my situation into perspective a little bit more as well as relieved my stress and my pain too. If doing something strenuous is out of the question, try yoga or meditate for an hour. By being active this also lowers estrogen levels as well as lowers the amount of body fat which all lead to pain in excess.
Finding a good support group or set of friends will also help with chronic pain while also helping to manage stress. As an added bonus, you and others will become more informed about your disease. I found several Facebook support groups online dealing with endometriosis, and they really helped me especially when I was feeling depressed/helpless as well as answered any questions that I had. And most importantly eliminate all foods that will cause you inflammation such as alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, gluten, soy etc. Be especially careful with gluten and soy because these products seem to be in everything these days.
Learning to manage chronic pain can be a challenge but by experimenting, hopefully your pain will be minimized. And hopefully this will not be a life-long process and you’ll be living your life again shortly without pain affecting it on a daily basis.
Rose Thomas is a proud survivor of endometriosis and she hopes that her experiences with endometriosis will inspire other women with endometriosis to not give up hope.