Pain, Pain Go Away...
Every morning, as soon as I wake up, I do a quick pain inventory. My feet? Yep, still hurt. How about my back, my neck, my forearm? Check, check, check, all still have some discomfort. Although only in my fifties, sometimes, I feel like a decrepit ninety-year-old.
As I lay there, the old nursery rhyme Rain, Rain Go Away, with new lyrics, runs through my head.
Pain, pain, go away, even for just one day, I’m tired of being this way!
Several years ago, I was up before dawn running five miles before I headed to the office. Every so often, I’d pull a muscle or something ached, but those pains were short-lived. Usually self-induced, these pains were from doing something crazy (or stupid, depending on your perspective) like running a half marathon or climbing through an America Ninja Warrior type obstacle course.
In 2016, cancer showed its ugly head. I was diagnosed with both breast cancer and a rare blood cancer, polycythemia vera within a couple of months of each other. As with many diagnosed with cancer, chronic pain is a daily part of my life now.
Polycythemia vera causes the blood to make too many red blood cells which increases the cytokines. Cytokines cause inflammation to the joints and bones. Throw in osteoporosis and some arthritis on top of the cancer pain and there are days I struggle to get out of bed.
Fortunately, none of my aching is acute pain or keeps me from functioning. My pain reminds me of the car warranty spam calls. Even though I block them, they keep changing their number and calling back. Sometimes a pain will go away, but it’s soon replaced by pain somewhere else... ugh.
Pain management tips
I have tried several things over the past few years to get a handle on my pain. Below are a few non-invasive and non-medication tips for pain management:1,2
- Heat and cold – Depending on the pain and its underlying cause, a heating pad or ice pack is a good temporary pain relief method.
- Eat healthy – Eating a well-balanced diet has many benefits. Eating right can help with inflammation and pain. I try to eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads, and lean meats. I also avoid foods with sugar (which is exceptionally hard for me), processed foods, fatty red meats, alcohol, vegetable oils, refined white grains as all these can trigger inflammation.
- Exercise – Even though it sounds counter-intuitive and the last thing you want to do if you hurt, exercise can help relieve pain. Increased endorphins can improve your mood and can block the pain receptors. In addition, exercise helps build muscle, which can prevent injury and help with pain management. Even though it’s a challenge, I try to walk every day and lift light weights. Most times, I feel better after than before I started.
- Yoga and tai chi – Stretching and yoga poses are a part of my morning routine. It helps loosen me up and I usually feel better.
- Distract yourself from the pain – This is the most common way for me to “forget” about the pain. My outlets include walking with friends, writing, reading, and playing the guitar.
- Music therapy – Studies show that music is helpful for pain management. Music has helped me significantly with alleviating pain. It doesn't matter if I'm listening, playing, or singing.
Other recommended tips I haven’t tried including biofeedback, therapeutic massage, tracking your pain levels in a journal, deep breathing, meditation, and joining a pain support group.1,2
Although, I can’t make the pain go away, with these tips I have been able to effectively manage it.
What type of blood cancer are you or your loved one diagnosed with?