If you are currently living with chronic pain you already know that the pain can change from day to day. Some days are good days for the pain, meaning that while the pain is still there, it is manageable. Maybe your range of motion is better on good days. Maybe your mood is a bit better. You may have gotten a decent nights sleep the night before.
When you are having a bad day for the pain, it is exactly that-a bad day. A bad day for pain is the day where the pain level is so intense nothing seems to take the edge off. Sleep ismypain out of the question and any movement is agony.
So what dictates a good day for pain from a bad day for pain? There are many factors that can change a good day to a bad one. It can be dependent on the underlying condition, treatments, and activities that you take part in that day, as well as many other potential factors.
Triggers are things that can potentially “set off” a spike in pain, making it a bad day for pain. While not all triggers are known, there are some triggers that aggravate pain symptoms, and that you can be mindful of avoiding in order to better manage your pain.
Stress– Nearly everyone will combat stress at different times in their life. For chronic pain sufferers, high levels of stress or chronic stress can actually make your pain worse. Chronic pain in itself is a source of stress. The stress can aggravate the pain, leading to further stress and so the vicious cycle continues. Chronic stress can also lead to chemical imbalances in the brain, leading to worsening stress, depression and anxiety. Managing stress properly is very important, as stress may always be present in our day to day lives.
There are a number of ways to manage stress including removing yourself from the stressful situation, physical exercise when you are feeling stressed and practicing mindful meditation to regain perspective of the situation.
Poor Sleep– We hear time and time again how important sleep is to the healing body. When we are referring to chronic pain, sleep is just as important. The trouble here is yet another endless cycle. Chronic pain is often the cause of poor sleep. Poor sleep aggravates chronic pain symptoms, making the pain worse which in turn, disrupts that night’s sleep. A lack of sleep can also have an effect on your mental state, your ability to focus, your ability to retain information and can even impact your short term memory.
One way to try and regain your sleep is by practicing good sleep hygiene. This includes have a set time to go to sleep every night, allowing your body to become accustomed to this bed time. Keeping a dark and quiet room is also a form of sleep hygiene. Minimize the amount of screen time you get in the evening and eliminating screen time altogether thirty minutes prior to your set bedtime will also help to improve your quality of sleep.
Weather changes– While we may not be able to control the weather, we can certainly prepare for it. While it is still difficult to prove that fluctuations in the weather can impact pain symptoms, many people from different parts of the world will attest to the fact the weather affects pain. Drops in the air pressure around us has been said to cause aggravation to pain, specifically migraines and joint pains. Temperature changes have also been said to affect arthritic pains. Colder weather can lead to an increase in pain if you are not appropriately dressed for frigid temperatures.
The best way to avoid this trigger would be to stay indoors when extreme weather is on its way. Dress for the weather outdoors and protect the parts of your body that are in pain with the proper clothing.
Diet– There is always merit to a healthy diet rich in vitamins and nutrients. But more specifically, there are a group of foods known as inflammatory foods that should be avoided when you are managing chronic pain. Inflammatory foods can cause further inflammation in the body, which in turn can increase your pain level. For the most part, this list of foods consists of processed foods rather than fresh foods. Fried foods are also considered inflammatory foods and can contribute to pain spikes. Dairy can also cause some level of inflammation in the body although this is not the case for everyone. If you are finding a correlation between spikes in you pain level and a certain food you are eating, try eliminating that food item temporarily from you diet and keeping a pain diary to track your pain levels. You may be surprised to find that some of your favorite foods can actually be working against you.
State of mind– Your state of mind has a larger impact on your overall pain level than you may think. Negative or “catastrophic” thinking could cause the pain sensations to be amplified. Catastrophic thinking can also cause you to believe that a situation is much worse than it really is. The mind is a very powerful tool, and when you have convinced yourself that the situation or the pain is unbearable, the body will then feel these effects. Alternatively, if you can practice the concept of mind over matter, you can make a bad situation a little more manageable. When you can mentally separate the pain of the body from the mind, you can regain perspective of the pain in general, changing a bad day for pain into a good day overall for you.