Tips that will make going to the movies with chronic pain enjoyable again

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Before chronic pain from fibromyalgia, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, degenerative disc disease, coccydynia, and endometriosis took over my life, I used to go to the movie theater at least once a week.

As my pain increased and other painful health issues were added to my collection of diagnoses, my love for spending the afternoon watching movies at a theater turned into loathing.

I gave up.

Instead of getting excited for the release of a new movie, I dreaded having to avoid spoilers while waiting for it to stream on Netflix or Hulu.

Then a few years ago, I realized that although going to the theater every weekend might not be possible, I could still go and enjoy the movies I was most passionate about. 

All I had to do was let go of my pride, get creative, and find solutions to what was making it such a torturous event.

I may have broken ribs, but I was NOT about to allow them to keep me from seeing Avengers: Endgame in theaters.

I could have tried avoiding spoilers and waited a few weeks until I felt better, but I didn’t want to.

Instead, I assessed my needs and came up with a plan that allowed me to go and make it through the movie without too much additional pain.

Here is what I did and how it can help you!

Assess and accept

The first thing I have to do is to assess my current situation.

Questions I ask myself include:

  1. How far am I able to walk?
  2. How long can I stand?
  3. How long am I able to sit up?
  4. What pain or symptom is currently causing the most turmoil?
  5. What hours of the day are currently my best?
  6. Will I need assistance?
  7. What are my current needs?

The answers to these questions vary based on the weather, which of my multiple chronic illnesses are flaring or under control, and additional injuries from falling, car accidents, etc.

The most important question is how far am I willing to or have the energy to spend on making this outing possible?

While I still want to see Dumbo, it didn’t rate high enough on my wish list to go through the effort seeing a movie with broken ribs, lack of mobility, and increased pain would entail.  However, there was no question or doubt that I would do anything possible to make sure I saw Avengers: Endgame.

The assessment that I needed to accept to see this film was as follows:

  1. Currently unable to walk more than a few feet without increasing pain throughout ribcage.
  2. Currently unable to stand for more than a few minutes without additional pain throughout ribcage.
  3. Currently unable to sit straight up.  Must ride with passenger seat reclined, but can sit in my wheelchair by arching my back and supporting my ribs with a neck pillow.
  4. My ribcage is the worst of my current pains.
  5. Mornings and evenings are rough, midday is currently best.
  6. Currently, need assistance as my ribcage will not allow me to maneuver my wheelchair by myself.
  7. My current needs are pain relief, support for ribs, and comfort.

Plan for the worst

Knowing and accepting that I would need more assistance than I typically do, I first made sure that my family was on board.

I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t distract from their movie experience.  To do this I took my planning beyond my current level of mobility and looked for ways to reduce my need for assistance during the three-hour movie.

Knowing that I would not be able to reach a restroom without assistance, I prepared by doing two things. The first was to go to the restroom before the movie began. The second was to wear an adult disposable diaper just in case of an emergency.  I am thankful that I didn’t need it, but am glad that I wore one just in case. 

This not only allowed me to watch the movie without worrying about my bladder, but it also gave my family one less thing to worry about.  Do I like wearing a diaper? Of course not, but the peace of mind that comes with wearing one when I am unsure of how quickly I will be able to get to a restroom is worth putting my pride aside for one afternoon.

I medicated an hour before leaving so that it would be in full effect by the time the movie started.  In addition, I bound my ribs and treated the site of the most severe break with PEMF therapy throughout the movie. The glowing blue light from my Oska Pulse didn’t bother anyone as I kept it under my sweater.

Because I attract seat kickers, I chose to remain in my wheelchair throughout the entire movie.  I also knew that it would be difficult for our entire party to sit together, so I was prepared to sit alone in the handicap seating area.  Thankfully there was one open companion seat available for my husband.  But even if there hadn’t been one, I would have been okay as I have equipped my wheelchair with multiple cup holders and storage bags which I stored everything I could possibly need during the show.  Typically, I sit at the very top row to prevent anyone from kicking my back, but with my not being very mobile right now, the best option was my wheelchair.

When I am dealing with such extreme pain and limited mobility, I think of and plan for every worst-case scenario possible.  Thankfully, not every scenario plays out, but if they had, I would have been prepared.

Before planning your next trip to the movie theater, think about the worst things that could occur, then make plans to deal with them on the spot.

I find planning for the worst puts my mind at ease, which in turns puts my body at ease. 

As those of us who have a painful chronic illness such as fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, etc. all know that stress makes everything worse.

Less stress equals a better outing.

Learn from mistakes

Even with the best of plans, mistakes will occur.  Sometimes it is because I have overlooked a symptom or overestimated my ability.  Other times it could be something new or a problem that I hadn’t yet considered.  When things go wrong, I take that experience and I learn from it.  I ask myself what caused it, what may have improved the situation, and was there anything I could have done to prevent it?

Some of the mistakes that I have made in the past in regards to going to a movie theater are:

  1. Not bringing a sweater and/or socks for my feet.  It may be 80 degrees outside, but it is freezing in the theater.  By bringing a sweater and socks I keep my body comfortable and warm.
  2. Not bringing items to soothe my pain.  This includes pain medication, Oska Pulse, ice packs, and heating patches.
  3. Not anticipating my body’s needs by having extra water or snacks on hand, wearing an adult diaper or pad in case of an emergency, and sitting where people are going to bump or kick the back of my seat.
  4. The biggest mistake I have ever made was allowing my pride to get in the way of what doing my body needed.  Needing to use a wheelchair, even if just to get into the theater should never have stopped me from going.  Planning for the worst didn’t mean that the worst would always occur, but instead that my experience would be better because I was prepared.

All my planning and preparation was worth it.  Do I look forward to having my ribs healed and being able to walk into the theater again? You betcha! But in the meantime, I will continue to do whatever it takes to enjoy my life despite the pain that I am currently experiencing.

Has your chronic illness/pain decreased how often you go to the movies? Have you given up on going at all? What is getting in your way? Is it your pride or an issue that you are still seeking a solution for?

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