Before you begin decking the halls, take a moment to consider some pain management modifications.
I have learned a lot since my diagnosis of fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, and endometriosis in 2003/2004. One of those things is that trying to get through the holidays like I did before chronic pain became a part of my daily life is a BIG mistake!!!
On a positive note, I have also learned a number of ways of how to prevent and limit the number of flares I experience during this time of year. And I am sharing them with you!
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The holidays are a time when we do more than we typically do. We spend, worry, stress, laugh, cry, and go out more. And with the pandemic keeping people home, the amount of emotional stress is sure to increase.
What does stress do? It increases our inflammation and pain. To think we can get through the holidays following the same pain management plan as we did throughout the rest of the year is ludicrous. Modifications must be made to combat the added stress.
For me that means stocking up on some of my favorite pain relief products which include the following:
Think about the items that help decrease your chronic pain flares and order enough to get you through the season ASAP!
Pain Management Modifications Include Staying Ahead of the Pain
How good are you at recognizing pain in its beginning stages and then addressing it before it skyrockets to an extreme level? If you have to think about it or don’t know, it’s time to begin. One of the most important pain management modifications you can make is to stay ahead of the pain.
Staying ahead of pain from fibromyalgia or autoimmune arthritis is tricky, but not totally impossible. There are many times when we find ourselves being able to do something without pain, then wham, out of the blue we are hit with an indescribable level of pain. However, if we pay close attention, we might notice some of the signs before pain strikes.
One example of what to pay attention to is muscle tension. Not feeling pain at the moment doesn’t mean that we won’t experience pain later. The slightest amount of muscle tension in the neck or lower back can later result in a whole lot of pain. When participating in an activity that has led to delayed or instant pain in the past, I get ahead of it by applying an arnica salve. It reduces pain and relaxes my muscles without interfering with my cognitive abilities.
Another way I stay ahead of the pain is to stop before my body begs me to. This means not walking a full mile with the family to look at Christmas lights when I haven’t been able to walk for more than 10 minutes without pain the rest of the year. I can still join them, but instead of risking injury or a flare, I modify the activity by bringing along my rollator/transport combo chair. This allows me to walk the distance I am able and to be pushed during the rest of our outing.
Quality and Flexibility Over Quantity and Tradition
If I have learned anything throughout my many years of living with chronic pain, it is that how much I do or when I do it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I enjoy what I do when my body allows.
For example, in the past it was our family tradition to visit with family on Christmas Eve and end the evening with midnight mass. The kids would wake us up the next morning to open presents and we would spend the rest of the day snacking and watching Christmas movies. Over time this became too much for my chronic body to handle and something had to change. After two years of not being able to open my eyes or enjoy watching my children open their presents my husband and I agreed to shift that event to when we arrived home from church. It was still done on Christmas day, just not at the same time.
Sometimes I need to celebrate a holiday on another date. With the additional abdominal pain that I have been experiencing this year, I have had to more flexible than ever when making plans. With full moons being one of my known migraine and brain fog triggers and a full blue moon expected on Halloween, I knew I wouldn’t be up for much of anything on October 31st. Instead, I dressed up and visited my happy place, Disneyland (the downtown shopping district). I had a blast and everyone loved my costume. Cast members and fellow guests took pictures and I loved the smiles that my wheelchair costume and I put on their faces.
If getting together with friends and family on Christmas Eve or day adds too much physical stress, consider a different date or if you do not feel safe visiting in person this year, ask to join the celebration via Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime.
Memes That Describe What it is Like to Have a Chronic Illness During the Holidays
Why Holiday Timelines Don’t Work with Chronic Illness/Pain
4 Ways to Survive the Holidays with a Chronic Illness
How to Bring the Magic of Disney to Your Home This Christmas Season
Mix It Up and Deal With It
You may find that you need to mix up your current pain treatments. How you do that depends on how you treat chronic pain. Being that cannabis and pemf therapy are top pain management tools, I make modifications to how I use each of them.
I increase my pemf treatments and focus them on my neck and lower back. This helps with the extra strain both areas experience while socializing, shopping, wrapping presents, decorating, and cooking.
My preferred method of medicating with medical marijuana is dry vaping. However, when dealing with additional pain like I am currently and seasonal nerve pain in my leg (surgical injury), my body prefers that I consume edibles. Cannabis edibles provide longer relief. Dry vaping typically yields 4 hours of pain relief when I am only dealing with fibromyalgia and psoriatic arthritis symptoms. However, with my additional abdominal pain, dry vaping is not cutting it. With edibles I experience six to eight hours of relief which is what is needed to get me through the night.
This change in how I consume cannabis has also led to modifying how I do things. For my edibles to kick in at or near the time I wish to go to bed at night, I need to medicate between 5 and 6 PM. This means NO driving during the evening. But it also means living with less pain!!
Until I am able to return to my typical methods of managing pain, I require to be driven in the evenings or have to wait until I return home to medicate which will throw off my schedule for the following day. I have come to the realization that there are worse things in life than having to depend on my husband or friends to drive for a rare evening out.
What could you change to keep your pain level from spiking and throwing off your schedule?
Rank Importance of Holiday Tradition/Activity
Instead of throwing caution to the wind by trying to keep up with every holiday tradition and activity, make a list and rank them.
Do it all and I guarantee you will end up in so much pain that you will spend the rest of the year sobbing about how much you hate the holidays and your body. When you choose what is most important, make pain management modifications, adjustments to those traditions and activities, you will look back on the season with joy.
Keep in mind that what you are able to do this year may differ from what you could do last year. In 2017 and 2018, I did way more than I had done in over a decade!!! But 2019 and 2020 are a different story because of the extra symptoms and pain that I am dealing with. Will my inability to keep up with Christmas past ruin this year’s celebrations? NO!!! Because I have chosen what is most important and accepted that everything else will have to wait for a year when I feel better.
What will you do to make this holiday season less painful and more joyful?