I don’t generally suffer from anxiety. It doesn’t mean I don’t get stressed. Of course I do. We all do.
In general, my overall health situation doesn’t stress me. I accept it is what it is and I’m adjusting my life accordingly.
Pain however, when it is at unrelenting levels day after day, does cause great physical stress. Left unmanaged it can easily lead to mental stress.
I don’t usually show I’m in pain. I can still talk and laugh through it and function mentally.
I’m doing that right now writing this blog post. It’s helping to distract me from the pain of an unstable broken lumbar spine, along with the regular daily pain my bone disease lavishes on me.
So while I don’t appear stressed, I’m very aware I am physically. I’m working full time not to let it mentally cripple me.
Take The Pressure Down
Whenever I’m in hospital the medical staff don’t take much notice of my outward demeanour in relation to pain. I’ll say it’s 6/10. They’ll take my blood pressure and say, “Sorry Sam, we think it’s more like 9/10.”
Once my pain medication kicks in, my blood pressure drops. Pretty easy deduction that physical pain causes a physical stress reaction.
My pain isn’t going to improve. If anything it will get worse, although I’m not sure how it possibly could given my current pain crisis.
Anyway, whatever happens there are very few options available to me now.
Pain medication helps but only to a certain degree. I need other pain management tools to help reduce the stress of pain.
I have a few tips that I’ve shared in a number of blog posts. My Chronic Illness Catastrophe Days post might be one of the most helpful.
Music Soothes My Soul
My favourite and most effective “natural” pain management tool is listening to music.
When I wake in the morning I literally can’t move. As I try and roll over in bed to get out, I soon realise my body is fused to the mattress. My spine just won’t move and if I try, the pain releases a blood curdling scream from my lips.
My husband wakes with a start and knows the drill. I have to get out inch by inch, any quick movement is bone grating on bone. As I slowly sit on the edge of the bed my spinal canal is compressed and more screams follow. I just can’t control them. I eventually stand with 2 crutches and my broken bones create their own musical sound which is far from heavenly.
I’ve found over the past year that if I want to complete a physical task around the home, like making the bed or doing some light housework, I need to implement some kind of pain management distraction therapy. I also have learned my pain dictates the timetable. I usually am rendered useless for the first 4 to 6 hours of the day in terms of physical activity.
Here’s where music works for me. As soon as I play my favourite songs I begin singing. My mind becomes focused on the music and the words of the song.
I listen to music special to me. Mostly that’s a variety of gospel music but I also love country and popular music too.
I still feel my pain. Each step causes sharp shocks through my body but it’s not at the forefront of my mind. The small change of allowing the music to flood my mind, allows me to complete the task I want to do. The music soothes my soul and that reduces physical and mental stress, which in turn helps reduce my sense of pain.
Music Is My Reward
Over the past few months I’ve taken my music distraction therapy a step further. I’ve created a discipline where I don’t listen to music unless I’m completing a physical task.
That may sound a little odd but it means I now look forward to doing some physical tasks each day, rather than cowering at the thought of them, as they are now linked to a reward.
Physical tasks = my music sessions, listening to my favourite songs. They ignite a happy positive image in my mind rather than a crippling painful one.
Now my idea of what’s an important physical task will likely be different to yours. For me it’s important to get dressed nicely each day, make the bed, keep the house tidy etc. I don’t want to feel like a patient or like I’m unwell, so doing these things help me still hold on to some semblance of normal. It’s important for my mental wellbeing.
Not to do these tasks would cause me mental stress which would only aggravate my physical pain further.
It’s important to identify for you, what are the tasks in life worth attempting to achieve, and which tasks would serve no purpose in terms of improving your well-being and pain levels.
A Sensible Approach
I still have intense limitations even while happily listening to music. I pace all my activities and I can’t be standing or upright for more than 10mins at a time. I have severe pain during those 10mins but it won’t cause me to be laid up for days if I adhere to my 10min limit.
If I try and push through that I generally end up with a new fractures…..yes I have learned the hard way. Yes, I have been a slow learner.
So, if you want to try some music distraction therapy to do a task, here’s my tips but please be sensible;
- Think through how to go about the task in a way that won’t aggravate your pain beyond what you can handle;
- Set a time limit. Start slow and build up to longer tasks as you test your bodies limitations;
- Set a playlist on Spotify or however you listen to music. Make sure it is only going to play for the length of time you need to be active. It’s a great timing system – music stops, you stop;
- Enjoy yourself. Pain takes so much from us. To have 5, 10 or 30mins of physical movement listening to music you love, is just pure joy;
- Be careful with upbeat music. I actually had some great toe tapping music on the other day and I started to dance a little. I know, I know….completely crazy and there were major consequences. So my advice is uplifting music is great but not anything that makes you think you can fly.
I’ll Leave You With A Favourite
Whispering Hope is an old hymn with a beautiful melody and absolutely perfect words for anyone experiencing pain and suffering.
It’s also timely as we navigate our way through the current COVID-19 pandemic. Hope may seem like something out of reach at the moment. Listen for it.
“Whispering Hope, oh how welcome your voice”
It’s a bit of a tear jerker but sometimes a good cry also helps relieve physical pain a little.
The words below are the first verse and chorus. The You Tube clip is Hayley Westenra, a beautiful New Zealand singer with the voice of an angel.
I hope you enjoy a bit of music that soothes my soul. 💞
Soft as the voice of an angel,
Breathing a lesson unheard,
Hope with a gentle persuasion
Whispers her comforting word:
Wait till the darkness is over,
Wait till the tempest is done,
Hope for the sunshine tomorrow,
After the shower is gone.
Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.
If you’re looking for genuine support, care, understanding and friendship, you are so welcome to join my closed Facebook support forum, Medical Musings with Friends . It’s a safe place to connect with others living with chronic and complex diseases, who truly understand the daily challenges. A warm welcome awaits.
I’m also a Contributor at “The Mighty”. You can check out my published articles at My Author Page
I also write @ Blogs by Christian Women
If you would like to read a little more about my journey, here’s the link to My Story
WEGO Health Award Nominee 2019- Best in Show Blog