Patient Blogs | Ankylosing Spondylitis
Understanding and Managing Pain
photo of businesswoman with wrist pain

There are so many things that I could say about managing pain. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough space to say everything here. Instead, I’m going to share my biggest takeaway with you.

Now, I wasn't very good at managing pain. I was a young mother raising two young children with my husband. He helped tremendously with our children. I thank the Universe for his support throughout those very difficult years.

As a parent, if you're one, you’ll understand where I'm going with this. It was extremely hard to be active and constantly present in my children's lives. The pain was so debilitating, and as hard as I tried, I couldn't concentrate on anything or anyone else. Pain was on my mind all the time.

I was a full-time mom working in a lot of pain.
My co-workers had no clue how much pain I was really dealing with. Being recognized as a team player was high on my priority list. Not being a complainer. If you watched me working at my desk, you would have seen someone constantly busy and juggling many tasks.

You would have never known that deep down inside, I was dealing with a lot of angst and frustration. It was difficult to get up from my chair and walk over to the photocopier because of my swollen knees. I felt very embarrassed when moving about in the office.

If I had the chance for a break, I would go outside, sit down on a bench, and close my eyes. It helped to calm my mind and stay relaxed.

Thankfully, I had the support of my friends and family on the tough days. But I felt that no one really understood what it was like to be in constant pain, 24/7, unless they were experiencing pain themselves.

After I had my second hip replacement surgery, for the very first time in years, I began to see ankylosing spondylitis in a very different way. As a result, I embarked on a personal development journey (which is a lifelong one, I might add).

My journey has significantly helped with my pain management and has changed my whole perception around pain and my thoughts about it.

I firmly believe that managing physical and emotional pain starts in your mind.

So I continue to devour books, blog posts, and medical reviews in an effort to understand the relationship between pain and the brain.

Reading tons of research studies has opened my eyes to the relationship between high inflammatory levels and sugar.

I review studies of participants who have had chronic pain for a long time so I can understand their mental and physical struggles.

Next, I’m a big proponent of experimentation with food. For some people dealing with chronic pain, certain types of foods can contribute to increased inflammation.

I tested out that theory by going on an elimination diet years ago under the supervision of a naturopath.

Just about everything was removed from my diet, and it was quite challenging. But I wanted to get to the bottom of what could be triggering my painful flares.

Well wouldn’t you know, I discovered that fresh tomatoes and I weren’t meant to be best friends. I loved fresh tomatoes. I put them on my turkey sandwiches and also added diced tomatoes to my salads. But unfortunately, our romance came to an abrupt end because eating them caused extreme pain in my neck for over 6 hours!

An elimination diet revealed what types of foods triggered my pain beyond the point of no return and those that didn’t.

I would encourage you to also experiment with food if you haven’t already. Try keeping a pain diary and track how you feel after eating. Become a food detective when it comes to your body.

Another suggestion I have for you is to work on your thoughts about your body.

Do you push yourself to do the things you used to so you can prove to yourself you can still do those things? I did this more than I care to admit. But you know what?

It’s not worth it.

You end up feeling sorer and stiffer than usual and get frustrated at yourself and at the world and say mean things to yourself. Words you’d never say to your bestie.

Here’s the biggest takeaway:

Look into when your pain first began.

Pull out your magnifying glass, spend time alone, grab a pen and your journal, light a candle, and get deep, my friend. This is the first step.

Investigate the events of your past, especially when you were a kid. When did you first begin to notice that first little inkling of pain in your back or knees?

I have found from my own personal time spent in reflection, meditation, and journaling that the path back to health and wellness has its roots in the past.

Don’t judge yourself for what you did or didn’t do. You were only doing the best you could with what you had at the time.

Write down everything that comes up and release it. It’s important to remain open, gentle, and compassionate with yourself as you do this. I know it’s scary to go digging into the past. But if your goal is to reduce chronic pain, the journey first begins within.

 

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Lovaine Cohen

Lovaine Cohen

Diagnosed since 2001

Lovaine Cohen has lived with ankylosing spondylitis for over 20 years. A chronic pain coach, Lovaine helps women reduce pain with her Holistic Healing Method program and shares pain management and anxiety tips on her blog and on Instagram. Her loves include her two children in their early 20s, a rescue husky named Stella, and her husband of 28 years. Connect with Lovaine on Instagram.

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