I think everyone understands pain. We have all had some sort of physical pain at one point in time. Big pains or small pains, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s the small pains we dismiss that wear us down. Pain can control us if we let it. Understanding and managing your pain is a key factor in living with ankylosing spondylitis.
Understanding the source of the pain isn’t as easy as it sounds. For example, I’ll have pain in the kidney area, and it feels like a kidney stone. I have been to the ER several times, and every time I have no kidney stones. After mentioning this to my rheumatologist, she said the source of the pain was in my spine. I had inflammation that was pressing on a nerve, and I felt it in my kidney area. Now that I understand the pain, I can treat it accordingly.
Physical therapy is an important part of pain management for me. I consider physical therapy another tool in my pain management tool belt. It’s usually the first thing I try when I start hurting. Even if it’s just a gentle stretch that I learned in physical therapy. You don’t always need special equipment for physical therapy. I always ask if my physical therapists have printouts of any stretching exercises that they have me do. This way, I can have references handy when I need them at home.
Medications are an important part of pain management as well. I have a few “pains” that don’t seem to get better with PT. That’s when I use my medication. My body is weird. I can use a prescription for a couple of years, and everything is great. Then it’s like my body stops responding to that medication. Then it’s time to head back to the doctor and try something else. So for me I try to limit the medication I take by trying PT first.
Then there are times when your body just needs to rest. You need to learn to listen to your body when it’s trying to tell you something. It took me a while to realize that. I used to try to just “power through” the pain and discomfort. When all I needed to do was just take a moment and slow down.
Learning that pains aren’t created equally helped me deal with my pains more effectively. Nerve pain requires a different treatment plan than joint pain. Joint pain requires a different treatment plan than muscle pain. Learning what is causing the pain is a key step in treating that pain. You can even keep a pain diary. All you need to do is start journaling about your pain. Some of the key things to pay attention to is the weather, your activity level, and your diet. I started noticing patterns with my pain, and now I can try to avoid certain things that cause those issues.
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