The truth about living with a chronic pain condition like chronic migraines is that it’s no one thing that will make your life bearable or perhaps even enjoyable. You need a tool box full of options you can pick and choose from to put together a system of pain management that works for you and gives you somewhere to turn when one thing isn’t working well.
Medications can be an important and healthy part of pain management. I would certainly never try to convince a migraineur not to use them as part of a migraine management plan. Triptans are an extremely important medication for migraines because they are the only medication that works to treat your migraine attack by aborting it rather than simply dulling the symptoms. However, if medication is the only thing you have to rely on, chances are you’re going to be let down from time to time. The same is certainly true of pain medications. The reality is that most people living with chronic migraines are going to need to incorporate pain medication into their personal pain management programs. But you need to have other things to rely on for times when the medication doesn’t cut it or when you’re unable to use the medication for any number of reasons.
At this point, you might be wondering what else there is. Injections, surgeries or something even worse? No, that’s not at all what I’m talking about. I’m talking about developing a well-rounded pain management program that includes things like gentle exercise and stretching, a healthy diet, plenty of water, mindfulness or prayer and real life support.
Having these tools at my disposal gives me somewhere healthy to turn when I think I can’t take it anymore – either physically or emotionally or both. When I start thinking, “I can’t take this,” I stop my thinking and try to change it around. I ask myself what of the things I know help me could I do right now to calm myself down and get centered despite whatever crisis I’m dealing with at the moment. I made lists of these things while I was doing a behavioral pain management program, and it’s incredibly helpful to look back through them when I’m struggling for inspiration.
The tools that work well for you are probably not the same as mine. But I hope by sharing what’s in my toolbox I can help inspire you to explore your options and adopt some new practices that will help you cope with a life filled with pain.
MY CHRONIC PAIN TOOLBOX:
plenty of water
keeping easy, healthy choices on hand at all times
SPIRITUALITY / RELAXATION
MINDFULNESS & BEHAVIORAL PAIN MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES
pacing (see Pacing: An Important Tool for Chronic Pain Management for more information)
dashboard (see Behavioral Pain Management Dashboard for more information)
weather practice – “The weather blew the discomfort in and may blow it out at any moment.” (from How to Be Sick by Toni Bernhard)
Tonglen practice – “Breathe in the suffering of all those who share the symptoms you are experiencing.” (from How to Be Sick by Toni Bernhard)
Byron Katie’s four questions: (1) Is it true? (2) Can you absolutely know it is true? (3) What happens when you believe that thought? How do you react? (4) Who would you be without that thought? (see The Work of Byron Katie & her book Loving What Is for more information)
movies & TV
My community of fellow migraineurs
message board friends
close real life friends
local real life social media group gatherings
What’s in your toolbox? What’s lacking? What might help fill those holes? Talk to you doctor about which changes might be right for you.
Recommended ACT & Mindfulness Resources
Crazy Making Pain: Mindfully Battling It
Why You Should Try Mindfulness to Cope with Pain
How are Chronic Pain & Acute Pain Different?
Pain Tolerance: How Your Behavior Decreases or Increases It
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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain, and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.