Over the years I’ve been experimenting with what works and what doesn’t to manage/eliminate pain.
In 2003 my left hand was severed through the wrist, the left thumb was separately severed from that, my right thumb, index and middle finger were chopped off, and the rest of it was off at the forearm and again at the elbow.
I was a mangled mess of meat, bone, nerves and sinew held together, for the most part, by ribbons of skin.
Luckily surgeons replanted/sewed everything back together.
But that was just the beginning and there were 12 more ops after the first and years of recovery.
Due to the injuries I’ve developed arthritis in my wrists, thumbs and knuckles too.
Record cold temperatures around New Zealand this winter have definitely sent the pain with the cold.
I’m not big on pharmaceutical pain killers and take them as little as possible.
I prefer to work with alternatives.
It’s that time of year when my hands seize and claw up.
The pain starts in and they get rendered practically useless.
Trying to get my knickers down for a wee on a cold morning can be a mission. Let me tell you.
Fuck living like that permanently.
I lead a busy life and have no desire to live in pain.
For the most part I don’t.
I drive cars & trucks – Ok, the truck was only twice, but it all counts, I reckon.
I ride and train horses. Super novicely, but you gotta start somewhere.
I type – albeit with two fingers and one thumb.
I practice yoga.
To be able to perform these tasks I have to take good care of my hands and manage my pain levels.
That starts with food.
TIP ONE. Food as your medicine. The bounty of nature.
Eating to manage pain is effective when it’s incorporated daily into your lifestyle.
Eat as much fresh unprocessed food as possible.
There are lots of anti-inflammatory foods you can incorporate into your diet:
Garlic and onions. I add them to everything I cook.
Ginger. I add it into cooking, smoothies, juices & drink it as tea.
Turmeric. I have experienced times when the relief is almost immediate.
I generously add it into cooking, put heaps in home made dips, and make coconut milk turmeric concoctions.
Dark green leafy vegetables, parsley, blueberries, orange kumara, pumpkin and dark oily fish all contribute to reducing pain too.
I really notice the difference in my pain levels when I go off track with my eating.
Eliminate pro-inflammatory foods from you diet as much as possible.
Some examples are:
Deep fried foods, commercially prepared baked goods, cane sugar and fructose syrup products, processed meats, vegetable oil, canola oil, rice bran oil – or any oil that comes in a clear plastic bottle, margarine, mayonnaise and salad dressing – depending on which oil was used.
TIP TWO. Know your pain.
Get to know and understand the pain you experience.
Get to know your body and it’s signs and capacities.
Learn to correctly identify what your body is saying to you.
Are you experiencing nerve pain? Bone pain? Joint pain? Muscular pain?
Or is your pain from unbearable sadness that stabs you metaphysically?
Is it from a deep loneliness, or sense of not fitting in that you feel deep in your soul?
You need to know your pain inside out.
And it’s gonna hurt!
Hopefully only for a little bit.
Once we know what type of pain we are dealing with we know how best to treat it.
Even how to prevent it in some cases. Which is awesome and my personal favourite for dealing with pain.
TIP THREE: Write it down.
Keep a pain, food and emotions/mental state diary. This ties in with tip one and two.
Write down every time you feel pain and what type of pain it is and how long it lasts. Date and time stamp it.
Write down what you were doing, who you were with, where you were, how you felt in your mind and the general atmosphere at the time.
Write down everything that you eat and drink. Date it and time stamp it.
At the end of every day, or week, go through and look for patterns.
This will help you understand your pain better.
If you understand it you can manage it.
TIP FOUR. Nutritional therapy.
It’s great to get our vitamins, minerals and efas from fresh wholesome food, but sometimes that just isn’t enough, especially if we want to treat pain or heal wounds. Here’s my top four pain killing supplements.
Vitamin C supplementation.
It enhances wound healing, is some of the building blocks of connective tissue and collagen, and is a co-factor in the manufacture of neurotransmitters that help us deal with stress and pain. Deficiency can lead to joint pain, pain in the extremities, muscle weakness and myalgias, as well as depression and fatigue.
We use more of it during times of stress and pain. It’s involved in hundreds of processes through out the body every day. Deficiency signs are muscle weakness and cramps, hand and foot spasms, numbness, tingling, restless or painful legs, PMS and period pain, migraine headaches as well as insomnia and depression.
NB. Don’t take magnesium at the same time as an iron supplement. They compete for the same pathway.
Vitamin B12 supplementation. This is the nerve vitamin, though, to be fair, all B vitamins nourish the nervous system. B12 makes the insulation around the nerve fibers that help with conduction. Deficiency signs are neurological disturbances, neuropathy, abdominal pain and depression.
Omega 3 supplementation.
Fish oils are highly anti inflammatory, which relieves pain. They also nourish the nervous system and support neurological function.
Look for a brand that supports sustainable practices and has clear EPA and DHA levels indicated.
Actions and deficiency signs from Herbs and Supplements An evidence-based guide
TIP FIVE. Massage.
I can’t emphasise this enough.
A qualified physio, osteopath or massage therapist can work wonders to relieve pain.
Self massage is also great if you can reach the sore spot.
Or even if you can’t.
We have more nerve endings towards the surface of our skin.
Rubbing a part of the body close to the affected area can also help as this temporarily takes the nervous system’s attention away from the pain site.
For instance if I have pain in my wrist, sometimes the bones ache and throb where they were cut through, I will rub the top of my forearm vigorously. Or even my shoulder.
However it’s not always appropriate to massage certain conditions, eg varicose veins, malignant tumours, open or newly stitched wounds etc… so use discretion and common sense.
If you are unsure about your condition ask a health professional.
TIP SIX. Apply heat.
When my hands are particularly painful and claw like I soak them in a hot basin of water for ten minutes to defrost them and get them moving and supple. Sometimes I put sea salt or Himalayan rock salt in.
Sometimes I don’t.
Wheat packs and hot water bottles are my friend.
I don’t own a microwave, so it’s hotties for me.
When I’m writing I have one sitting on the inside of my left forearm with my fingers wrapped around the end.
I take them out with me driving and visiting.
When my right hand isn’t busy doing all the stuff my left can’t, that gets wrapped around/gripped onto the side of it, or I lay the hot water bottle over the top of my hand and wrist for ten minutes before getting back to the task at hand.
So before you reach for the painkillers, try a little heat.
Obviously some conditions will be exasperated by heat, so use common sense when working with it.
On the flip side of that, I use cold flannels if I get a migraine.
Luckily, well, purposefully actually, they are few and far between these days.
I think that’s enough on physical pain killers right now. I’ll save the rest for another day.
I’ll write a blog about dealing with emotional pain down the track too.
Are you going to incorporate any of these tips into your pain management routine?
I’d love to hear how it goes for you.
Lots of love.