As I begin to write this, I am already shuffling about in my chair, feeling my neck and back muscles tensing up. You see, I have a chronic pain condition called Fibromyalgia. This essentially means I spend every day of my life in some sort of pain or discomfort. This, as you can imagine makes everyday life a little more challenging – and sometimes much more challenging if I’m experiencing a flare up!
I would like to think that anyone who knows me, would say I’m pretty good at disguising this condition on the whole, unless you’re one of the lucky few, who gets to hear me moan about it! But having worked with my GP and the NHS Pain Management Team, I finally feel, after 20 years of struggling, that I am in a place where I can, at last, manage my pain well!
Learning to better manage my pain has been crucial for my working life, where so much of my time is spent at a desk. I now have robust strategies and coping mechanisms in place which minimise the impact Fibromyagia has on my day.
In this blog post, I am going to share 8 ways to manage work and pain – and I can tell you now, it comes down to good planning! So if you need help with this, reach out!
8 Ways to Manage Work and Pain
1. Sleep and Rest
Pain can affect sleep, there is no two ways about it! But to try and minimise pain in your daily life, getting consistent, regular sleep, will make facing the day ahead that little bit easier. Aim to keep your bedtime and wake up time the same each day, so your body finds a natural sleep rhythm. Switch off your tech and give yourself a sleep routine which can help you to wind down. Take a bath, read a book or listen to a podcast!
2. Drink Water
The benefits of drinking water are countless, but when it comes to pain, this is a no brainer! Arthritis.org call it a magical elixir! This is because water lubricates the joints and flushes out inflammation-causing toxins! Drinking at least 2 litres of water each day also promotes alertness and clear thinking as an added bonus.
3. Eat Well
Make good choices about the food you are fuelling your body with! There are certain foods that are known to reduce pain, these include nutritious natural foods like nuts, fruits, fish, beans and vegetables! By incorporating these into your everyday diet you will be giving your body the best chance to have a low pain/pain free day! These sorts of foods also have the added benefit of feeding the brain and helping to clear the foggy thinking.
4. Wear Layers
When you’re already feeling uncomfortable or in pain, the last thing you need is to feel too hot or too cold. When I get a migraine, I can flip from feeling like a furnace to shivering with blue hands within minutes, so wearing layers is essential.
Equally getting too hot or too cold, can also trigger pain! So, plan your outfits accordingly for work and listen to your body throughout the day.
5. Move and Stretch
We’ve all been there – engrossed in a project and suddenly hours have passed – you realise you’ve not moved once! The body needs balance! If we don’t move, we can start to feel stiff and achy. So, whether you take a walk, do some desk exercises or head to the kettle for a tea break, do make sure you move!
6. The Right Equipment
I cannot stress the importance of this enough! Having the right equipment and the right setup can reduce pain AND help reduce the risk of pain developing in the future! So, take a look at your setup and make sure you’ve got the right kit for the job! I use an ergonomic keyboard and mouse, height adjustable monitors and a fully adjustable operator’s chair.
The Health and Safety Executive have resources available on Display Screen Equipment (DSE) checks. If you are employed, your employer should be making these checks for you and responding to any highlighted risks. If you work for yourself, you should be planning in time to check this and make sure you’ve got it just right.
7. Learn to Notice Pain and Take Action
Who else feels pain and does absolutely nothing about it, in the hope it will go away on its own?!
This is how I used to manage my pain! I would wait and hope that it would improve, then at the point the pain would suddenly become unbearable, I would try and treat it. By then of course it would be too late and I would be good for nothing. At its worst I’ve ended up in hospital on a drip in agony! So, take it from me, this is the worst way to manage pain!
Pain doesn’t just go from 1 to 50 – it goes through each step, 1, 2, 3, 4….and so on. Yes, this can happen quickly, but one of the biggest shifts in my management of pain has come from noticing the very early indicators and taking action. Painkillers, water and laying down for half an hour at the onset of pain will save me from 24 hours of hell!
8. Manage Stress
A bit of stress can be productive and motivating. It can help drive us forward to reach goals and bring projects in on time. But too much stress is a big culprit for causing pain and other negative symptoms. This is because it is intrinsically linked with our fight or flight response. It can really impact on our performance at work which is why it is so important to have some coping mechanisms in your toolkit!
Breathing Exercises – techniques like square breathing can be particularly helpful when you are in a meeting or office environment, since you can do this discreetly and it can help you keep a cool head to override the fight or flight response.
Focus on Your Senses – You can use your 5 senses to reduce stress and anxiety.
I hope these 8 tips to manage work and pain give you some food for thought. I would love to hear if you have any experience of this and what tips you would offer to others. Please add your comments below. Always consult your GP if you have ongoing pain, don’t suffer in silence and make changes where you can!