As stated in last week's blog, the #1 key to pain management is flexibility. What has to take priority in your pain management routine is staying ahead of the pain. The most important lesson I've learned in nearly 20 years of personal pain management is that if the snowball of pain gets rolling down the hill and you just let it roll, it will get too big in a New York minute and before you know it almost nothing will stop it.
What does it mean to stay ahead of the pain? To define it, an example will probably be the best way to understand it. For instance, today I have to attend an all-day continuing education seminar. For someone with Chronic Fatigue, sitting in a seminar all day is similar to being skinned alive if you don't know how to manage your pain. When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was start my medication…if you start early enough with light medication, you won't need the heavy stuff later. Stretching, using the proper tools to eliminate pain, relaxation techniques, and non medical therapy in regular intervals will keep that snowball from getting too far ahead of you.
So how can you determine if you are prophylactically approaching pain management or if you are just being paranoid? The truth of the matter is that it typically just takes experience. Learning what activities and conditions inflame your condition is kind of a hit-or-miss proposition so experience is the ultimate guide. For instance when I first started having issues I didn't know that flying in a low humidity, pressurized cabin would inflame my condition so I had to learn from experience. Likewise, you will encounter occurrences with your condition that doesn't have an effect on other people with your condition so it will be specific to you. The more I've lived with my condition, the better able I have been to predict which activities will cause inflammation.
To sum it up, if you deal with chronic pain, it is important to plan your activities or at least have your therapies available to you at all times. I keep most of my available treatments in my briefcase so it doubles as a portable medical case too. When I know that I am going to be encountering an event or activity that will inflame my condition, I make sure to plan therapy accordingly. For instance, when I travel, I try to plan additional time for recovery on both the front end and the back end. If you ignore this advice, you do so at your own peril. Staying ahead of pain is the most critical element to making sure that your pain snowball doesn't get too far down the hill and becomes a runaway problem that you can't handle and that will turn into needing professional intervention or serious medication.