I say it often – pain can be unpredictable. Sometimes there is simply no rhyme or reason as to why my pain flares up.
Last week when I was chatting to my friend online, my back suddenly became excruciatingly painful and I had to go to bed mid conversation. There was no apparent reason for that pain, just my back doing what it does best.
Today, my trigeminal neuralgia is bad. But I know the reason why. We had visitors yesterday, so I talked more and laughed more. I’m not complaining – I enjoyed the company. But company often comes at a price.
Learning about pain
Because I live with chronic pain, I’ve had to learn about coping skills like breathing techniques and distractions. I’ve learned that sometimes I need to rest and sometimes I need to move more. I’ve learned that sometimes I can push through, but sometimes I need to take extra meds. But the biggest thing I have had to learn is that some things can trigger or worsen my pain.
Finding triggers is so important. Some can often be avoided. Unfortunately, some can’t, but we can perhaps make some changes, or simply ensure we are well prepared for that payback pain.
Using a pain diary to find triggers
Some triggers are obvious, but some are less so.
If I drink piping hot tea or freezing cold water, my trigeminal neuralgia will react almost instantly. Likewise, if I stand in a queue in the supermarket, my back pain will become worse. Because I know these things happen, I can try to avoid them.
But sometimes pain isn’t triggered instantly. That makes some triggers more difficult to find. For example, if I’ve been chatting on the phone, I might be ok at the time. But a few hours later, or even the next day, my face pain flares up. When that happens, it is more difficult to make the connection.
By keeping a pain diary, it can be easier to see a pattern and find triggers.
When pain flares, you can check the diary and you might find something which could have caused it. Sometimes, when you find a cause, you might be able to find a solution.
You can download the above pain diary here :
Some Common Triggers and Suggestions
Jumping in the shower for five minutes, feeling refreshed and ready for the day, doesn’t always work for someone in pain or illness. Far from refreshing, showering can be exhausting and painful. Water from the shower can feel like stinging nettles or shards of glass on nerve pain.
If you have trigeminal neuralgia, brushing teeth can be like torture sometimes. Try brushing with warm water, using a small, soft toothbrush with sensitive toothpaste. Use a mouthwash on days you can’t brush.
Eating and Drinking
Eating and drinking can be problematic for other conditions too, but very often it can be a huge struggle for people with trigeminal neuralgia. Common triggers can be food that is too hot, too cold, spicy, sweet, crunchy or chewy.
Try cutting food into very small pieces or blending it so you are still getting good nutrition. Drinking through a straw can sometimes help.
Food allergies or intolerances can make people ill, and sometimes can even be fatal. But it’s often thought that certain foods can exacerbate some health conditions, pain and brain fog.
Some foods thought to cause problems can be wheat, dairy, caffeine, sugar and artificial sweeteners. There might not always be medical proof, but if you keep a diary of everything you eat, you might find a pattern. You can then discuss it with your doctor.
To test for a condition such as coeliac disease, you must still be eating gluten at the time, so don’t cut it out until you’ve been tested.
Our bodies are often human barometers – we feel the weather. Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do to change it, but we can prepare ourselves if we know it will affect us. We can drink more water, ensure we stay warm or cool, use heat pads or cool packs and cover up well if we really need to go outside in cold, wet and windy weather.
Stress, anger, anxiety, grief and depression can all have an impact on pain. Try to work through problems if you can. Don’t try to deal with everything alone – talk to someone and get professional help if necessary.
Everyone feels better with a restful sleep. Likewise, people feel worse if they’ve not slept well.
I am in several pain related groups and I see this question often come up – “does your pain get worse around ‘that’ time of the month?” The answer is often a resounding yes. The menopause can cause the same issues.
No real tips with this, but speak to your doctor if things are much worse than normal.
Exercise is good for us. We’re told that often and I won’t argue with it. However, when living with health conditions, exercise isn’t always possible. With some conditions, it can feel as though every step vibrates through every nerve in the body, so doing a cardio workout would be crazy.
I’m not dismissing all types of exercise. But if we’re going to exercise, we need to find what’s right for us. Swimming, walking or even gentle exercise like yoga might be better.
It’s always worth asking a doctor for advice.
Childcare, Shopping and Housework
These things are never easy when you live with pain, but still necessary for most people.
Remember these words – “Don’t be too proud to ask for help.”
Going out, having visitors, talking more or laughing more can be tiring, draining and can have an impact on pain. But we shouldn’t give up on socialising altogether. We still need to have some enjoyment in life.
Simple things like having the flu, a cold, or a stomach bug can exacerbate other conditions. Sometimes ‘normal illnesses’ can’t be avoided, but we need to try to stay as healthy as possible.
We need to eat and drink well to ensure we’re putting good nutrition into our bodies. It’s often a good idea to ask a doctor to check vitamin and mineral levels in the blood and take supplements if we need them. I also get the flu injection every winter – I’d rather prevent it than try to treat it.
A Pain Diary Can Help Doctors Too
Doctors can only do so much to help, so it often comes down to us as patients to do what we can to help ourselves. By finding triggers we will be doing just that. However, keeping a diary can also give a doctor a full picture and help them to diagnose and treat us.
Do you, or have you ever considered keeping a pain diary? Did you find it beneficial? Please let me know what you think.
As always, thank you for reading. Please do share this post using the social media buttons below.