I say it often – pain can be unpredictable. Sometimes there is simply no rhyme or reason as to why pain flares up. But sometimes something triggers or worsens pain.
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 Your 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.
How to Find Out What Triggers or Worsens Pain
Some triggers are obvious, but some are less so. Sometimes pain worsens for no apparent reason, but by keeping a pain diary, you might manage to find some triggers.
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 an example of a pain diary here:
Alternatively, you could use a pain tracker app. There are several available but I love the Bearable App as it’s simple to use and it’s actually easier than using a diary.
Common Triggers and Suggestions to Help
The following things may trigger pain conditions. These are just a few examples. A pain diary might help you to find more. For a more in-depth look at triggers for trigeminal neuralgia, please click on this link to my post, Trigeminal Neuralgia Triggers Which Make Life Difficult.
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.
Use a shower stool or bath seat.
Try a warm bath rather than a shower.
A long-handled sponge will save bending.
Place a chair outside the shower so you can sit down as soon as you’re finished.
On bad days, just wash or use wet wipes.
If you have trigeminal neuralgia, brushing teeth can be like torture sometimes.
Try brushing with warm water.
Use a small, soft toothbrush.
Only use sensitive toothpaste.
Use a mouthwash on days you can’t brush.
Click here for more tips.
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.
Certain foods can cause major problems for many people.
One such condition is coeliac disease. This is an autoimmune disease. If a sufferer eats gluten, the body has an autoimmune reaction. It’s a serious illness which can come with many symptoms. Gluten is the culprit, but if you suspect you have it, you must still eat it until you’ve been tested.
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.
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.
Please take a look at my post How Chronic Pain or Illness is Affected by Stress. It has a few tips on coping with and cutting down stress and also has a great breathing exercise to try.
Everyone feels better with a restful sleep. Likewise, people feel worse if they’ve not slept well.
Please read my post about getting better quality sleep for some tips.
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.
Don’t be too proud to ask people to help.
Ask family to help with kids.
Shop online or make a shopping list and ask someone to collect it for you.
Only do necessary housework.
Learn to delegate chores.
Remember there’s always tomorrow.
The blog ‘The Winding Willows’ has an article about trying to tackle housework when you are struggling.
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.
A Pain Diary Might Help You to Identify What Triggers or Worsens Your Pain
I believe it’s worth trying to keep a pain diary, even just for a month or two. Doing so really can help you to identify things that trigger or worsen your pain.
As always, thank you for reading. Please do share this post using the social media buttons below.