I found out I had an arthritic spine around the same time I realised I couldn’t strut and bend my musculoskeletal stuff like those kids in Fame.
With stiff and inflamed joints, I said bye-bye to backflips and hello to walking on eggshells until I found out that mountain bikes had suspension and that being fit, living well and feeling good was the key to dealing with pain.
The proper name for my rickety spine is Ankylosing Spondylitis, which is a bit of a gob-full so it’s often shortened to AS or Anky what?
AS primarily attacks and inflames the joints of the spine and the connective soft tissues. It’s systemic (whole body) so other joints, even the eyes and organs can get roped into the inflammatory fest too.
The culprit is a malfunctioning immune system, which means I put-put along misfiring off only three cylinders in general, but the real damage is done by the cycle of inflammatory attacks that can lead to bone fusion. This has been happening to me since I was a teenager.
Does it hurt? ……hurrrrrrm do werewolves howl at the moon?
Speaking of which, Werewolves need to get a grip. Their pain only lasts a few minutes while they go through musculoskeletal change once every lunar cycle. It’s a well known fact among us Anky Whats that Werewolves are wusses.
Unlike dealing with werewolves, there is no silver-bullet answer to managing pain. It’s not just a matter of popping some pills. But with the right treatment, support structure and a pain management plan, it is possible to live well with arthritis and any condition that creates longterm pain.
Chairs are evil
I get pain whether I’m up a mountain or sitting on a sofa watching TV. Actually, sitting exacerbates the condition and I get pain relief with movement. It’s another well known fact among us Anky Whats that chairs are evil. Following the dramatics of Kim Kardashian’s split ends, broken nails and failed relationships is not in my best interest. I find there is always a bright side to these things.
Changing the record
Now I could go into some science stuff here but the bottom line is that concentrating your brain on the pain will make it feel worse because pain loves attention. So I talk about the good stuff in my life because – let’s fast forward the science stuff again – the ‘feel good’ factor produces a chemical in your brain that scientists believe helps to alleviate pain.
In other words, swapping the conversation from bad back to bike rides gives me a double whammy pain reducing effect.
And it’s not all about running up hills and chasing endorphins. Anything that activates the reward centre in your brain such as music can do it. James Brown can make everyone feel good.
And there’s more…….
There are all sorts of methods for alleviating pain and nowadays there are specialists who can help people develop a pain management plan. With the power of social media and blogging, those who live with pain can share knowledge and experiences.
Beware of those leeches who sell their fake promises and infiltrate forums to feed off the vulnerable. If you’re one of them, don’t bother leaving a link to one of your 100% natural guaranteed money-back-quackery-three-minute-miracle-arthritic cures in my comments thread.
This is especially for you.
So what’s my feel good secret?
I developed a pain management plan. It started with small goals and steps. It was a trial and error self-styled journey. I talked to doctors and health professionals, but back then, with no pain management specialists as such, my “eureka” moment was realising that it was my responsibility to manage it.
Here are my top five points that work best for me – please read my disclaimer first!
- Exercise is king for me – I love challenges but overdoing it can exacerbate pain. I started out with small regular workouts building my endurance slowly.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet – Even people without chronic conditions feel crap when they eat crap.
- I get a good nights sleep – Sleep restores the body and fights fatigue.
- I do what makes me feel good – For instance photography. Were not talking illegal drugs or pounds of chocolate. Keep it healthy. (Note to self: Drink less wine).
- I avoid stress at all costs – stress creates tighter muscles, agitation and anxiety which – skipping the science stuff again – are known to exacerbate pain.
Each one is a notch down on the pain volume dial and they all worked together to help me get back on track, on top of a mountain and feeling good. Owwwwww.
Want more help on managing pain? Check out these resources and options on Chronic Pain Australia’s website.
What do you do to get the feel good factor?