When the pain’s too much, what do you use as a personal escape? What’s your distraction? In this post I discuss what I use when I’m at the end of my tether with pain.

N.B. I’ve intentionally written this one a little light hearted. It’s not because being in pain is a laughing matter, goodness knows I’m well aware that it’s not. But if you’re in pain, you don’t need to read somebody else complaining about being in pain. So hopefully it raises a smile.

Breaking point

Anyone with chronic pain has been there. Whether it’s a sudden severe flare or after days of little sleep with constant aches. Your patience runs out and you are just about through with being in pain.

For me, I know my limit when even sound is too much for my senses. I can have a songbird singing outside on a beautiful day and even that can be enough to make me want to put my head through the window. I often know my limit is coming when my jaw aches from hours of clenching my teeth. Or I realise I’ve gone two hours without saying or doing anything, just getting through each minute at a time, staring into space. But since it’s generally frowned upon to go headbutting perfectly innocent windows, here’s what I do to distract me from the pain.

My top 5 list of pain distractions

  1. My son, obviously! He’s a year old and super cute. Who wouldn’t lean on that as a distraction? Whether it’s playing (sometimes a big ask when sore) or just having cuddles watching a film, he’s better than any painkiller. He has a smile that melts me. Five minutes with him and I know I’m going to be a bit more comfortable. If you don’t have kids, I don’t recommend that you try and acquire one, just spend time with friends or loved ones, especially those friends that you come away from with aching stomach muscles from laughter. Avoid those that grate on you. You already have very little tolerance at this point so perhaps give that annoying ‘uncle nobhead’ a miss.
  2. Gaming. I’ve grown up playing computer games. At 35, I am that perfect age to have been there at the bleeding edge of it all. Twelve year olds ‘tea-bagging’ (if you don’t know what I mean by this in the context of gaming, please don’t Google it, you’ll regret it) the avatar of someone they just killed on Fortnite will never understand the joys of real gaming. Waiting an hour for a game to load on a C64. Playing on an old TV with no remote that needed a whack on the side occasionally to stop the picture jumping. You and seven of your mates piling round a friend’s because they were the first one to get a console – that’s where it’s at. Anyway, I digress (and sound very old!). Gaming is an escape, a suspension of reality. You can be anything you want to be and if you find something you can throw yourself in to, hours can pass by like minutes. So, do you want to be that grumpy person in pain, or some axe-wielding superhero who headbutts windows for fun (with no consequences)? You decide.
  3. Music. Another obvious one but it gets results. I have a very eclectic taste in music. My roots are in punk and grunge but I also love a bit of alternative country and folk music. The best thing about music is that there’s something for all occasions. Angry at the world and everyone in it? Nirvana. Need something to help with mindfulness or to relax, erm, Enya? If that’s your thing, I won’t judge. Music is a great escape as you’re bound to find meaning in someone’s lyrics that makes you think they felt exactly like you do when they penned that song. If nothing else, headphones are a great conversation killer should uncle nobhead call round unannounced.
  4. Walks. I appreciate that this might not be suitable for everyone given the nature of your pain. However, when I can, I try to use dog walks and fresh air to manage my pain. I’ve always been an ‘outdoor-y’ kind of person and when I’m in pain I tend to find myself cooped up for long periods of time indoors. To the point I’m climbing the walls. So what better way to try and change your mindset than by getting some fresh air and, with arthritis, all important movement. Just don’t make the mistake I’ve made in the past and overstretch yourself. Nobody enjoys the call of shame to the other half to come and pick you up from some obscure location.
  5. Hot baths. Not very masculine this one but my absolute go-to when I’m struggling. I have at least one a day and start my morning with a ridiculously hot salt bath to get my joints moving. If my wife finds me in the bath during the day or in the evening, then she knows I’m struggling. I try to spend as long as I can in one and in the past have listened to entire podcasts or written whole blog posts in the bath. Just don’t drop your phone or tablet. If you do, you might want to remove those rose petals and candles before taking the Insurance photos, fellas!

What are yours?

So they are mine, let me know yours in the comments. I might try and do a more serious article on this topic in the future. When I’m not on so many painkillers, and overly happy perhaps. šŸ˜Š

Hang in there people. Your pain will pass.

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Arthritis and Psoriasis Patient Advocate, Writer And Consultant. Owner Of The Pain Company.

I share my story of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis to raise awareness and specialise in pain, parenting (with disability) and the mental health impact of living with chronic illness. I write and campaign for leading charities and organisations. In addition, I provide patient experience consultancy for both charities and global healthcare companies.

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