You may know that I deal with chronic pain on a daily basis following injuries that I sustained after being hit by a car in 2012. My primary sources of pain are my lower lumbar and SI joint. However, I also have pain issues and limitations in my right knee, pelvis and side/waist. My injuries and issues are so layered and complex (there’s the baseline issue and then issues from surgeries I’ve had like scar tissue build up, etc that pile on) so I won’t go into them all. My pain is mainly deep in my joints but I also have pain/issues with muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and scar tissue. Unfortunately, a lot of my life revolves around keeping my pain as under control as I can. I work really, really hard at doing everything that I can think of to help my pain levels. I always say that I will take any relief; even if its only a small percentage of relief, that percentage can be stacked with another percentage and add up. Anything is better than nothing. I (and really I should say we because my husband is such a great partner and is unfortunately impacted by everything), modify and adapt our lives a great deal to accommodate my pain and injuries (MUCH more than it seems to the outside world). I could go on an on about every little angle that my legs need to be at to relieve pain in my spine but instead, I’m here to focus on some tips that I think can be applicable to anyone with aches and pains. I want to mention that I have a whole slew of products that I suggest for post-op that I may do a post about if its relevant to people/you guys want it so please let me know.
These wellness focused “treatments” and products are things that I’ve found to be helpful over the years. I think that most of them can apply to anyone with aches and pains, even those that follow a workout with just normal soreness. In fact, the less severe the ache is, the more effective I think that these things would be. For example, I have to take a really high dose of CBD to notice a tiny, tiny dot of difference but I know friends of mine who say that a small amount really helps them. I find it very challenging to travel without these products (half of my suitcase is pain treatment items) and I find it so difficult to sleep out places because I am so reliant on my mattress, my special pillows, and just all of these products to help keep my pain at the ‘baseline’ average (which isn’t nearly what I wish it was).
The bummer about all of this is that it is not covered by insurance. I can get my insurance company to cover opioids and while I think that they would be more effective in making me feel less pain in a given moment, they have SO many negative side effects and are highly addictive so I don’t take them (except for immediately post op, depending on the surgery). The whole system is backwards and it’s mega upsetting. I can get ‘poison’ for free and yet have to pay an arm and a leg out of pocket for wholistic treatments. Similarly, there are no ‘middle ground’ doctors in my network that can help me create a treatment plan that falls somewhere in between Eastern and Western medicine. I have pieced advice together from all my pain management doctor, bone doctor, dietician, and acupuncturist. However, most of this comes from my own research and trial and error. However, I am not a doctor so I recommend speaking with your own doctor before trying these things.
Castor oil : I put essential oils (mentioning my favorite ones for pain below) into a little bowl with castor oil and mix it. Then, I massage the castor oil in everywhere that I have pain (basically everywhere from the middle of my body down). I used to be diligent about then applying a heating pad (that you put in the microwave) to the areas that I have scar tissue but I fell off the habit and should get back to it because its supposed to be more effective.
CBD: I use all formats depending on the situation/what I have on hand (except I’ve never used the spray). I have to take a really high dosage to notice it make my muscles relax at all, which is unfortunate because it gets really expensive. If anyone has a brand that they recommend as being really strong for the cost and is a quality product please let me know.
Epsom salt: I use epsom salt in baths along with essential oils. I try to take an epsom soak at least a couple of times a week (it would be better if I did it every day). I highly recommend this for anyone who exercises regularly too.
Essential oils: I have been using essential oils for a few years now but over the past year I made a more concrete commitment to furthering my knowledge of them. I still have learning to do but I have found that they serve so many purposes. I have also noticed a difference in purchasing quality products from Young Living. I think that a little bit goes much further than the cheaper products I’ve purchased in the past and I generally feel more secure when I use them because I trust the brand more. I diffuse them, put them in baths, and apply them to my skin (with a carrier oil). I can do a whole separate blog post on these if anyone is interested but I will say that my ‘go tos’ for pain are: Valor, Eucalyptus, Lemongrass, Lavender, Cedarwood, Frankincense, and Relieve It.
Chelated iron: With the suggestion from a dietician and my bone doctor, I started taking Chelated iron and it has made such a difference for me. I have this throbbing pain that goes from my hips down the back of my legs and through my feet and its like a constant pulse. It makes it really hard to sleep. It’s like that feeling when you need to elevate your legs but it happens all the time. Since taking the iron, that feeling has lessened (but not gone away by ANY means). The chelated iron is much kinder to your stomach than regular iron.
Flaxseed oil: I’ve been taking this for years for inflammation and for the arthritis in my joints. I try to include it in my diet as well but at least I know I’m definitely intaking it every day.
Turmeric: I take this for inflammation and arthritis as well. I try to include it in my diet as well but at least I know I’m definitely intaking it every day.
Vitamin D & Calcium: I don’t directly take these for pain. I take these because I developed Osteopenia (low bone density) after my accident and have continued to show low bone density on my scans ever since, even though all of my blood word and diet is within normal range. They believe that this is because I have been non weight bearing on and off for so many years with all of the surgery I get/have had and how much I have to lay around every day due to pain. Even though the range for my diet is normal, we are trying to boost my levels of these things above the normal range to help my bones.
Vegan collagen: for bones & beauty
Barre: I went to PT for years and it was great…I learned a lot and it helped me a lot. It got to a point where it felt like I was being ‘babied’ and like I knew what they were teaching me enough to take it off site. I started barre years ago (and have done it on and off depending on restrictions following surgeries). It is a great exercise for me because it is low impact, strength building, and I can modify when I need to. It also involves a lot of stretching!
Mayo facial release massage therapy: I aim to get a mayo facial release massage once a week. I go to Massage Envy because the member prices are great. My biggest advice is to keep trying different people there until you find the right person who is the right fit for you. Its scary for me to try new people because I have been hurt many times by massage therapists (by accident). Plus, I know that the therapist that I see knows my injuries and spends all of the time focusing on them in the right way. This type of massage is not relaxing or ‘enjoyable’ per say but I find it to be incredibly enjoyable because it provides me relief in that moment especially.
Dry needling: This is a new treatment that I started. It is a form of acupuncture where they place the needle in deeper, kind of dig it around, and then pull it out right away. It’s like trigger point release therapy. If I find it to be helpful long term, I will do a post solely dedicated to it. I was really sore after getting it the first time (like sore to the lightest touch), which made me really excited that it’s doing something.
Stretching: I am an avid stretcher and huge believer in stretching. I stretch every single day, often multiple times a day. If I’m standing by a wall, I will start stretching my calves even. When you are hurt and especially if you are overcompensating (even if you try your hardest not to), other parts of your body will ache that aren’t even hurt. I strongly believe that everyone should be stretching. It’s my life line. You will see my stretching in a restaurant or the weirdest places because it provides me with a second of relief that I need. My favorite tools to stretch with are this Magic circle and this Foam roller.
Products That Are Life Savers:
Casper mattress : I don’t know if a day goes by that I say that I’m not grateful for my Casper mattress. It has changed my life! It somehow is exactly what I need for it to be and I can’t even believe it. If I sleep in any mattress besides a Casper now, I find it to be almost intolerable. Laying flat in my Casper, with my special pillows helps me recover more so than anything else that I do.
Body pillow: I need for my spine to be aligned and can’t have it twisting in or collapsing so a body pillow is a necessity. I actually have a cheap one but this memory foam one is on my wish list majorly because the matching regular pillow has been a life saver for me.
Temper-pedic pillow : This pillow is NOT delicious…it does not feel all cozy and amazing to lay on. However, it helps keep my spine in line in the way that I perfectly set it up (it takes me hours to get comfortable and fall asleep because pain and sleep don’t go hand in hand yet I NEED sleep to reduce pain so I’m grateful for anything that helps). It’s great for side sleeping and sleeping on your back.
Compression socks: My genius husband recently had this idea to help my leg and feet cramps and aches (come from my SI issues and nerve issues). They aren’t comfortable but they have been helping. I’m trying to wear them for a great deal of the day.
Dehumidifier : Another genius idea by my husband! My joint pain gets so much worse when it rains or when its really dense in the air (I think my husband was sick of me playing weather woman and predicting the rain haha). I recently learned that when you have holes in your joints (I have multiple from past surgeries and then removal of hardware), you feel it even more because your body ‘fills’ those holes with moisture to match the outside world. Let me tell you, the pressure is intense! It makes it even harder for me to sleep when it rains so we put one of these in our bedroom and one in the main area of our apartment. Obviously, these aren’t great for your skin care routine or for breathing but if you’re suffering from the rain like me, I highly recommend it.
Heating pad : For muscle tension
Gel ice pack: The CVS gel cold compresses are like gold because you can place them under your back and lay flat on them.
Essential oil diffusers: I have one on my nightstand and one in my kitchen/living area.
Ultrasound machine: I purchased this to help break up scar tissue but really haven’t utilized it enough because I can’t do it by myself and really, how much can I ask Jay to do when he gets home late from work?! I want to try to do it more though.
Kitchen mat: Game changer for anyone with a bad knee, bad joints or just anyone that cooks! I can’t tolerate standing on the hard ground at all so I always wear “indoor sneakers” but standing still is really hard for me regardless and this mat really helps. Its not the most attractive thing but I could NEVER live without it. I want one in my bathroom as well because I really struggle with standing up to get ready for bed each night but its just not the best idea with the amount of space we have. This mat is worth the investment, trust me!
House shoes: Like I said, my joints can’t stand standing on the ground. I need a slip on ‘sneaker’ of sort that I can slide on without having to bend over to put them on but still won’t put me at risk for falling or tripping (aka have a back to them). I put these on just to get up to walk from the couch to the bathroom because I can’t tolerate it that much. Any layer of cushion is much appreciated, even if they are SO ugly! I want to try Dansko shoes next, which medical professionals wear and are also ugly. I never want to spend a lot of money on these because I wear them so much that I wear through them quickly but I am open to any other better suggestions for these!
Anti Inflammatory Foods:
I want to first say that while I try my best to avoid these foods during the week, I am not perfect. I also do not avoid all of them on the weekends because food brings me a lot of happiness and there is A LOT to be said for things that bring you happiness, even with so many limitations. I have been a vegetarian since I was 10 years old AND I have been a healthy person in general. My motives for eating how I do are rooted in MANY things, and pain is one of them. I try to avoid these foods that cause inflammation as best as possible during the week. Cutting dairy (really just cheese) out of my weeknight diet has been the most challenging thing of all. Here are the foods that I generally try to avoid:
Processed foods with additives
Some Things I’ve Tried But Didn’t Work FOR ME:
Regular Accupuncture: I did’t see results but would be willing to try it again if it didn’t cost so much money out of pocket. I believe SO much that acupuncture DOES work though for so many people so definitely try it!
Hypnotherapy: I did’t see results but would be willing to try it again if it didn’t cost so much money out of pocket.
Chiropractor: It isn’t safe for my spinal injuries.
Cyrotherapy: If you’re into paying for cold torture, do it haha. I’m sure it’s helpful for people but I tensed my muscles so much.
Stim: It’s fine but just doesn’t do much for me.
Lidocaine patches: Too surface level for my injuries it seems
Magnesium: It made me feel shaky and faint, which are feelings that I really don’t enjoy (they trigger anxiety and I’m prone to it), but I’m intrigued to try again maybe if I wasn’t alone or something.