Chronic Pain – How I’m helping myself

I have chronic pain. Every morning I wake up and I have to take painkillers so I can start my day. Alongside the pain I also am pretty numb from the waist down. I work hard to make it look to the outside world that I’m normal. Beyond the occasional hobble or fall I pass for average.

Back in 2013 I had two operations on my back. They were meant to stop me being in so much pain and to give me back some quality of life. They were reasonably successful; but every day I’m in pain and every day I wake up with numb feet and legs. I know that (hopefully far) in my future I’ll need to use a wheelchair, but until then I’m doing what I can’t keep myself on my feet.

Chronic Pain - How I'm helping myself

In September last year I turned 42. I took a look at my life and realised I spent too much time working and not enough time on me. After some serious consideration I joined a gym. This was a huge step for me. I’ve not really exercised since before my operations and although I walk a lot, doing proper exercise is a big deal.

I decided that I was probably horrifically unfit, so I decided to start with swimming and aqua classes. I’m glad I decided to take things easy at first, because starting to exercise again, even gently really hurt. After about four months I was starting to feel stronger and fitter. I’d lost a bit of weight and was ready to dip my toe into some of the classes.

I opted to start with Zumba Gold, this is a really low impact version of Zumba, perfect for people needing low impact exercise. After quite a few Zumba Gold classes, I added Tai Chi and a physio class called Body Maintenance into my weekly gym schedule. I hurt, but I feel great!

Since I’ve started exercising more I’ve lost a decent amount of weight. I’ve dropped a couple of dress sizes and I’m feeling stronger. I’d like to say my pain levels are less; but exercise will always hurt me and I need to manage that by being sensible, resting and taking my tablets like a good girl. I’d rather be active and working to be fitter and stronger than sat in my chair feeling gloomy about it all.

While I’m doing all I can to stay on my feet for longer; the reality is that like many people I will in the next decade or so need some aids around the house to help me. My husband does a lot of the bending and lifting around the house. My son helps me with anything I might struggle with, like emptying the washing machine. I already sit down to do most of my food prep and cooking in the kitchen, but grab rails in the bathroom will be useful soon and I’m pretty wobbly on the stairs, so we might need to install a stairlift, or at least give it some serious consideration in years to come.

I feel so much better for joining the gym and generally being more active. It’s good for mind, body and soul and I definitely need a bit of all three. A year ago I would have looked at myself and thought I was not the gym going type. Even when I joined I was fully prepared to hate it; but being there is one of the highlights of my week. I can really tell when I’ve not been for a few days, my mood drops and I feel physically sluggish. I think even though the exercise does make me hurt, generally my underlying pain levels are slightly less. It feels good to be more in control of it, rather than it being in control of me.

This is a collaborative post.

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