Living with pain is difficult. The pain can be so unpredictable – a good day (which wasn’t really a good day in the first place) can quickly turn into a bad day. Sometimes there’s a reason for it getting worse. Perhaps I’ve somehow not avoided a trigger, or I’ve not paced myself well enough or simply pushed my limits and overdone it. But sometimes my pain worsens for no reason whatsoever and that is extremely frustrating.
My pain is constant. I don’t ever not have pain but I try to manage it as well as possible by listening to my body and doing what it needs me to do. When I need to, I try to rest and I’m pretty good at pacing myself (most of the time). I know what I can and can’t do. I know if I push my limits, I’ll suffer more so I try to be careful. And I guess, after 40 years of living with pain, I know most of its likes and dislikes. So I try, when I can, to avoid anything that will make it worse. It’s not always possible to avoid triggers but I do my best.
Learn how to find out what triggers your pain
However, it still catches me out because there are times when my pain just worsens for absolutely no reason. Those days are even more difficult and frustrating than the normal everyday pain that I live with. My normal days are painful and debilitating but at a level of pain that I’ve grown to accept and live with. Although my face pain (trigeminal neuralgia) is always there, it can suddenly flare up and become much worse for no reason at all. Just out of the blue, I might get stabbing pain in my cheekbone or a knitting needle in my eye sensation. Or suddenly I get that feeling of someone trying to pull my teeth out with pliers. I know that I haven’t been out in the cold, eaten something chewy or drunk too cold to trigger it. It just happens.
The same can happen with my back, ribs or joints. And sometimes, everything just flares up at the same time when I’ve done nothing out of the ordinary. On those days, I’m convinced that someone somewhere is sticking pins into a doll with my name on it. Either that or my own body simply doesn’t like me.
A few weeks ago, my rib pain worsened for no reason and it didn’t really ease off. Then one night, while lying in bed, that pain became even more intense. It took my breath away. Again, there was no reason for the pain to worsen. I had done nothing. I hadn’t moved the wrong way and hadn’t coughed, sneezed or even hiccupped. The following morning, the pain was still pretty bad, but I could cope with it. However, later in the day, I tried to wash the dishes and my back pain went to levels I haven’t felt for a while.
All I had done was wash a few dishes – that was definitely not a good enough reason for my pain to worsen to that extent. Normally, my pain worsens when doing chores like that, but once I sit down for a rest, it eases off. But this time, the pain was much worse and it didn’t ease off.
I had to go to bed and take strong pain medication which I hate taking because they make me feel really quite ill. However, when my pain is so bad, I have no option other than taking the meds and trying to cope with the side effects.
The pain medication and bed rest made the pain a little bit more bearable. However, a few days later, I was still suffering much more than normal. My back pain did eventually return to its normal level but my rib pain didn’t.
On the left side of my rib cage, I feel as though I have broken ribs and on the right, my ribs feel as though they are being squashed into my pelvis.
I have osteoporosis and have had a few cracked ribs in the past, so I may well have another. It doesn’t seem to take much for that to happen to me. The squashed rib pain on the other side is something I have to put up with due to my scoliosis. But it’s not normally as bad as this.
Click here to read: There’s More to Chronic Pain That Just the Pain
Whenever my pain flares up like this, I always ask myself if I’ve perhaps done something without realising it. I try to look back at the previous days almost in the hope that I can find a reason. Have I cooked or baked, have I shopped or done some housework? Perhaps I pushed myself too far? Or have I twisted round badly? On this occasion, as often is the case, the answer is no. My pain had just worsened for no reason at all.
Pain is never easy to cope with. However, when you know what’s caused it, it feels easier to deal with it. Having an explanation means that you know why you have pain. If something has triggered it, you can try to avoid that trigger in the future. Knowing what caused it also teaches you that you have to listen more closely to your body and do what it is asking you to do. You can then try to prevent the pain from worsening for the same reason.
When pain worsens for no reason, you don’t know how to stop it from happening again. As well as frustration, there comes fear and worry. Your mind starts asking, “Why is this happening? Is there something else going on in my body to cause it? Is my condition becoming worse?” Those questions are often unanswerable especially just now, while we’re in the midst of the pandemic. At the moment, people don’t have easy access to GPs and if a GP does see you, they’re reluctant to send you for tests or x-rays. If they refer you to a specialist, referrals are taking such a long time. Besides that, doctors really don’t want to see chronic pain patients just because their pain has flared up more than normal. So for now, I will put up with the pain and hope it eases off with more rest and pain medication. Hopefully, it will be back to normal levels soon.
Most people who live with chronic pain have to deal with the frustrations of their pain being unpredictable. Is yours? Does your pain do the same as mine and worsen for absolutely no reason? Do you find that more frustrating than the normal everyday pain you have to put up with?