Living with chronic pain

Living with chronic pain is no joke. You may look at people without realizing that they are pushing through the pain, discomfort and — at the same time — trying to appear OK. This can be an unpredictable occurrence. A person can feel fine one minute and begin to suffer the next. Some days may be worse than others.

According to NHIS (2012), 11.2 percent of American adults experience pain on some level every day and 17.6 percent of American adults suffer from “severe levels” of pain. What is chronic pain? Chronic pain is when people feel aches and pains in their joints, bones and muscles for months or even years. This can be a result of injury, infection or specific medical conditions. Headaches, backaches and arthritis are also included in the chronic-pain category.

Pain can inhibit people from functioning normally during their everyday lives. This affects work, relationships and leisure time and can add large amounts of stress and anxiety

As someone who suffers from progressive chronic pain in the form of pressure headaches, neck stiffness and other symptoms, like brain fog and numbness due to having a chiari malformation, I find myself regularly trying to adapt every day. Over the last year, it has been a tough pill to swallow considering my entire lifestyle and business revolves around being active, healthy, attentive and productive. I find myself adjusting my schedule, attitude, social activities and exercise regimens regularly. On top of that, I am determined to find ways to create ease in my life, but also to help others improve their active lifestyle despite their pain.

Here are some things I began doing to help create ease in my life — steps you can adapt for yourself:

1. Find a friend to chat with or try therapy: I began therapy to help me cope with the fact that I have a lifelong brain disorder, which will inhibit certain activities, and recognize that as a business owner, mentor, personal trainer, family member, friend, etc., I need to be the best me I can be. I need to be sharp and prepared. They always say that the first step is acknowledgment and then acceptance.

2. Find a “chat room” online of people who also have the same condition: Use this as a resource to ask questions and get ideas on finding comfort.

3. Adjust your sleep and rest schedule: As we all know, sleep is important especially for someone who suffers from a chronic condition. I have an alarm set at night to tell me I need to start winding down. I’m also more proactive in either taking a nap or finding 15 minutes in the middle of my day to collect myself.

4. Stay active as long as you are cleared to: Exercising and physical activity can be challenging when you’re in pain. Exercise releases endorphins that give you that “feel-good” feeling. I’ve spoken to other chronic-pain sufferers and they exercise because it’s either feel bad and do nothing or feel crappy while you do something productive. In fact, some symptoms for conditions like arthritis, Parkinson’s, etc. can be relieved with some properly structured exercise. Remember to speak with a doctor before pursuing any exercise programs because certain movements may not help you. For example, with my condition I cannot load my spine/neck. This means I can’t back squat or box competitively anymore.

Another physical activity suggestion is to take note of when your pain is the worst. For me, I have minimal pain in the morning, this is when I do my most rigorous/impactful exercises like leg and chest exercises. Figure out what times of day work best for you. Lastly, hire a professional who can guide and supervise you through your exercises. Guess what? Exercises can be modified to what you can do.

5. Physical therapy, massage therapy, heat pads, icing, etc: These are all options to help you find relief. It does not hurt to try, but be sure to look at a professional’s credentials. As for ice and heat, many people find relief with these options.

6. Pay attention to the weather and barometric pressures: Research has already proved that certain conditions can get worse because of the weather. They even have a medical forecast on most weather websites.

7. Watch what you eat: Food is important to fuel and repair. Start looking at what you’re eating. Certain foods can cause more inflammation in people than others. Speak to your doctor or registered dietitian before making changes to your diet.

8. Discover stimulants and supplements that can help: Before going this route, please speak with a doctor. Some supplements and stimulants do not mix well with medications. After speaking to a few people about what helps them, here’s a list: Caffeine, CBD, B vitamins, Magnesium, tumeric, glucosamine, omegas, vitamin D, vitamin C, etc.

Remember you are not alone. There are ways to try to make your life easier. If you are reading this and know someone who is suffering, remember to be patient, and if you want to help, ask what they need. Some people want sympathy, while others just want to live a normal life without people feeling bad for them. Everyone’s experience with pain is different. If you suffer from chronic pain, please feel free to email me at [email protected] for support. n


Megan Niño is a kinesiologist and personal trainer through her business Vigor Vida Fitness & Wellness. She is an energetic and positive person who prides herself on teaching others to find empowerment in their lives through fitness. She trains her clients out of Optimal Sports Club and offers in-home training in Philadelphia and on the mainline.