Blog PostsJun 25, 2021

My Pain Management: Medications and Meditation

From the UPMC Adult Spina Bifida Clinic Summer 2021 Newsletter Written by Monica Albert Still, RN, BSN

The sun is shining. My garden needs tending. However, I cannot care for my tomatoes because, right now, I hurt. Like many people with Spina Bifida, I am often in pain. Sometimes that pain doesn’t let me do what I want to do. I am both frustrated and saddened by this. My doctor knows about my pain. I go to a pain management clinic. We have discussed what medications I can take to make my pain more tolerable so that I can live my life. While I take my medications exactly how my doctor prescribed them, I have found some ways that help me lessen my pain even more and allow me to live my life.


When you are tired and worn out you feel pain more. Resting may help. Pain is your body’s way of saying, “Stop”! You can end up injuring yourself if you ignore your pain and don’t rest


You know the really old joke about the patient and the doctor? The patient says, “Doctor, doctor! It hurts when I move my arm like this”. The doctor says, “So, don’t move your arm like that”! The joke is funny because it contains a grain of truth. If you know sitting or moving a certain way will cause you to hurt, try to avoid it as much as possible. Sometimes, how you are positioned can affect how much pain that you feel. Changing position can help lessen the pain. Always remember to check to see if something is pressing against your skin. Since people with Spina Bifida have poor sensation, you may not know if something is causing pressure until you look.


People tend to have more pain when they don’t have other things to think about. It’s part of why pain tends to bother people more at night when they are trying to sleep. There are many ways that you can try to keep your mind busy and help decrease the amount of pain that you feel. Playing games, doing puzzles or crafts, coloring, watching movies are examples of things that can distract you from pain. But these things won’t help if you are trying to sleep. Meditation can help you relax and fall asleep. You can find videos online or apps for guided meditations. Some are for sleep and some are specifically for pain. You have to be careful of the apps because some are not free. If you don’t want to try a guided meditation you can always try to do it yourself. You can start by thinking of a place that is very special to you. You can imagine that place in detail from the clouds floating across a clear blue sky to a sparkling drop of dew hanging from a red flower petal. You can have people, animals, or anything you can dream up.


Some people have anxiety along with their pain. Being anxious only makes the pain feel much worse. Taking deep slow breaths can help calm you making you feel more comfortable. Concentrating on how you are breathing is a way to distract you from anxiety, pain, or both. You can also take a deep breath in through your nose and blow it out from your mouth all the while imagining that you are blowing the pain away. You can find online examples of breathing exercises. If you have any kind of breathing problems be sure to check with your doctor to see if performing breathing exercise is right for you.


Applying either heat or cold can help decrease your pain. Since people with Spina Bifida usually have poor sensation you have to be very careful if you are going to try this. I would ask your doctor beforehand if this type of pain relief is right for you. Be certain to check your skin both before and after you put either heat or cold on the area causing you pain. Make sure that there are no open areas, bruising, or redness on your skin. Never place either the heat or cold pack directly on your skin or in areas where you have numbness. Have a piece of cloth like a towel between your skin and the source of heat or cold. Avoid electrical heating pads which may not shut off and get too hot. Do not apply the heat or cold for more than 15 minutes at a time. If you notice that you are more uncomfortable while using heat or cold, stop immediately and check the area for any changes in your skin. Call your doctor if you find anything that you are concerned about. 


Routine exercise may help you hurt less. Discuss with your doctor what kind of exercise program can be best to help your pain. Your doctor may order different types of therapy or a personal trainer consult to find an exercise regime that is best for you. 


Excess weight puts more wear and tear on your body, making you feel the pain even more. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about the healthiest weight for you and how to reach that goal. Do not use food as a way of making yourself feel better about having pain. These are just a few of the things that you can do to help decrease your pain. If none of these ways gives you any relief, discuss with your doctor what your other options may be. Never try any kind of pain relief without talking to your doctor.

I hope that you find that some of these methods help you be able to live your life while living with pain. Have a happy sunshine filled summer!