Imagine if psoriatic arthritis had a pause button. Running errands or going out for dinner or coffee with our partner or friends would be so much more enjoyable if these activities didn’t increase our physical pain.
I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in 2003, two years after being diagnosed with psoriasis. But my diagnosis came at least four years after I began experiencing symptoms.
While I haven’t discovered a way to pause or stop my symptoms, I’ve been able to reduce my daily pain. One aspect of my pain relief plan is to remember that my illness is always with me, and I need to address it wherever I am.
Here are five necessities for acknowledging and addressing my pain while on the go.
1. A plan
When I plan an outing of any kind, I have to keep my psoriatic arthritis in mind. I view my chronic illnesses as children. They’re not well-behaved ones, but brats who like to poke, kick, scream, and bite.
I can’t just hope and pray that they’ll behave. Instead, I have to come up with a plan.
There was a time when I believed this disease was completely unpredictable. But after years of living with it, I now realize that it sends me signals before I experience a flare-up.
2. Pain-fighting tools
I brace myself mentally to expect an increased level of pain, which forces me to prepare for pain while I’m out of my house.
Depending on where I’m going and how long the outing will last, I either bring along an extra bag with a few of my favorite pain-fighting tools or toss what I’ll need into my purse.
Some of the items I keep in my bag include:
- Essential oils, which I use to ease the pain and tension in my neck, back, shoulders, hips, or wherever I feel pain.
- Refillable icepacks that I fill with ice and apply to my knees or lower back when I experience inflammation in my joints.
- Portable heat wraps for relieving muscle tension in my neck and lower back.
- An elastic bandage to keep my icepack in place while on the move.
3. A way to assess my body’s needs
While I’m out and about, I listen to my body. I’ve become a pro at tuning into my body’s needs.
I’ve learned to recognize my early pain signals and to stop waiting until I can’t tolerate it anymore. I constantly run mental scans, assessing my pain and symptoms.
I ask myself: Are my feet beginning to ache? Is my spine throbbing? Is my neck tense? Are my hands swollen?
If I’m able to notice my pain and symptoms, I know it’s time to take action.
4. Reminders to rest
Taking action is sometimes as simple as resting for a few minutes.
For example, if I’m at Disneyland, I give my feet a break after walking or standing for an extended period of time. By doing so, I’m able to stay in the park longer. Plus, I experience less pain that evening because I didn’t push through it.
Pushing through pain often causes the rest of my body to react. If I feel tension in my neck or lower back while sitting at a luncheon, I stand. If standing and stretching aren’t options, I excuse myself to the restroom and apply pain-relieving oils or a heat wrap.
Ignoring my pain just makes my time away from home miserable.
5. A journal to learn from my experience
I always want to learn from my experience. How did my outing go? Did I experience more pain than I expected? If so, what caused it and was there something I could’ve done to prevent it? If I didn’t experience much pain, what did I do or what happened that made it less painful?
If I find myself wishing that I had brought something else with me, I note what it is and then find a way to bring it along next time.
I find journaling to be the most effective way to learn from my outings. I log what I brought, mark what I used, and note what to do differently in the future.
Not only do my journals help me figure out what I should bring or do, but they also help me get to know my body and my chronic illnesses better. I have learned to recognize warning signs that I was unable to in the past. This allows me to address my pain and symptoms before they get out of control.
I treat outings with psoriatic arthritis and my other painful chronic illnesses the same way as if I’m leaving the house with fussy infants and toddlers. When I do this, I find that my diseases throw fewer tantrums. Less tantrums means less pain for me.
Cynthia Covert is a freelance writer and blogger at The Disabled Diva. She shares her tips for living better and with less pain despite having multiple chronic illnesses, including psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia. Cynthia lives in southern California, and when not writing, can be found walking along the beach or having fun with family and friends at Disneyland.