Managing Chronic Pain: The Toolbox Expands

I have to admit, I was pretty proud of my post “Chronic Pain – A Many-Battled War Fought with a Broad Arsenal of Weapons.” Nearly three months later… it turns out I’d only scratched the surface! So here I am, ready to record a few more tactics in case I ever decide to birth a #2 or a kindred babymama (or just a fellow brokeback jammed joint walking disaster) stumbles across this blog.

For more of an intro, check the link above, but without further yammering here goes!

1. MobilityWOD Battlestar Kit.

Yes, a mouthful. This set of tools is akin to a foam roller, but instead of smooth foam it is composed of spiky or ribbed hard plastic. The gamechanger for me here involves standing next to a shoulder-height surface (e.g., bookcase or hutch) and rolling my triceps against the “battle saw” as it spins cruelly in its cradle. Who knew the triceps were connected directly to the delicate muscles in the front of the neck (scalenes)?! After doing this exercise, for the first time I can remember I was able to tilt my head all the way back without resistance. I felt like a teenager again! I do this exercise almost every day, but have to be careful not to dig into nerves. I tried rolling my calves on the “battlestar” but could barely walk for days after… a little to rough for the tension I hold there.

2. Real Bodywork Apps: Muscle Trigger Points and Massage Techniques.

These two apps have educated me on how to release tension in stiff regions by activating targeted pressure points. I’ve learned the benefit of this method in various physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, and other healing settings. But this tool has given me much greater knowledge of how to relieve tension myself. I will often scan my body for tension when falling asleep at night now, and try targeting the pressure points associated with tight regions. A couple of my favorites are at the base of the skull (neck stiffness) and the forearm (tendinitis in the thumbs).

3. Pilates Equipment Classes.

Working out on the tower and the reformer helped me gain core strength a few years ago when I was deep in recovery from whiplash. Hesitant to jump into group classes this summer, I signed up for a discounted new client 1:1 series. After a few sessions at Inner Focus Pilates, I feel so much more centered and have learned to activate deep abdominal muscles I didn’t even know I’d neglected since my days of ballet and salsa dancing! Instead of looking massively bloated post-pregnancy, I can suck that gut up now and stabilize my entire body. I am so delighted with my trainer, Erin, and thrilled to see what we can achieve together in the next couple of months.

4. Arnica Gel.

This is a homeopathic anti-inflammatory my postpartum chiropractor introduced me to. Arnica montana, the active ingredient, comes from bright yellow daisy-like flowers from the mountains of northern and central Europe and Siberia. It is cheap, it is on shelves at Walgreens, and it works almost instantly to reduce stiffness and swelling. This has been a lifesaver when my tendinitis is screaming for me to rest my hands but I am needed to hold a baby, type for work, drive a car, or push a stroller. Apparently there is a tablet form, too, but I haven’t tried it.

5. Frankincense Essential Oil.

This has basically had the same effect as Arnica… but pricier and with some additional benefits. My mom and dad, who also have tendinitis in their hands, were shocked at the immediate relief this essential oil provides. I tend to alternate between Arnica and Frankincense to relax my wrist and neck tension, but sometimes I’ll throw in the Doterra essential oil blend Deep Blue which is a little more like Icy Hot.

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