Monday, January 21, 2013

Learning to Manage Winter Pain

Winter typically means large amounts of pain and frustration, but I'm finally learning how to manage both.  My techniques include:
  • Rolfing -> I'm continuing appointments despite some bruising from the deep tissue work.  I notice my muscular structure more now than before, and feel like I am fighting to keep my hard-won gains in the battle to stand straighter.  In response, my rolfer and I agree to make visits more frequent, once every 2 weeks instead of once a month, in hopes to help my body "remember" what it *should* be doing.
  • Warmth -> most people seem to prefer cold on a soft tissue injury, but for me, especially in the winter, this results in more pain as my capillaries collapse.  So, I am trying to keep myself warm before I notice I'm cold.  This is currently working with the assistance of flannel lined pants/jeans, fuzzy slippers, flannel sheets, and not being afraid to wear gloves indoors.
  • Staying active -> the more I hurt the less I want to move.  I'm fighting this instinct by continuing to move despite the discomfort.  This idea came from a friend whose child has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and staying active helps minimize the flare-ups.  I figured it is worth a try.  My biggest effort is walking since yoga during the winter still results in dislocations.
  • Laughing ->   they say laughter is the best medicine, so I look for something to laugh about each day.  Occasionally, this results in jaw pain, but I think it is worth it.
Dislocations and subluxations still occur, but I feel like I am managing them okay at this point.  Usually, when I see the arctic cold descending into my area of the country I cringe and cry, then am miserable until spring thaw.  This year it doesn't seem as intimidating.

1 comment:

Nancy DeMarco said...

There are very good reasons for keeping chronically challenged soft tissues warm.

Connective tissue - the membranes that wrap every muscle cell, every bundle of muscle cells, every muscle, and then wrap your viscera, and you brain, line your skin... This tissue provides structure and allows pliability. It's made of three things: collagen (for structure), elastin (for extensibility) and ground substance.

Ground substance is the stuff that exists between the cells - a semi-fluid matrix that transitions easily from a liquid to a gel to a thick, pasty substance that acts more like glue. And the things that influence its state are temperature, hydration and movement.

The colder you are, the less you move, and the less you drink, the less fluid your ground substance becomes. Rather than aiding in ease of movement, it works against you, holding tissues together and providing constant resistance to motion.

Keeping warm and hydrated, and staying in motion, allows the gel to become more liquid, and this allows your tissues to glide more easily past one another, and to more fully relax and extend. So your movement becomes easier, and you expend less energy in accomplishing simple daily activities.

Cold is good for reducing inflammation, but in the absence of heat and swelling and redness, heat is often the sensible choice.