If you haven’t read the other parts of this series yet, here they are!
I wrote this whole post and then realized it was over 2,000 words and should probably be split into two parts. Oops! Here’s the first one!
I’m a young adult with both ADHD and chronic pain. These two issues can often work counter to each other and cause a lot of frustration, but over the years, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to get better about dealing with both of them. This blog post series will hopefully help other people dealing with the same issues- the first post addressed getting a diagnosis, and the second and third posts will address day to day management. 😊
The first post also summed up my background with both ADHD and chronic pain, so this post will go ahead without recapping that much.
I tried a LOT of different things to treat my chronic pain before I actually got a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, but I’m going to focus on the time /after/ I got a diagnosis, just for simplicity’s sake. If you are having chronic pain, I do think it’s important that you get to a doctor to figure out what the underlying issue is, if at all possible. If you don’t have the insurance or money for a doctor though, there are a lot of options out there for DIY relief, which I’ll cover further down in the post.
A lot of this advice focuses mostly on painful muscle treatment, because that’s what I deal with and am most familiar with, but hopefully the general headings and tips are helpful even if you have non-muscle pain issues! I’m not going to discuss opiates in here because I personally have very little experience with it and don’t feel fully qualified to cover it in depth. I do have friends that use opiates for pain relief though, and I plan to interview them for this blog soon!
Follow the Treatment Your Doctor Prescribes.
I currently undergo radiofrequency ablation about once or twice a year; this burns off my arthritic neck nerves and really reduces my pain. However, 1. this procedure never COMPLETELY erases my pain, 2. the procedure itself is very painful and expensive (even with insurance) and 3. the nerves grow back and I have to go through it all again.
But it’s still the best option I have for actually treating the root cause of my chronic pain, so I undergo it. Don’t let yourself feel guilty for using what’s available to you. A lot of people out there say “Oh why don’t you just do X?” or try essential oils or whatever and downplay your pain; ignore them. You, as the owner of your body, get to decide what’s best for treating its pain (in conjunction with your doctors)
If the treatment you’re getting isn’t helping as much as you thought it would, or if it’s giving you bad side effects, let your doctor know! A lot of times you can follow up with your doctor without actually coming in for an appointment. My pain doctor actually is cool with me emailing her, which can be VERY helpful, as I’m bad about remembering to call her office and setting follow-up appointments.
2. Try Physical Therapy and/or Daily Exercises/Stretches!
So after I told my pain doctor that the radiofrequency ablation wasn’t completely getting rid of my pain, she wrote me a referral for physical therapy. I then ignored that referral for like, a year and a half, because I had some strange idea in my head that PT wouldn’t help me. I had gone through some basic stretches with a chiropractor years before and that didn’t seem to do much, so I didn’t believe it would help this time either.
However, earlier this year, I managed to pull a muscle in my leg badly enough that I was still in pain a few months after the initial injury. I did actually go to PT then (after getting a referral) and it REALLY helped me. I was out of pain before my second appointment. That made me a believer and encouraged me to finally sign up for physical therapy for my neck! I did about a month-ish of PT and it made SUCH A HUGE IMPACT on my pain. It really reduced my every day pain level and reduced how many tools I had to use to manage the pain. My therapists taught me various exercises and stretches and had me do them daily; they also did a few dry needling spots, massages, and manipulations on them. I’m now capable of treating a lot of my own issues at home. It’s pretty awesome.
So I highly suggest Physical Therapy - when you get that referral, set up an appointment with a PT right away so you don’t forget it or lose the script! And once you start doing the exercises and stretches, put an alert on your phone or computer so you remember to do them daily. I’ve got a “neck stretches” one that goes off every night at 9 pm. And if you’re not as connected to your phone as I am and need a different reminder method, a post it note on your bathroom mirror or by your daily medicines can be a good method.
3. Pay Attention to Your Mental Health Too
Honestly, chronic pain can be incredibly disheartening and it can really mess your brain up. For a while when I was younger, I developed a certain fatalism and would often say things like “oh I don’t think I’m going to live past 30,” because no one I knew had the same pain problems I did. I clearly remember asking my parents at one point if they had chronic pain issues. They said no, and I was seriously so depressed by that. I was 24 and having more pain problems than my almost 60-year-old parents.
When you have chronic pain issues, that does become the focus of a lot of your medical visits. However, be sure to talk to your doctor about your mental health as well. If you’re experiencing mood swings, feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness, irritability, persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings, a loss of interest in things that were once pleasurable to you, and/or major changes in your sleeping or eating habits, get to a therapist as soon as possible. Talk Therapy can be incredibly helpful for sorting through a lot of these thoughts and you may be able to get a prescription that could help you as well.
Walking outside can also be a great tool for helping your mental health. It’s low-level exercise that gets you moving and makes your brain release serotonin, which can be a mood lifter and a pain reliever. There are also studies that show that just being outside under the sun can have a huge impact, so if you’re not up for walking or doing anything else, just sitting or standing outside for a bit can be helpful as well.
Don’t forget to read Daily Management Part 2 as well!