By Barby Ingle, Columnist
Every day is a challenge to remain independent when living with chronic pain. Normal activities such as walking, taking the stairs, squatting, sitting for long periods, and getting in and out of vehicles can be quite challenging and painful.
To get more out of life, I had to learn how to minimize disruptions in my daily routine and how to be a time and energy saver. That meant making some changes around the house.
Every pain patient and their family should assess their surroundings, perhaps with the help of professionals, and prioritize the modifications needed. This can help the patient maintain their independence and function.
Some of the lifestyle modifications you may wish to consider include:
- Flat shoes instead of heels for patients with lower extremity issues
- Slip-on shoes
- Velcro or zipper closures for shirts or sweaters
- Velcro or zippers for shoes instead of shoelaces
- Elevated toilet seat
- Grab bars in the bathtub, shower, and next to the toilet
- Long-handled comb or brush so the patient does not have to raise his or her arm high
- Tub or shower bench
- Blanket support frame so that blankets or sheets do not rest directly on the feet of a patient
- Nightlights in the bedroom and other rooms where the patient may walk if they awaken during the night
- Car doors that are easy to open and close
- Handicapped parking stickers
- Modified controls to facilitate driving
- Seat positions that are easy to manipulate
- Easy grab handles for cabinets
- Large knobs on appliances requiring manipulation (stove, dishwasher, washing machine)
- Lightweight appliances (vacuum cleaner)
- Lightweight dishes and pots
- Lightweight flatware with long handles
- Long handled cleaning appliances (brooms, dustpans, sponges)
- Long-handled "grabbers" for removing items on high shelves or picking up items from the floor
- Sliding shelves or turntables on kitchen shelves so the patient does not have to reach into cabinets to access items in the back
- A note from your doctor recommending special accommodations, such as an aisle seat in airplanes
- Electric wheelchair to avoid upper body strain or injury
- Medical support professionals or accountants to budget medications, special appliances, home-nursing care, and other medical-related supplies and expenses
- Nursing or home health care
- Use of wheelchairs in airports, train stations, or malls
- Voice activated lights, appliances, or computer
- Wheelchair-access modifications at home
Undoubtedly, there has been progress made in recent years by healthcare professionals and patients towards understanding and properly managing pain. Unfortunately, pain still poses a problem for patients who are under-diagnosed, over-diagnosed or misdiagnosed.
Controlling the pain you are in is essential to quality of life. Knowing the characteristics of pain and why it is happening give you an advantage in dealing and controlling aspects of pain. Taking control of your life and being responsible for yourself will assist you in lowering your pain.
I see these life changes as a way to improve my daily living -- not as defeats. Using tools in life help those with disabilities from pain have a better life. If a tool can help us accomplish more and increase independence, we should not be ashamed of using it.
Barby Ingle suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the International Pain Foundation. She is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics.
More information about Barby can be found at her website.
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.