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During our time at home

As everyone is dealing with the changing times it is bringing higher stress levels, more anxious moments, which can lead to eating more comfort foods and less activity. For those living with chronic pain like me, it can be a period of increased pain and discomfort.  Yes, rest is important and can be beneficial, but long periods of inactivity, lying around with no purpose or focus, sitting around focusing on our worries can be harmful and often exacerbates the pain. 

I have adopted a few things that may help you as well. First, if my body is really tired and I did not get much sleep the night before I allow myself a day of rest knowing that maybe after a short nap that I will get up and do something small like stretch or go outdoors for some fresh air (weather permitting). It can even be as simple as sitting up in bed dangling my legs off the side and do some small leg exercises. Sometimes my Allodynia is so bad that very movement causes me pain, and, on those days, I must take extra meds and let my body rest and heal.  But I do my best to get up every day, shower, brush my teeth and get dressed. Being inactive for long periods of time only makes my pain worse and maintaining a normal routine gives my day a sense of direction.

Next, I make sure I am continuing to eat healthy. If you are like me, during higher stress moments I want to reach for comfort foods, such as french fries, bread, chips, and other foods that really don’t have a lot of nutrients in them. But these foods are high in sugar, carbs, and salt which for people living with chronic pain can exacerbate your symptoms. So, as we go to the grocery store and see that the fruits, vegetables and other healthy choices are dwindling, while the candy and snack foods are abundant, Please Don’t Be Tempted. Studies have shown that pain gets worse with processed foods.

I also make sure I am staying as active as possible and I get regular exercise. When weather permits and I get outdoors and go for a walk. Because of my deficits I have to make sure I have someone to walk with me for safety reasons which makes getting out a bit harder. There are a variety of indoor activities you can do to stay active. I do Yoga with an instructor (can be done virtually) at least two times per week.   By moving and getting our hearts pumping we also release endorphins which help reduce the pain.

Getting outdoors as much as possible is also important. Social distancing doesn’t mean you have to stay locked indoors. Take your dog for a walk or make yourself and your family a picnic lunch and sit outside in your backyard like I did recently. Cut some fresh flowers and bring a little bit of the outdoors in to brighten the mood. Enjoy the warmth of the sun and fresh air.  It can help lift your mood instantly.

During times like this it is easy to fall into the negativity trap especially when most of what we see and hear is negative news. We all know that stress worsens pain. Do your best to destress, talk to family and friends, just knowing you are not alone helps. We may not be able to hang out with our family and/or friends right now, but we still require those connections.  You can use things like Skype, Face Time, or WhatsApp or whatever works for you to keep in touch. We may not be able to reach out and hug them, but we can still see and hear them.

It is important not to become isolated because feeling alone only leads us to overdo and/or do activities that cause or exacerbate our pain. We can still assist each other with things like food runs, chores, and/or cleaning. If you know someone with deficits or with chronic pain, ask them what they might need assistance with and if you are the one that is in pain or has a deficit, please ask for help.

While it may be appealing to get everything on your to-do list done, pace yourself. Overexerting yourself will just exacerbate the pain and make it harder to cope. I know personally that when my body is over tired my pain goes up quickly and my ability to deal with the pain diminishes. Don’t attempt chores you’re not up to or know are unsafe.  Getting on a ladder, mopping the floor, or lifting heavy items can wait until someone else is available to help.

We have all wished at some point that we had extra time to catch up things. Many of us have wanted the time to organize your drawers and closets, put together a photo album, mend clothes, or many other things. Maybe you have wanted to start a craft project or puzzle why not give it a try. Why not use this time to reconnect with our inner artist?

It is important for everyone to take one day at a time and to make sure you are getting enough sleep. Our body requires at least 7-9 hrs. of sleep to function better. I know firsthand that does not always happen when you live with chronic pain. For many of us each day is a struggle. Please let’s do our best to stay connected, help each other, get some rest and heal physically and emotionally. God has promised that when we seek Him with our hearts, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). He has also said what we ask for in prayer and believe we will receive (Mark 11:24).  He is the greatest healer and He is with us. So, no matter what tomorrow brings, we’ll get through it together.

Trying Yoga

About a month and a half ago I found a yoga instructor that gives private instruction which was a must for me. I had been wanting to try yoga but knew I could not join a traditional class because of my deficits plus I wanted to make sure that I was being watched carefully to make sure I am performing the moves/poses correctly to prevent any injury. I currently practice yoga with my instructor twice a week and I incorporate many of the stretches into my daily exercise routine (I only perform the ones I know I can do safely on my own).

Warrior pose-It was scary the first time I let go, but over time I have taught my body that I have legs that can hold me. Loosing proprioception has been extremely difficult to deal. I have to reteach my body to know where my lower limbs are in space even when I am not looking at them.

This exercise continues to be a challenge. Not being able to see my legs is difficult. Because I practice and work at it my proprioception has improved over the last 2 1/2 yrs since my injury.

Working to eventually do this without any devices and lift my knee higher. But not bad for only doing this for a little over a month.

This my first time attempting to do this core exercise. I have since been able to do this for about 20 seconds. This was an exercise that was fairly easy for me prior to the injury. Now it takes total concentration. I will conquer this!

During this time of uncertainty, it is important to find a way to relax and destress. Why not try something new such as yoga? If yoga is not your thing then find something that you enjoy doing. Start slow and in no time, you will find that you are doing things you never thought you could. God has blessed us all with special talents/gifts maybe now is the time to discover them.

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To Beat COVID-19, Social Distancing is a Must — NIH Director’s Blog

gettyimages/SDI ProductionsEven in less challenging times, many of us try to avoid close contact with someone who is sneezing, coughing, or running a fever to avoid getting sick ourselves. Our attention to such issues has now been dramatically heightened by the emergence of a novel coronavirus causing a pandemic of an illness known as COVID-19.…

To Beat COVID-19, Social Distancing is a Must — NIH Director’s Blog

Little improvements

Standing doing my hair without any assistive devices! My balance has improved thanks to doing yoga with an instructor 2x per week (5 weeks so far) and using my LifeGlider.

I did have a recent fall🤪. I was bending down to pick something up off the floor, I had undone the safety belt on my walker as it was restricting me,there was water on the floor and my legs slipped causing me to loose my footing and down I went. Not smart on my part. Just because my balance and proprioception have improved some does not mean I don’t have to continue to pay attention to what I am doing. I still have to remind myself of walking hill to toe, to pick up my feet, and not to lean forward. Old habits are hard to break!

I am still excited about all the progress I am making. I know I am not doing this alone. Thank you everyone for your continued prayers and your words of encouragement. I know God is with me and because of this anything is possible. His promise to be my side every step of the way helps to keep me moving forward even when there are set backs.

Trying something new

My workouts at the gym seemed to be hitting a plateau. My walking and balance were not progressing much. So I decided forgo the gym and try yoga. After a 3 year search I finally found an amazing yoga instructor that comes to me twice a week for an hour. In just 3 short weeks there has been lots of improvement. The first few times I tried this I fell over. Because I lost balance and proprioception (the ability to know where my limbs are in space), when I cannot physically see my legs they tend to do their own thing. I still practice crawling as I believe that it has aided and continues to aid my ability to do more and more.

The plan is to continue doing yoga and gradually add the gym back in. My body tires very easily and it has required me to make adjustments to my daily life including the way and for how long I exercise. Because I have difficulty regulating body temperature I have to make sure I am hydrated and I don’t over exert myself. One major change is I really do not sweat from my torso down. This means my body cannot naturally cool it self by sweating. So becoming overheated is a real hazard.

So thankful for all that God has brought me through and continues to bring me through. Some days are filled with pain and tears while others are filled with blessings, joy and laughter. No matter what it is God is with me every moment refining me every step of the way for His glory.

Thinking of getting a new set of wheels

There notable changes in my gait. This walker causes me to engage my gluteus muscles. I can see it in the video, but more importantly I can feel it. I can feel my weight shift! Because of my spinal cord injury I have lost feeling in many areas from about mid-back down.

I am also going to try a new walker on the market called the LifeGlider(https://www.mylifeglider.com). It is also an upright walker, but this revolutionary walker could be a real game changer. It allows you to walk upright while being securely strapped in allowing the user to walk and move securely even when they let go with their hands. This feature alone would give me back so much.

In the past, I was not a big fan of the upright walkers. When I tried similar ones, I felt wobbly and very unstable. This time was different. The walker felt strong and stable which helped me feel more secure plus it was super easy to maneuver.

I am not sure which upright walker I will end up with, but I know I am switching. No more bending over and stressing out my back more. Traditional walkers cause the shoulders to rotate forward causing poor posture, which stresses the shoulders and upper back. Unfortunately, I am not able to walk without assistive devices, yet.

Still I feel blessed beyond belief. God’s timing is always right. My family and I have done a lot of research on walkers and other assistive devices to no avail until now. I have always believed that if it is God’s will it happen. His timing is perfect.

Little moments

In our lives we all have those little moments (small encounters) when you walk away smiling and thankful for the experience. I recently had such a time. My family and I had gone to the movies, and when it was over, it was time for a much-needed bathroom break. Of course, there was a line after all it was the womens’ bathroom. While waiting in line there were two young girls and their mother. One of the girls looked to be about 5 and her sister was a bit older. The younger girl said to her mother in a not so quiet voice, “what is wrong with her? Why can’t she walk and stand?” The mother looked mortified and attempted to quiet her daughter. I turned, smiled, and explained to the girl that I have a spinal cord injury but in terms she would understand. I said, “I have an owie inside my back.  It makes it hard for my brain (pointing to my head) to tell my legs what to do. My signals get mixed up.” She then asked, “We you born this way?” I told her, “told her no, my back got really sick about two years ago and I had to have special surgeries to my back. One of the surgeries made me brain and my legs stop talking to each other like hers do.” I also explained that I use my walker to help me get around and it helps me to keep from falling because I lose my balance frequently. As I finished washing my hands I turned to the mother and girls and said, “Thank you for asking questions. I love questions. “

This small encounter was a blessing. Often people just stare or stare and point. I can tell that they have questions and are guessing as to why I am in the state I am. I only wish more people were like the younger children who ask or at least speak out loud and say things like, “what is wrong with her? Or “how come she can’t walk?” Young children often have no filter and are curious. They don’t worry about or intend to be hurtful. So, why should I get upset by their comments or questions?  Instead I view them as a blessing. It is another opportunity to help educate others about my conditions and show them that being different is not a curse.  

I believe these little encounters are little nudges from God. He brings people into our life for different reasons and for different amounts of time. Some are brief and others for long periods of time. But weather brief or not I don’t want to miss the opportunities (blessings) that I am given.

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