Thursday, February 5, 2015

It Comes Out Even

Spring cleaning, pain. Pain, spring cleaning. They come hand-in-hand with people who experience chronic pain. And ok, while it's certainly not spring, I have to clean when the mood hits. And when the mood hits, I usually get knee-deep in stuff before it's all said and done. This last month has been no different.

It all began with just being so frustrated with clutter. The five of us live in a 1,200 sq. ft. home. It's not easy sometimes. We feel like we're walking on top of one another, especially when it's time for dinner and my husband decides to unload the dishwasher while I'm preparing dinner. *grin*

I began my massive declutter-fest last fall when we began replacing flooring, painting, and buying new furniture. I regularly purge clutter, but I'd been resistant with some items. Decorative items that collected dust, kitchen items shoved in my already-filled cabinets, and books on shelves, under beds, in closets, and in the building. My grandmother was a hoarder of books, and I am too. Ridding my house of excess books felt like losing a best friend. Getting rid of the books was painful.

When I clean, it's painful, too. Physically. And now here I am again, until things calm down and I come out of the fog.

As someone who deals with chronic pain (namely, costochondritis, in my case), there are certain things that I cannot do that really cause it to flare in a big way.

The Red Zone
I've provided pictures for which I've highlighted my targeted bad zones. (Please excuse the poor shading--I'm on a new laptop and haven't installed Photoshop yet. Yay, Microsoft Paint!) My pain is mainly in the area of the sternum, though I have muscle pain and aching that presents itself all over my ribs. In the front, my lower three ribs are very sensitive and have been for most of my life. I remember having pain as a teenager and feeling the dig of the wire from my bra rubbing against my ribs during PE in high school. It was utter agony. I just thought that it was something everyone experienced.

Like I mentioned, I also have a lot of muscular pain that is involved as well. That was verified by a massage therapist a couple of years ago when I was in agony and decided to try a month of massage therapy. I brace my body a lot when I am tense, so I believe that my pain is magnified because of that. I often will wake up with my hands in fists, my shoulders raised, my chest clenched tight. Bracing.... due to a constant state of fight or flight. Not good. I need to get back into daily relaxation to lower my cortisol levels.

I also have pain in my back, mostly located in the area of my spine, specifically in the center of my back. Massage greatly helps the pain here, unlike massage on my chest wall. Heat also works well on my back and neck. I have a massage/heat pad that I often rest against that provides a lot of relief when I've had a bad flare-up.

What causes a flare?
Lifting heavy things causes a big flare-up for me, as does pushing anything heavy. Exercises requiring bearing weight on my arms, such as push-ups or arching my back puts pressure on my sternum and can cause a massive flare-up that lasts for weeks.

So, what now?
So, cleaning is a no-no if I don't want to experience a flare of costochondritis. But life doesn't stop, and I refuse to stop. There are days when I wish I could just hang out in my recliner with my massage/heating pad on my back and rest, but I've got three children. Not to mention, inactivity makes things worse. If I do nothing, I cause the problem to accelerate, so resting for too long is actually counter-intuitive.

While I wait for the newest flare to calm down and recede to normal levels of pain, I'll just bear it, and try not to brace against it! After all, I've got three great reasons to push forward and keep going, right? It always evens out in the end.

Now, I'd like to ask you: do you suffer from chronic pain? What flares your problem? What helps you? Let me know in the comments section! 

If you want to know more about costochondritis and my history with it, click on "Costochondritis" at the top of the page underneath my blog title.

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