Find the right balance to avoid pain flare-ups during the holidays

December 2, 2020

chronic pain flare-upsThe holiday season can be a challenging time for pain management. It is often a time when we are transitioning to colder weather, which can bring about increased aches and pains, and it’s also a stressful time of year for many. With the continuation of a global pandemic this holiday season, there are even more difficult decisions to make. 

It’s still likely to be a season when you will be out of the usual routine. That may mean less than normal sleep, varying eating habits, and a calendar that’s more full than other times of the year. All of this can lead to increased chronic pain or flare-ups.

This is why it’s so important for anyone living with chronic pain to find and maintain the right balance during the holidays. 

Tips for avoiding chronic pain flare-ups during the holidays

The holiday season is typically a time of joy and celebration, and we want those with chronic pain to experience this as well. But activities such as shopping for gifts, cooking big meals, entertaining guests, or traveling to see family adds strain to our bodies, leading to more pain.

While COVID-19 may cause holiday plans to slow down some this year, you will probably still have more on your plate than normal. Here are some tips to help you handle it in the best way possible.

1. Try to figure out what works for YOU

For many reasons, you will not be able to please everyone else during the holidays. Instead, try to find the right balance for you, and by extension, your family. But how do you find this balance?

It starts with prioritizing all of the many items that could go on your to-do list. Do you love baking Christmas cookies? Put that at the top of the list. Do you hate shopping and want to avoid stores this year? Give yourself permission to do online shopping only, or just give everyone cash. Don’t overschedule yourself, thinking you can push through. While it is important to stay active, pushing past your limits could result in more pain in the following days.

2. Focus on quality, not quantity

Very much related to #1, remember that it’s not about how much you do, but the quality of what you do. If your body is tired and aching because you’ve done too much, you won’t enjoy doing anything. Recognize what’s important to you, and save your energy for that. 

3. Remember that movement and being active is important

Again, it’s a balance. You don’t want to do too much, but movement and activity are recommended for nearly every chronic pain condition. Don’t use the holidays as an excuse to take a break from exercising and daily activity. That alone could result in more pain than usual.

4. Consider tasks like gift wrapping

Wrapping gifts can be a large task for anyone, but for most people, it’s not an activity that would cause pain. This may not be true for someone with chronic pain. It can be hard on your fingers and hands, and the posture required could cause back pain flare-ups. Instead of waiting until the last minute and having to do all the wrapping at once, plan ahead and wrap a gift or two a day. Set up a gift wrapping station where you will be comfortable, or even plan to take advantage of free gift wrapping at stores when possible.

5. Plan ahead for medications

If you are traveling this year, make sure you have enough medication for the trip. If it becomes apparent that you will run out of medication before you get home, call your doctor and ask them to phone in a prescription to a local pharmacy as soon as possible. If you typically take medication in the evening but will be at a party or event, plan ahead to make sure you are able to stay on this schedule. 

6. Don’t ignore your usual routine

It’s important to stick to your schedule as much as possible to help manage your pain and improve your comfort throughout the season. How can you do this? 

  • Set an alarm on your phone to ensure you take your medication on time.
  • Be home from any events early enough that you can go to bed at the normal time.
  • Take your daily walk. 
  • Eat regular, healthy meals.
  • Say no to events or engagements that don’t fit into your routine.
  • Continue to follow your pain doctor’s advice for pain management.

7. Make healthy food and drink choices

Holiday meals or traditions may center around foods that are filled with sugar, fat, and salt, all of which can trigger inflammation. While you may be able to indulge in a smart way, too much indulgence may lead to flare-ups. Too much alcohol is often a trigger and should be avoided, if possible. Instead, make sure you are drinking plenty of water and sticking to a healthy diet, such as an anti-inflammatory one.

Focusing on all of these tips during the holidays will be a form of self-care, which will hopefully result in a season that’s not as stressed as it could be otherwise. Remember that added stress and anxiety can increase pain levels, so this is something important to focus on. We hope you have a joy-filled holiday season!

Start your journey toward pain relief at Southside Pain Specialists

With highly specialized training and a multitude of pain relief options, Southside Pain Specialists follow the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine, and the International Spinal Injection Society. We work hard to provide patients with comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.