Although pain’s primary purpose is to send our body signals when there’s a problem, sometimes it can overstay its welcome. When this happens, doctors refer to it as chronic pain. This is something that countless mothers nationwide have to deal with, so know you’re not alone if you’re trying to cope with this condition. To help you through this, here are some noninvasive ways to manage chronic pain.
Hot and Cold Packs
For specific injuries or types of pain, using hot and cold packs is one of the best ways to find relief. Hot and cold packs work in opposite ways, but they both treat pain. When you experience sharp, intense flashes of pain, ice can restrict blood flow to that area so that you don’t feel as much pain. On the contrary, heat works by increasing blood flow to a given area to relax your muscles and repair damaged tissue.
You can make hot and cold packs at home, but if they aren’t working, ask your doctor to recommend one to manage your pain more effectively.
Your physical health can affect your mental health, but the converse is also true. In fact, when you employ techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and breathing exercise, it helps you focus on calming your body down when you’re experiencing pain. Mastering control of these techniques allows your body to inhibit the fight-or-flight response, which is an impulse that helped humans evolve when predators were nearby. Unfortunately, when our fight-or-flight response is functioning when it shouldn’t be, it can cause tension in our muscles and lead to chronic pain. Luckily, mindfulness is another time-tested method that offers our bodies some benefits.
Massage therapy not only makes us feel good but also provides long-lasting relief from chronic pain. Massages can help you deal with pain by reducing tension in your joints and muscles. This relaxing sensation can distract your brain and override incoming pain signals, so it offers relief while keeping future problems at bay.
Overall, chronic pain can make routine life tasks feel unbearable. However, if you harness the power of these noninvasive ways to manage chronic pain, you can take back your life and start living pain free once again.
Christina Duron is a writer living in the Chicagoland area. Her passion for writing and mental health help create thought provoking and engaging pieces and hopes to use them to empower mothers and women to embrace the beauty of motherhood.
Endometriosis is a condition that affects 1 in 10 women with a uterus, and even some without one.
Despite how common it is, it often goes undiagnosed and ignored, by both women themselves and medical professionals, for years. That’s why it’s important to recognize the warning signs of endometriosis, document your symptoms and seek the right type of care. Endometriosis can cause chronic, debilitating pain and no one should have to live that way.
Here are some important warning signs of endometriosis to watch out for.
1. Severe Cramping
Since endometriosis is associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle, severe cramping is one of the most common symptoms. Most women with endometriosis experience symptoms starting with their very first period, so it’s hard to know what is considered normal menstrual cramps if you’ve never had anything but the “severe” ones.
Menstrual cramps are unpleasant no matter what, but here are a few warning signs that it could be endometriosis:
Cramping so bad that extra-strength painkillers don’t take the pain away
Cramps accompanied by nausea, vomiting or dizziness
Cramping pain that radiates from the pelvis to the thighs, lower back and buttocks.
Cramps that begin before your period and last longer than a week.
2. Abnormal Bleeding
Again, hard to know what’s considered normal vs. abnormal, as some women are just prone to heavy periods. But endometriosis isn’t synonymous with just a heavy flow.
Some things to watch out for when it comes to menstrual bleeding with endometriosis:
A heavier than normal menstrual flow
A lighter than normal menstrual flow
Spotting instead of a regular period
Spotting or bleeding in between regular periods
Dark brown blood or spotting (that looks like old blood)
Menstrual blood containing lots of large clots
If blood is not being properly expelled each month, women can experience cases of abnormal bleeding. But any of these can also signal a lot of different conditions, and not just endometriosis. Any menstrual changes should always be documented and discussed with your doctor. Changes to your menstrual cycle are big red flags that something is going on inside your body.
3. Pelvic Pain
Pelvic pain is one of the first symptoms that might cause a woman to seek help from a medical professional. For women with endometriosis, the pelvic pain might be felt during ovulation, while on their period, or they may experience the pain chronically. Endometriosis is known to be one of the most excruciatingly painful conditions that exists, so debilitating pelvic pain is a big warning sign.
Where and when a woman experiences pelvic pain can be different, as it all depends on where the endometrial tissue is growing. Some women with severe endometriosis don’t experience any pelvic pain, while others might have only a few spots, but feel a lot of pain. The endometrial tissue can also form adhesions, which only cause pain during certain activities like sitting, running, bending over or squatting.
4. Painful Bowel Movements or Urination
The uterus sits very close to other internal organs, including the bladder, bowel, intestines and rectum. This means that there is always a chance of endometrial tissue growing on these organs or forming adhesions around them. If that happens, going to the bathroom can be extremely painful. The pain can range from slight pressure as the bladder increases, to full out screaming pain during a bowel movement. It might feel almost impossible to bear down while eliminating, so avoiding constipation is key. On the other hand, some women experience diarrhea or loose stools during their period, but it’s still just as painful to go.
5. Painful Intercourse
If the mere idea of intercourse makes you cringe in pain, it could be a warning sign of endometriosis. Endometriosis can cause pain during intercourse, even when a women is not currently on her period or experiencing any pain. This is mostly due to any adhesions that may have formed. During intercourse, we use our pelvic floor muscles to relax and contract. But if they are compromised by endometrial tissue or adhesions, this can be extremely painful to do.
Orgasms can also cause a lot of pain in women with endometriosis, which is a sad fact, since they should be able to enjoy them as much as anyone else. But again, the contracting of those pelvic floor muscles can be restricted and cause pain, both in the moment, as well as long afterwards.
6. Lower Back, Leg or Hip Pain
Endometriosis is regularly associated with pelvic pain, but it commonly causes pain in the lower back, stomach, legs or hips as well. Endometrial tissue and adhesions can grow practically anywhere, even as far up as the diaphragm and lungs. But endometrial tissue growing on the pelvic organs can affect the function of our pelvic floor muscles, abdominal muscles and hip flexors. These muscles control our lower back, stomach, hip and leg movements, essentially they are our “core” muscles. If you’re in pain simply from trying to move around like a normal person, it could signal something such as endometriosis.
Endometriosis and inflammation go hand in hand. The lining of the uterus essentially becomes inflamed each month, and the inflammation recedes once that lining is shed. Therefore, the pain of endometriosis is caused by inflammation from the endometrial tissue growing outside the uterus that is unable to be shed.
With endometriosis, women may experience inflammation in other parts of their body as well. This can include pain or swelling in their hands, feet or joints. Many women also develop symptoms of other inflammatory autoimmune disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid problems, rheumatoid arthritis, vitiligo, lupus and more.
8. Excessive Bloating
“Endo belly“ as it’s lovingly called, is a major warning sign of endometriosis. It refers to the excessive bloating that many women with endometriosis experience during a flare up. If we go back to the last point, this bloating is partly due to the inflammation of the endometrial tissue outside the uterus, and the restriction on the digestive system caused by adhesions. While bloating is common for many women during their periods, endo belly can make a women look 6 months pregnant in a matter of just a few hours.
Yes, infertility is often associated with endometriosis, and it’s perhaps the most common reason woman actually get a proper diagnosis. But endometriosis doesn’t always cause infertility, so just because you’ve been able to have children doesn’t instantly mean you don’t have it. In fact, I personally didn’t start to experience symptoms of endometriosis myself until after the birth of my second child, and I was still able to conceive a third child without any intervention. It all depends on where the endometrial tissue is growing and which organs are affected. But if you are suffering from infertility, endometriosis could definitely be the culprit.
Of all the warning signs of endometriosis, I saved this one for last because it seems to have the least impact. What I mean by that is – who ISN’T tired? Endometriosis, like many inflammatory diseases, causes severe fatigue. And not just during flare ups, but all the time. It’s exhausting fighting pain and inflammation on a regular basis. If you’re experiencing extreme bouts of fatigue in conjunction with any of these other symptoms, you could be suffering from endometriosis.
+ Bonus Warning Sign
Another huge red flag that it might be endometriosis is if you’re experiencing excruciating pelvic pain and yet nothing shows up on any diagnostic imaging test. As a personal testament, I can’t count how many times I’ve gone to the ER in an amount of pain way beyond my tolerance level (and I gave birth three times without drugs) only to be told they didn’t find anything wrong with me. It is extremely frustrating and almost dehumanizing.
Suspect you have endometriosis?
The unfortunate news for women who experience these warning signs of endometriosis is that the only way to get a definite diagnosis is via laparoscopy. I lost my uterus to stage IV endometriosis and yet nothing showed up on an ultrasound, CT Scan or MRI even as recent as a month prior to my surgery. Many women will undergo a hysterectomy in an attempt to treat the endometriosis, but it’s not always the best course of treatment as endometrial tissue can continue to grow, even without a uterus.
Instead, a technique called excision is the preferred method for treating endometriosis, however only a handful of surgeons currently perform it successfully around the world. It’s a meticulous surgery that requires the cutting away of endometrial tissue and patients often require more than one surgery to get it all. Sometimes a hysterectomy needs to be performed in addition to excision of endometrial tissue, depending on how widespread the disease is.
Since the month of March is known as Endometriosis Awareness Month, it’s especially important to take some time to raise awareness and education about this excruciating condition. Sadly, the women with this condition will be faced with having to fight for proper medical treatment and will likely be turned away from help several times before finding it. It is an issue that is near and dear to my heart and my hope is to save as many women from having to go through the same traumatic ordeal that I did.
You wouldn’t know by looking at me, but I have suffered from chronic pain for over 5 years.
I was recently diagnosed with a medical condition called endometriosis. It took over a year, five different doctors, several ER visits, countless tests and a long list of medications to finally get an answer. In the end, it was too late anyway and I lost the majority of my reproductive organs.
And while I want to blame the medical system for failing me, I can’t deny the fact that I ignored the pain for FOUR YEARS before deciding to do something about it.
As a mother, there are so many reasons why I didn’t feel my pain was a priority. Prior to having children to take care of, I’m sure it would have been a major concern and perhaps I would have gotten a diagnosis sooner rather than later.
Here are some reasons why mothers don’t speak up about chronic pain.
1. We put others first
One of the most distinguishable characteristics of a mother is that they put others before themselves. The more people we have to take care of, the more our own needs get bumped to the bottom of the list. And some most days that list never gets completed. So while we might have every intention of taking care of ourselves, there just aren’t enough hours left over at the end of the day after taking care of everyone else.
2. We don’t want to scare our children
I will never forget the fear in my daughter’s eyes when she came to visit me in the hospital, hooked up to machines and IV’s and unable to move. In an attempt to protect my children from seeing their mother in such a vulnerable state, I kept quiet about my pain around them. When they think back on their childhood, I wouldn’t want them to remember me in constant pain and not able to do anything fun with them.
3. We hate to let people down
We want to be supermom, as unattainable as it might be. We want to be there for our kids and our spouses, our families and friends. We want to bake the perfect cupcakes for the bake sale and volunteer at every charitable event. We want to cheer our kids on from the sidelines and chase after them at the playground. We want to go on family vacations together. Dealing with chronic pain means we probably won’t get to do all of those things and so we push through it just to avoid disappointing anyone.
4. Nothing compares to childbirth
Sure, you’re in pain, but it’s not as bad as childbirth. It’s worse if you’ve given birth without any drugs because then you’re expected to be able to handle anything. But chronic pain and labor pain are two entirely different things.
Labor pain is a right of passage with an amazing reward at the end. All mothers have had a chance to experience it in some way or another, it’s just part of life.
Chronic pain means something is wrong. It is not a welcome pain, and there is no end in sight. Add in the psychological trauma that comes along with wondering WHY you’re in pain and it’s a whole different monster.
5. It’s hard to ask for help
This rings true for most people, not just mothers suffering from chronic pain. To ask for help means putting aside our pride, which is something most mothers have a very difficult time doing. We are proud of the home we’ve kept and the children we’ve raised. We’ve got a system and routine and we can’t expect just anyone to come in and take over. If we admit that we need help, then we’re no longer in the running for supermom.
6. No one knows how to to do what we do
I’m not even sure what I do all day. All I know is that no one else knows how to do it. So if my husband asks me what needs to be done, I couldn’t tell him. I just get up in the morning and do what I do. I see something that needs to be done and I do it. There is no master list. There is no “how-to guide” to being a stay at home mom. And even if I wrote out a to-do list, it would probably need to be changed at least 12 times because… toddlers.
7. We’re afraid to miss out
These kids grow up so fast. We’re afraid to blink for fear of missing out on something and so taking time off to deal with our chronic pain is out of the question. As much as we want alone time, we also want to be there to experience it all. We want to see that excited expression on their faces when experiencing something new. We want to hear their hysterical laughs while playing at the park or watching a funny movie. We don’t want to miss out on our children’s childhood because of chronic pain.
8. We’ve tried all the home remedies
We are lucky to live in a world where we have so many choices when it comes to our health. If you want to know what all of those options are, then all you need to do is mention to someone that you suffer from chronic pain. Product recommendations, home remedies, naturopathic solutions, CBD oil, essential oils, vitamins, etc., are all wonderful and often welcome suggestions… at first. And we get that people want to help but, after a while, we’re tired of being targeted by those selling some type of miracle product that promises to cure all that ails us.
9. We hate being labeled
Complainers. Hypochondriacs. Unhealthy. Drug addicts. There are many people who use pain as an excuse. Those people make things much harder for the rest of us who are in actual pain. We don’t speak up about chronic pain because there are so many people who don’t understand it. It’s not just about what others think of us, it’s about how we are treated. For five years I suffered from chronic pain but was still able to do anything and everything and I often wonder if things would have been different if I was more vocal about my pain.
The cause of chronic pain is less important than how it affects your life. Many people have no choice but to speak up about their chronic pain and ask for help. But for some mothers, myself included, we are afraid to show weakness. We don’t want to be a burden. And so we keep it inside and go it alone.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If you’re reading this and felt like I was talking to you, maybe it’s time to let your guard down. Seek help and let those in your life know that you are suffering. If they truly love you, they won’t think any less of you and will want to do whatever they can to ease your pain.