WITHIN Blog: June 2020
5 ways you can feel more in control over your pain during the COVID-19 pandemic
By Dr Kristy Themelis on behalf of the WITHIN team.
Our current pandemic has an enormous impact on how pain management and care programmes are operating and being delivered. For those with chronic pain, this brings on a whole new set of challenges to manage their health. We want to provide you with a few steps you can take to continue to manage your chronic pain.
1. Stay connected
We are surrounded by technological advances which enable us to remain in contact with people at the mere click of a button. Many support groups are still operating online, with technology being an aid to help stay in touch. In case you haven’t already, this might be the time to turn for support online.
- We have included a list at the end of this page with details of some UK chronic pain support groups that have webpages/social media pages online. This list is by no means exhaustive - but it will hopefully be a good start!
- There are a range of chronic pain charities that continue to support and inform people during these challenging times. Some UK-based chronic pain charities include: Action on pain, Pain Concern, Pain UK, The British Pain Society and The Pain Relief Foundation.
- If you prefer listening to talking, reading or socialising, Pain Concern’s radio programme might be for you… Already on its 122th episode, Airing Pain brings together people with chronic pain and top specialists to talk about the resources which can help.
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2. Use remote clinical services
The current health crisis has fundamentally changed the way we live and work. Covid-19 has turned remote working into the norm for most organisations. Some services such as GP practices and surgeries had to implement these changes at a record speed to provide necessary medical services.
Just because the majority of face-to-face clinics and routine appointments have been postponed, does not mean you should miss out on your clinical care.
Your GP and/or rheumatologist might already offer consultations over the phone. Other health professionals, such as physiotherapists are offering online video consultations to provide tailored care. Most pharmacies offer an online-prescription service, with pharmacies like Boots even offering free delivery. Contact your health professional to find out more about the support they are offering.
3. Shake up your exercise routine!
It is unlikely to be a revelation for us to proclaim that activity and exercise are helpful for chronic pain. However, with the social distancing measures still in place, you may want to consider changing up your exercise routine to remain active.
Being stuck at home might mean that you are missing out on your regular walks to the bus stop, the shops, or your doctor’s office. The NHS has produced a range of gym-free exercises that you can do without even having to leave your front door. They include this Pilates-inspired video suitable for people with arthritis and this 3-minuted seated yoga workout.
Versus Arthritis has also developed some easy exercises to manage your pain. They also recommend you have a look at the Undefeatable website, which lists a range of ideas and resources to help keep you active. If you are looking to develop a new routine, ESCAPE-pain online might be for you. ESCAPE-pain Online is a free resource produced in the NHS that involves 12 sessions, twice a week over 6-weeks, and combines education and exercise.
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4. Sleeping under lockdown
Unfortunately, you may already be used to pain impacting on your sleep; however, it is imported to acknowledge how events like the COVID-19 pandemic can disrupt our sleep further.
“There is ample evidence that worries, stress and busy brains are sleep-spoilers,” said Dr Nicole Tang, a Clinical and Health Psychologist, head of the Warwick Sleep and Pain Laboratory and primary investigator of the WITHIN study.
The loss of routine and opportunities to engage in physical activities can impact our sleep quality and regularity too, added Dr Tang. However, “it is equally important to recognise that insomnia is a normal reaction to stress”.
These statements follow a recent report showing that more than half of the UK population is struggling to sleep during the current situation. For many people, sleep disturbances would settle down once a new routine (or a new 'normal’) is established, Dr Tang said. Dr Michelle Miller, from Warwick Medical School added "To set our biological clock we need to get as much daylight as possible early in the day; exercising outside in the morning will be very beneficial."
Although originally developed for students, Dr Nicole Tang has developed a useful infographic on sleep hygiene which includes tips to manage your sleep during the pandemic and is a helpful resource for many.
5. Stay in control
If you want to take things a step further in terms of managing your pain, you might want to identify what you can do to take further control of the situation. There are various online resources available (either for free or for a small fee), that are offering pain management tools and information. We list a few of them below:
- Curable Health offers an online pain psychology programme based on a biopsychosocial approach. It is aimed at people who want to improve their quality of life and pain and are willing to put in some time and effort. In light of the current situation, they have reduced their subscription fees and released some free materials, including educational and pain management technique videos.
- The Pain Toolkit is a website developed by Pete Moore, a pain advocate who is living with pain himself. His website features a range of pain management techniques and information as well as a toolkit of pain management skills available for a one-off payment.
- Pathway through Pain is an NHS approved digital Pain Management Programme. It gives you the flexibility to complete the course at your own pace and has been backed by several research studies. Available for a one-off payment, it offers educational recourses, instructional videos and practical techniques aimed to keep you feeling supported and motivated.
- Meditainment offers a free 20-minute guided meditation video, that is easy to follow and aims to help people manage their pain. They currently also offer free unlimited access to other guided meditations for stress and pain relief.
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6. Your voice matters!
With the priorities of the government currently aimed at preventing the spread of the virus and protecting our health from COVID-19, it may feel like chronic pain patients are put on hold. We want to ensure you that, especially from a research perspective, you are not forgotten, and your voices are still heard.
Although a lot of research involving participants and/or lab work has been impacted by COVID-19, most researchers are developing ways to continue (some) of their research online. If you are interested in taking part in research and ensure your voice is heard, you may find the following links useful.
We have launched an online survey open to chronic pain patients that can be done from the comfort of your own home. The aim of the study is to investigate how mental defeat contributes to the persistence of chronic pain and its associated distress and disability. Click here to read the information leaflet and to take part. For any other questions, please get in touch. You can email us at: email@example.com or call us on 07385600421
The UK Clinical Trials Gateway lists most studies that are currently recruiting participants. You can search on search terms and/or location.
Disclaimer. All content provided in this blog is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.
List with contact details of UK Chronic pain support groups:
Stratford Fibro friends: Facebook group
Coventry Fibromyalgia Support Group meeting: Facebook group
Smethwick Fibro and Arthritis Support Group: website
Fibromyalgia Action Group Nottingham: Facebook: click here. Twitter: click here
Evesham Fibromyalgia Support Group: Facebook group
Tamworth Fibromyalgia Support Group: Facebook group
Rugby Fibromyalgia Support Group: Website
Walsall Fibro & ME Link: Website
Fibro Family (Formerly Telford & Wrekin Fibromyalgia Support Group): Facebook: Facebook group
Chesterfield NRAS Group: Facebook Group
Heart of England NRAS Group (Solihull): Facebook group.
Back pain blog: Facebook group and website