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What's in your Pain First Aid Kit?

by Elmie Hoevenaars

Having a First Aid Kit handy at home or out-and-about is a wise practice of many Australians. Even if that excludes yourself, I am sure you have a little voice asking if it might just be worthwhile to get one just in case. Pharmacies have pre-packaged kits with endless options for expansions, tailored to every budget and needs. But seldom do they have good supplies for those of us who live with chronic pain. Wouldn’t it be great to have a First Aid Kit that can help you when you are in a pain flare up?

The thing with pain is that it affects us in unique ways, and we all have different ways of

coping with our pain. No pharmacy will ever be able to put together a Pain First Aid Kit

perfectly designed for you. So here is what I propose, YOU are the best person to make one

for yourself! You can personalise it to your pain, associated symptoms and things you have

already found helpful thus far.

It is obvious why having a tourniquet or snake bite bandage handy in a First Aid Kit is a good idea, but why make a kit for pain? Well, have you ever found that when you are in a

significant pain flare up, it is hard to think properly? Everything seems like an unbelievable

effort? In these situations, channelling your limited energy into positive self-management

avenues can be difficult to say the least. Having a pre-made list of pain soothers, system

relaxers, distractions and happy hormone boosters can help reduce this mental load of

deciding what to do for your pain. This helps you to channel your energy into what is

important at these times, self-care. Keep it close so you can put your hand on it when you

need and simply follow your pre-made pain flare plan.

So, let’s brainstorm some ideas of what you can put inside your First Aid Kit. Maybe none of

the following suggestions sound any good to you, and that’s okay! Make sure to

experiment, think creatively and only put in things that are useful tools for you.

1.Pain Soothers: You might be able to identify some items or activities you have

previously found useful in reducing your pain experience. Typically, these include

heat/ice packs, creams or rubs, massage balls, foam rollers, a list of specific stretches

or medications. Maybe a warm bath with a nice bath bomb or a steamy shower

helps. Place a list of such activities and/or items in the kit so you know what your

first point in call might be.

2. System Relaxers: We know that pain is a system designed to protect you. When your

system is in over drive, it is much more likely your body and brain will interpret your

situation as dangerous, and so create pain. So, let’s think about ways to relax your

system and put you in a ‘rest and digest’ mode. Have you ever dabbled in

mindfulness practice, breathing exercises or body scans? If not, give them a try,

there are plenty of online resources and phone apps you can follow. Perhaps a

specific essential oil in a room diffuser helps you wind down. Or perhaps you know

rest is good for your pain, but it is a real inconvenience for you to pull the plug on

what you were busy with, and so you are tempted to push through. If that is you,

maybe write a letter explaining to yourself why it is important to take it easy and

give your body the break it is asking for… In the same vein, be mindful not to over

rest so you can still have the best sleep possible.

3. Distractors: The power of distraction is another helpful tool to keep in mind. When

we turn our attention away from the pain and channel our energy and attention on

something else, our bodies often choose not to priorities the experience of pain as

highly. This helps put the pain in the background so we can get on with things we

want to do. Consider things like your favourite book to read, a list of podcasts you

might want to listen to, or an enjoyable game to play on your phone. What helps

distract you when you have pain?

4. Happy Hormone Boosters: Did you know your brain can release pain soothing

chemicals stronger than anything doctors can prescribe? It’s a shame we can’t turn

them on or off like a tap, but we can do some simple things to help them release.

Your happy hormones are some of these chemicals. So, ask yourself, what makes

you happy? Perhaps consider putting significant cards from loved ones into your kit,

an ipod with your favourite music or perhaps a special fun nail polish you like to

wear. Maybe a packet of chocolate, some photos from a vacation or gratefulness

practice is worth considering adding.

Lastly, when you think about these different categories, think about all 5 senses and get

creative! What can you smell, touch, taste, hear and look at that can target a part of your

pain experience? The sky is the limit, and the best First Aid Kits are ones that are totally

personalised to the individual. No-ones’ will look the same because every person is

different, and every individuals pain behaves in a different way. Consider starting to put one

together today. If it feels overwhelming, start small, and over time think about adding to it

as you notice more things that help you when you find yourself in a flare.

We would love to know what is on your list! Leave a comment with what you have found

most helpful, or creative items/activities in your First Aid Kit. You never know, it might just

help the next person to read this blog!

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This is super helpful! I added silky PJs to my first aid kit. Something to look forward to wearing when I am really sore.

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