This past month I have been dealing with a lot of pain, as I’m sure many Crohn’s and Colitis sufferers do. The pain is the hardest part of the disease, because it is almost always unpredictable. I have the most pain in the mornings when I wake up and throughout the early afternoon. There are many different kinds of pain when you are suffering from an IBD and learning how to manage it is an important part of dealing with the disease.
The worst kind of pain that comes with Colitis is the knife-like stomach cramp that comes out of no where. The absolute worst has to be when you are in a car. That is where a lot of my anxiety attacks happen these days. As soon as I get in the car knowing that the closest bathroom may be too far, my palms start to sweat and my legs begin to shake. Anxiety is what causes the pain in the first place for me, so maybe that’s why it happens so often when I am driving. I also experience this knife like stab in the morning, pretty much everyday right now. As soon as I wake up I am immediately in so much pain it’s nauseating. I struggle with the fact that I don’t know anyone else who suffers from pain like this currently, so at times I feel alone in my fight against Colitis.
There isn’t much that helps the pain stop, either. Hydrocodone makes all of my Colitis symptoms disappear, but we all know that a person can’t walk around popping Vicodin all day every day. I was taking Aleve until I read that it can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, oops. I then switched to extra strength Tylenol, reading that acetaminophen is exceptionally easy on the digestive system. Neither of those really help my morning pain, though. As that is so extreme that it has to stop on it’s own. During those times I usually lay with a heating pad and try to relax and use breathing techniques I have practiced before in Yoga. Bentyl has been a life saver for throughout the afternoon with cramping and frequency, so if you are a Colitis sufferer I highly suggest you ask your doctor about getting a prescription for it.
Keeping a symptom journal might help some as well. I find myself to be very forgetful with things like this, but I always think about starting one. There is even an app on the iphone that you can download that will act as a sort of journal for your IBD. The app is called GI Buddy. There is also an app for finding the nearest bathroom, which I highly suggest downloading if you are traveling to an unfamiliar place.
Many pain management sites and articles will tell you to try relaxation techniques. We all know how difficult those can be to remember while you are in the fetal position on your bathroom floor. Deep breathing does always help me, though. Even when I feel an anxiety attack coming on in the car or when I am running to a bathroom. On days when I am feeling good and my energy is high, I also like to go to the gym and walk on the treadmill. I have even been doing the elliptical on really good days. I have found that exercise not only relieves my stress, but most of the time I do not have any Colitis symptoms at the gym. Now that it is finally getting nice outside in Ohio, I am looking forward to being able to walk outside.
Right after my diagnosis in my early days of severe UC ,I used to get massages. Pain from Colitis can affect the entire body, leaving your back and neck extremely sore. Prednisone also makes muscles all over my body ache at times, so getting massages helps relieve those spots that a heating pad just can’t get too. I read online and in books that acupuncture is being used to help IBD’s, but I’m not sure that would be for me.
For now all I have is my strength to get me through those painful moments. Sometimes I even find myself meditating, assuring myself that it’s going to be okay. The best thing you can do for yourself in any situation of pain is to take deep breaths, drink some water and try to lay down and relax. If pain really does make us stronger, then us IBD people are tough cookies..even though we can’t eat them 🙂