Feeling Fatigued from Chronic Pain?
If you’re someone who suffers from chronic pain, you’ve probably noticed how you feel tired. A LOT. If you’ve been feeling fatigue from chronic pain, then this article has tips for you.
Feeling Fatigue from Chronic Pain: Why Am I Always Tired?
After having elbow surgery after a bike accident, I was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) in my arm. Early on, before the CRPS got under control, I was solely focused on the pain. My arm hurt and I could take pain medication to reduce the pain.
My doctors didn’t want me taking opioids for a long time. I didn’t want to, either. So, my pain prescription medications were slowly removed and I was to take over-the-counter pain relievers.
I worked with an interventional pain specialist, to get the CRPS under control. The pain specialist started me on a medication for my nervous system. I also went through several rounds of nerve block injections.
Working with the pain specialist seemed to get the CRPS under control. However, my elbow remained stuck in place and I continued to have dull, achy pains.
If you’re someone who struggles with chronic pain, then you’ve likely also experienced how exhausting it can be. You’re not alone if you’re feeling fatigued from chronic pain.
First off, pain can interrupt your sleep. If you’re not getting optimal rest, then of course you’re tired during the day. Additionally, there’s a reason that you’re in pain. Since everything in our body is connected, pain in one area absolutely impacts other areas of the body. Pain limits your ability to do things, causing you to feel frustrated. All the more reason why you’re tired most of the time. it’s draining to live with chronic pain.
How to Get Things Done… Even While Feeling Tired from Chronic Pain
Before my bike accident, I was a non-stop go, go, go type of person. I had high energy levels and liked to get loads of projects done. I was active and couldn’t sit still.
Because I’m living with chronic pain, I’ve noticed it has impacted my daily life. It’s difficult to do the simplest of chores, like folding and putting away laundry. I’m tired a lot and don’t have the energy to do as much as I used to. But life goes on and I still need to be able to take care of my home. So, I started to wonder, how am I going to function while feeling fatigue from chronic pain?
Here’s three tips for day-to-day living even while feeling fatigued from chronic pain.
1) Don’t Overdo It.
There’s so much to do. On any given day, you probably have five, six, or more things that need your attention. Household chores or home maintenance isn’t going to take care of itself. And, unless your filthy rich, you likely can’t hire help for everything that needs to get done.
So, what can you do? Well, I’ve found it useful to plan ahead, make a list, and focus.
I think about the month or week ahead (I think about the month when we’re nearing the start of a new month… and, I think of the week more often, as I’m looking to see what’s more immediately needed). Anyway, let’s go with “week” for now. So, over the weekend, I think about the next week that’s coming up. I say to myself, “What types of activities need to get done around the house this week?”
Then, I make a list of everything I can think of that could need my attention in the upcoming week. After I have a list, I break it down into doable chunks. Where I am currently at, with respect to fatigue due to chronic pain, I can literally only do one or two big things per day.
From the list, I map out what one thing I might do the next day. And then, the next day. And next day. And so on. Here’s an example…
If my list had the following items on it:
- Pick up twigs/sticks that have blown into the yard over the winter
- Wash the kitchen floor
- Vacuum the bedrooms
- Shop for my mother’s birthday gift
- Water the indoor house plants
OK, so taking the list above… I would pick one thing to do each day. I literally would write those items onto a piece of paper and, when I completed a task, cross them off one-by-one.
That way, I’m not overdoing it. When I’m feeling fatigue from chronic pain, I tire easily. So, if I were to try to do more than one thing on that list above, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed for days. But… if I pick one thing and get that one thing done, then I feel accomplished… like I actually contributed to my household!
2) Take Breaks.
Let’s stick with the list used above.
If I were to say that I was going to walk around my property, picking up the sticks and twigs that had blown down off the trees over the course of the winter, that’s a pretty large job (depending on the size of your land).
For me, the “picking up sticks” activity is likely an all-afternoon job. Especially, if I want to do it right. Sure, I could go out there for five minutes, pick up ten sticks, and call it a day. But then I wouldn’t actually be getting the job done.
So, knowing that “picking up sticks” might take me an entire afternoon, I’m going to approach the job with a plan. First off, I’m definitely going to have water or juice or some other drink handy to keep myself hydrated. Next, I’ll make sure I’m dressed properly so that I don’t get too cold or overheated. Finally, I am going to take breaks. Instead of just work, work, working for three hours straight (like the old me could do), I will sit down, take a drink, breathe and rest for a bit of time.
You need to listen to your body. Honor its needs. If you need to take a break, while doing an activity or chore, then take a break. There’s no way to rush around when your feeling fatigued from chronic pain.
3) Ask for Help.
Yes, I know that we’re talking about our ability to get things done around our houses, in order to help us feel fulfilled and productive. So, you might be thinking, “Why would I ask for help? This is my to-do list that I’m working through…”
Well, guess what? Feeling fatigue from chronic pain means that you’re going to need help. You just are. I didn’t want to believe it, but it’s the truth.
- Let’s visit back to our list above. When you’re looking at your list for a week ahead, is there anything on your list that you can delegate out? Hire help for? Or just say to your family, “Hey, I’d like to do this activity all together…”
I’m looking at our example list above and thinking there’s something on it that you and I can certainly ask others to help us with. If you live with other people (i.e., your partner, spouse, or children), couldn’t they vacuum their own bedrooms? Rather than you thinking or feeling that you have to do it all, couldn’t you delegate that task out? Or, make it a fun competition?
You could tell the family that you’re having a “clean rug” competition. The winner is going to get extra dessert after dinner. Have each of your family members vacuum their own rugs and you be the judge. Inspect their work and then honor your commitment. Give the winner an extra cupcake after dinner.
You’ve tackled another item on your list, vacuuming the bedrooms, and you didn’t have to do it all by yourself. Another way to ease the fatigue that you’ve felt from chronic pain.
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About the Author: Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, HNB-BC, RYT (200) is a board-certified holistic nurse, registered yoga instructor, and reiki master.
Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is a certified coach, nature lover, and avid meditator.
Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull. She enjoys gardening, jigsaw puzzles, farming, music, and hiking.