In March of 2019 I was in a car accident that put me on a path of recovery from chronic neck, back and knee pain. More than a year on, I've become much more aware of just how many people manage chronic pain every day and the effects it can have on our quality of life.
I am sharing an overview of the process I went through in hopes it will benefit others.
Awareness & Acceptance
Daily activities like driving, being on my phone, being on my laptop or working at my desk had different implications to the pain I felt. Lingering pain would appear in my foot or knee if I drove for some time. I would feel tightness and sharp pain in my back if I was on my laptop. Pain would concentrate in my neck and shoulders if I was working at my desk.
Bringing awareness and acceptance of the nature of the pain has been an important first step for me. The awareness led me to realize the different factors in my routine and environment that were aggravating the pain. Accepting the facts helped me to start changing my behaviour and environment to manage and start my recovery.
While I could not control how the pain arose, I was in full control of my environment. I decided to observe where the pain would appear if I was working at my desk. It manifested as tightness in my back and I realized that my small Logitech keyboard was the cause of my back being squeezed-in for hours that aggravated the pain. I decided to research ergonomic keyboards and came across the ErgoDox EZ, a split keyboard. Though I had to learn a new keyboard layout, it greatly alleviated the pain I felt daily because I could keep my chest and shoulders at natural, comfortable positions. Alongside changing the keyboard, I also set up my desk so that the monitor and laptop stood at eye-level.
Having achieved good results from these changes to my environment, I started to observe and identify further impactful variables I could address.
I found that being in a low-light environment would aggravate the pain. When I added lamp to my desk, I felt a lot more aware of the pain when it would arise and that awareness, at times, caused it to subside.
More recently, I realized that my coffee intake was contributing to the stress and pain as well. I was surprised to find that there's research (1, 2) on caffeine causing increased cortisol release from the body. While I've not given up caffeine completely, switching to "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot" has been a good change to help me stay relaxed.
My doctor had prescribed Baclofen to address the pain I felt in my muscles. While it worked, I would feel fatigued and "out-of-it". It greatly inhibited my functions as a developer to think and stay clear-headed.
I stopped taking the medication and sought alternative forms of treatment. After several months of experimenting, I found that a session of message therapy would help me get through 4 days of the week if I stayed aware of my body and didn't engage in anything mentally or physically stressful. The other 3 days, I manage by finding different ways of relaxing myself and going to sleep early.
While I feel far from healed, taking control and responsibility of the recovery has helped me make progress. This is where I am in my journey to recovery and I can only move forwards.
While I'm not able to provide any medical or professional advise, I hope sharing my process will help others with finding awareness and clarity. I wish everyone on their journeys the best of health and wellbeing.
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