dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pain Crisis Plan: your handy weed-killer

I’ve gotten all my heirloom tomato seeds planted in the seeds tray and under the grow lights. Now it’s time for me to choose which flowers I want to feature in my garden this year - besides my dahlias, of course. (which reminds me: I need to check my dahlia tubers and decide which new ones to order. If you like dahlias, check my recommended links for my two favorite places to get them!)

I was near my local nursery so I stopped in to peruse their seed racks and see if any flower picture on a seed packet would jump out and grab my attention. Of course, you must always check the reverse side of the seed packet and read the growing instructions which list all the plant’s needs: how far apart to place them, how deep, how much sun or shade they prefer, how long it will take for them to mature, etc. Often the packet will also include growing notes, which are special directions to prevent a problem typical to that plant or other advice meant to provide you with the best chance of growing the perfect specimen.

As I pondered the rainbow of flower choices, I realize those vital instructions are rather like my Pain Crisis Plan - though it’s not printed on my backside!

Chronic pain is not predictable. You might be having a pretty good day physically and then BOOM, you are slammed by a wall of pain. Or perhaps it’s one of those times when you notice a painful ache which begins to gnaw at you, escalating slowly as you try to keep going. But the more you ignore it, the greater it will build up until the pain swells into an overwhelming wave and swallows you up.

For those of us who live with chronic pain, there is no surefire way to avoid these situations. Even the most compliant and careful pain patient will eventually face a pain crisis. The key is to be prepared. It is much harder to reduce your level of pain once it is near or at the peak. The trick is to recognize when you are starting to head up that mountain AND not to hesitate in acting to prevent a crisis.

To help me avoid one, I have a Pain Crisis Plan. With the help of my pain management team, we worked out a list of tactics I can use to dial back the pain level before it can get really severe.

What kinds of things are listed on a Pain Crisis Plan?

Whatever eases your pain symptoms. It may seem very obvious and simplistic when you write it out and look at it; but chances are, when you are in a bad pain crisis, you will not be able to think clearly and remember what can help you.

It happened to me. I was going through my regular daily schedule. Get up and get ready, head to the YMCA pool for my physical therapy, come home to rest... and then it hit me. It was one of those pain crises that creeps up slowly and then clobbers you over the head. I had my Pain Crisis Plan all nicely typed up and posted on our refrigerator. But my mind was blank and all I could focus on as the day progressed was the all-consuming agony. I retreated to my recliner and shrank into the fetal position with my heating pad. I simply could not process anything beyond just trying to breathe through the waves of pain.

My husband came home and saw my pitiful state. He knew about my Pain Crisis Plan. Part of plan’s set up is to be sure that those around you know where it is so they can offer suggestions if you need more help in a crisis. Very calmly, he asked me if I had taken any breakthrough pain medication.

I blinked. I tried to focus. Realization dawned; I had completely forgotten I could take extra meds! He brought me the pill and I took it. He also brought me the Crisis Plan from the fridge to see if I had missed any other options while I waited for the medication to kick in. With his assistance, I was able to get through the crisis. But I should never have allowed it to get that severe; I should have wisely checked my plan and intervened earlier. It was a valuable lesson to re-learn. 

My Pain Crisis Plan includes actions such as: 

--Recline and elevate feet

--Apply heating pad to affected area

--Meditate / progressive relaxation for 20 minutes

--Distract self with a book or movie

--Hot shower or go to hot tub

--Use physical therapy techniques for the affected area

--Massage the area 
--Wrap or brace the affected area if restriction is helpful

--Take breakthrough pain medication 

--Get acupuncture

--Call doctor for advice

“You must weed your mind as you would weed your garden.”  
~Astrid Alauda

Just as flower seed packets have specific directions so they can reach their full potential, I must remember *my* own list. I need to make certain not to let the ‘weeds of chronic pain’ invade my thinking, so I can keep them out of the garden of my life.


  1. Interesting post! I can't wait to see dahlias as a featured flower in your garden, and also the flower beside your dahlias. I just love dahlias, in fact, I'm planning to start growing dahlia flowers right in my yard. Recently, I received a bunch of dahlia tubers that I ordered online. As much as I want start the planting, I still need to gather enough knowledge and tips on dahlia. I just hope I'll be doing the right way.

  2. Cmilba,

    Welcome to my blog - and the wonderful world of dahlias!

    If you want good advice about growing dahlias, go to the list of Recommended Sites on the right side of my page and click on "Dahlias: Swan Island." It's the biggest dahlia farm in the US and they have a good webpage with tips and info on how to grow the best dahlias.

    Today my first dahlia of the season has bloomed in my garden! I will try to get a photo of it to post on Saturday.

    I hope you'll visit my blog again... and if you need any dahlia advice I also stand ready to help!



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