Being a mom is tough enough. That’s why there’s one day devoted entirely to finding ways to tell moms how much we appreciate them. When chronic pain is thrown into the mix, however, it can seem downright impossible sometimes. Mothers in chronic pain have unique struggles that make everyday life a lot harder.

Mothers in chronic pain

Chronic pain can be limiting. For mothers in chronic pain, these limits can interfere with the small, everyday things that other moms take for granted. Changing a diaper, coloring a picture, or lifting a child into a carseat can become insurmountable tasks. Despite this, mothers in chronic pain manage to find ways to make it work.

In a very moving article at Slate.com, mother and chronic pain patient Sarah Erdreich describes the struggles she has caring for her daughter, stating:

“I can’t push her stroller much farther than the three blocks between home and day care. I can’t dress her by myself, or tie her shoes. I can’t make the appropriate hand motions to accompany ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider,’ write out the alphabet, or brush her hair. But all that feels like mere window dressing for what I really can’t do: feel at all confident that I can take care of my child alone for more than an hour.”

She also describes ways she’s found to make things work a little better. For instance, she’s made sure her toddler knows how to scoot down stairs and climb into her own stroller. While this doesn’t seem like much, it does mean that Sarah doesn’t have to carry her toddler down stairs or lift her into the stroller, which saves Sarah from a lot of pain.

In addition to teaching kids how to be a little more independent, there are a few other ways to manage both motherhood and chronic pain, such as:

  • Planning ahead and resting before a tiring event
  • Pre-medicating when you know you’ll hurt later
  • Focusing on what you can do, instead of what you can’t
  • Identifying pain triggers that you can change, such as adding a cushion to a hard bleacher seat
  • Ask for help from friends and family if you need it

Children in chronic pain

Despite the challenges of being a mom with chronic pain, most mothers would still choose to feel pain themselves than have to watch their children live with chronic pain.

Unfortunately, there are children who live with pain on a daily basis. Where children are concerned, one of the most important aspects of being a parent is to be an advocate for your own child. This is particularly important in children with chronic pain, since their pain tends to be poorly managed.

Often this is because pediatric doctors focus more on finding the cause of the pain, rather than managing the pain, or because doctors aren’t experienced at treating children for chronic pain and are therefore unsure how to proceed. Other times, poor chronic pain management in children might be because children act differently when they’re in pain, which can make it difficult to tell when a child is hurting.

Some of the signs that a child might be in pain include:

  • Decreased physical activity
  • Changes in appetite or sleep
  • Favoring one arm or leg
  • Avoidance of other children
  • Irritability or crankiness
  • Grimacing, flinching, or other non-verbal expressions of discomfort
  • Neediness

Official pediatric pain programs aren’t too common. There are only about 30 to 40 hospitals nationwide that have pain programs for children. This is changing slowly, and there are researchers developing online programs for children with chronic pain who live in rural areas without a pain program. However, until these programs become more widespread and accessible, the most important thing any parent can do is be an advocate for his or her child. If you think your child is in pain or that his or her pain management program is insufficient, tell your physician.

Mothers in chronic pain — a gift guide for Mother’s Day

For mothers who live in a house with chronic pain – whether it’s their own or their children’s – finding that perfect Mother’s Day gift can be a challenge.

If a mother in your life lives with chronic pain, consider getting her something to help control that pain for Mother’s Day. If you are a mother in chronic pain, then print off a webpage with what you want and leave it somewhere your partner or child will see it – or just treat yourself. A few possibilities include a supportive pillow or Kinesio Tape.

You might also consider regular household items, chosen to be a little easier for those with chronic pain. An electric can opener, lighter dishes, or large-handled utensils make the kitchen a little less painful to work in. Long-handed tools of any sort can prevent the need to bend or twist, so look for long-handed dustpans, doggie pooper-scoopers, shower sponges, or even toilet paper holders. If there’s a particular daily activity that’s difficult, look for a tool or gadget that makes that activity easier. For instance, if putting on shoes or socks is hard, consider a sock aid or an extended-handle shoe horn.

Covering mom’s chores is also always a winner. Cook dinner, vacuum, weed the garden, or clean the bathrooms for your mother. These types of jobs can be difficult and draining for anyone with a pain condition (or anyone’s who’s exhausted from caring for a child with a pain condition), so shouldering a little of the burden will certainly make life easier.

Another possibility is an experience of some sort for mothers in chronic pain. Choose carefully; a person with painful knee joints won’t enjoy a walking tour of the museum much. Relaxing experiences like manicures or pedicures might be appreciated. Also, massage is a fantastic stress relief, and it can also help manage pain. A single massage, a subscription to a local massage parlor, or even an at-home massage might work wonders. If a mother in your life has been curious about trying yoga, acupuncture, or another type of alternate pain relief, get her a gift certificate to try it out.

If you yourself are a mom, spoil yourself a little. Splurge a little at your favorite store, go out for a day of pampering, take time to truly relax, or get that new gadget you’ve been wanting.

And if you need someone to watch the kids while you go out (or while you and your spouse or partner celebrate Mother’s Day without the little ones), tell your own mother (or mother-in-law) that her gift is an afternoon with the grandkids. Pack a couple movies, some low-energy board games or puzzles, and a gift card to order pizza, and drop them off for an afternoon or evening with grandma.

How will you celebrate Mother’s Day?

Image by MIKI Yoshihito via Flickr

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