By Brittani Dick

Dealing with chronic pain is both physically and emotionally draining, and can seriously hinder your everyday life. Read how these five women fight to cope with chronic pain.

Kelly Grimes Dettlinger includes healthy eating as part of her plan to reduce chronic pain. Photos by Aubrey Hillis

Diet and Workouts: Kelly Grimes Dettlinger, a 34-year-old mother of two, depends on healthy eating, consistent exercise, and a decent amount of sleep to keep her pain levels at bay. Kelly eats lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and credits some of her success with healthy meal planning to Blue Apron and Home Chef. Her job requires her to sit at a desk on most days, so she uses an under-desk cycle to keep her body active. She also uses low-impact elliptical workouts and hand weights for at-home training. Kelly uses Epsom salt baths for “bad joint” days, and tries to maintain a positive attitude no matter what chronic pain decides to throw her way.

Courtney Grant mixes traditional medicines with alternative treatments to manage Crohn’s disease
and degenerative disc disease.

Traditional and Alternative Medicine: Courtney Grant, 28, suffers from chronic pain that stems from two main sources – Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease, and degenerative disc disease, which involves the degeneration of discs of the vertebrae. Courtney admits that her pain is most effectively controlled by traditional medicines, but alternative treatments help as well. When her busy schedule permits, she attends physical therapy sessions and receives a number of injections including trigger point injections and facet injections. She’s also participated in a radio frequency procedure, which involves heating the nerve to a degree in which it no longer sends or receives pain impulses. Courtney also has a few other tricks to controlling the pain. “I have personally found that stretching and sleeping with my feet elevated are two easy things I can do at home to help alleviate the pain.”

Balanced Approach: Bonnie Manning, 50, credits adequate amounts of water, fruits, and vegetables for keeping her chronic pain in check. On her “good” days, she incorporates pool exercise. “The water is easier on my muscles,” she says. “But everything must be balanced. If I overdo it, I will end up with a flare.” Bonnie says extended exposure to heat can also cause flare up and fatigue, so she has learned to communicate her needs during family outings when she requires a means of escape. She takes multiple herbal supplements such as planetary myelin sheath support, papaya enzymes, turmeric, evening primrose, magnesium, and vitamin D in liquid plant form. When the pain is unbearable, traditional medications such as Gabapentin and steroids have proven to pull her out of several flare-ups. Protein drinks, fresh juice, and inspirational literature are also in her arsenal of weapons against chronic pain. “When I am too exhausted to do much, I lie in bed and write on my laptop,” Bonnie states. “Writing is very therapeutic for me and gives me a feeling of accomplishment.”

Holly Pardo has interstitial cystitis and meditates to manage stress. 

Meditation: Holly Pardo, 50, admits that recognizing her triggers for causing a flare has helped her more effectively cope with chronic pain. Her triggers for her interstitial cystitis include citrus fruits, carbonated beverages, spicy foods, stress, and overexposure to heat. “I try to avoid the things I know will cause my pain to increase. Heat and stress are a little more difficult to avoid. I love being outside, working or playing in the yard. I have to be sure to come in for cooling off, and I have to make sure I wear clothes that don’t hold heat,” she says. “For stress, I meditate. It does wonders, and I recommend it for those dealing with chronic pain and those who are not. It is a wonderful tool that allows me to feel centered and positive, and even allows me to feel like I have some control over my body and life.” In addition to meditation, avoiding trigger points, and exercise, Holly also takes daily maintenance medications to cope with chronic pain.

Water Therapy: Cheryl Suhr, 68, suffers from osteoarthritis, a kind of arthritis that involves the wearing down of the flexible tissue at the ends of bones. Aside from enduring 23 orthopedic surgeries to deal with her chronic pain, Cheryl recommends water therapy, ice, and rest to further cope. “I do water therapy every day,” she says. “I participated in water therapy classes at Baptist Health Milestone Wellness Center to learn what I should do. I’m very fortunate to have an indoor pool at my house, which I keep at 90 degrees. Warm water is good for arthritis. Since my back is my main issue, I also lie down with my legs up when it is at its worst. I read a lot of books on my iPad so I can lie still for longer.”

Also, adding a little bit of softness into your life is a good way of relieving pain. Find out what this woman uses to do it.