To ring in the new year, we have a few exciting updates about Pain Connection, our network of support groups.

Pain Connection Live is moving to Zoom!

Since it was launched in 2011, Pain Connection Live has provided support to more than a thousand individuals over the phone. This year, however, we’ve realized the value of videoconferencing. It’s wonderful to be able to not only hear but see one another, even from the comfort of home.

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By: Cindy Dawson

Pain is meant to protect us by alerting us to make necessary adjustments to alleviate or tend to a problem within our bodies. But sometimes chronic pain goes into overdrive, escalating to an unbearable eight or nine, even when there is not a specific, physical catalyst. Looking around at our physical issues and our environment is helpful to determine where the pain is coming from and what actions to take as far as treatment. But until we also deal with our emotions and stressors, we may not feel better even after we have physically healed.

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By: Ellen Lenox Smith

So many coping with an invisible chronic condition not only have to face how to adjust to pain and disability but also how to cope with the judgmental comments we experience. “Gee, you look fine; Go take a walk; Stop stressing; What a whiner;” etc.

I have not met a person living with my condition, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, that can’t share experiences receiving these judgments – from medical staff to neighbors, friends, and even our own families. Unless we have a brace, cast, or are using a walker, cane, or wheelchair, we can look so normal to others and that means some think that we are fine and it’s in our heads.

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By: Malcolm Herman

One day I’ll write the definitive best-selling book about caregiving (yes, another one!) full of helpful tips, like take care of yourself, accept offers of help, eat your veggies, and so forth. But after thinking about the subject one way or another for 25 years, I have come to realize that there is no simple definition of “caregiver.” Or to put it another way, there are so many people of all ages fulfilling some kind of caregiving role in our society—for parents, children, siblings, spouses, partners, and so forth—that the term really has no single meaning.

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By: Angelica Heidi Brehm

When I was a child, I was often told, “Life isn’t fair!” I think the intent of the comment was to provide me some comfort while dealing with life’s hardships or to connect me with the rest of humanity, who were also experiencing difficulties. The result, however, was a feeling of deep despair. I felt sucker-punched and like my life force had been pushed out of my body. I hated that feeling.

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Surviving the holidays in 2020

By: U.S. Pain Foundation staff

We have all been told over and over again that the holidays are going to be different this year, just like everything this year has been.

For individuals living with chronic pain, smaller, less demanding events might be just what you need. Big or small, the holidays can be stressful, so the staff at U.S. Pain Foundation is offering up its favorite tips and tricks for surviving the holidays as people with pain.

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Recently, the U.S. Senate released all 12 spending bills for fiscal year 2021. The Labor, Health, and Human Services budget report includes at least 13 sections related to pain management!

This represents a huge step forward in the national commitment to improving pain care in the U.S.

In particular, the Senate has renewed its commitment to investment in pain by continuing to fund the HEAL Initiative at the National Institute of Health for $500 million, with half the funds going to pain research and half to substance use disorder research.

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By: Stu Smith

As our society attempts to grapple with the collective medical horrors created by COVID-19, there is one group among us remaining particularly vulnerable. Those individuals suffering from chronic and/or disabling medical conditions justifiably feel the threat this disease presents much more acutely than the majority of healthy individuals. The fragile health of those with serious conditions such as chronic disease often creates a heightened emotional state when faced with the possibility of confronting any additional threat to their health, such as COVID-19 presents.

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By: Michaela O’Connor

This holiday season is in full swing, and so is the search for holiday gifts! Below, the U.S. Pain staff shares some of the items on their holiday wishlists this year.

  1. Percussion massage gun: A massage at home? Handheld, wireless, and powerful enough to relieve some of the tension that builds up each day without requiring a trip to the masseuse.
  2. Puzzles/adult coloring books/board games: It’s no surprise that chronic pain patients have trouble sleeping and are often up at all hours of the night. Concentrating on art projects, puzzles, or board games provides a low-stress, fun activity while distracting from pain.
  3. Heating pads: Heat therapy boosts circulation and easing stiff muscles. A heating pad, blanket, or patch is especially comforting during the winter months.
  4. Comfortable clothes: Itchy, tight, uncomfortable clothes against a hypersensitive body is not ideal. Comfortable, soft clothing, including loungewear, is always needed.
  5. Crockpot or instant pot: Meals that you can set and forget? That is the kind of help we all need. Throwing all the ingredients in one pot and letting it cook for you mean less fatigue, less stress, and is a huge time-saver.
  6. Weighted blanket: Weighted blankets have proven to be beneficial in reducing anxiety, calming restlessness, and promoting sleep.
  7. Epsom salts and a bath pillow: Promoting rest and alleviating sore muscles with an epsom salt bath while resting your head on a bath pillow sounds like an ideal way to end the day.
  8. Subscriptions to streaming services: As many have learned over the past nine months, sometimes unwinding and watching some television is the ultimate form of distraction. A chance to enjoy your favorite show at the click of a button is ideal for anyone especially individuals who may be often stuck in bed due to pain.
  9. E-readers and books: Diving into another person’s story is the ultimate form of distraction therapy. E-readers are light-weight, which is often important for individuals with chronic pain. You can also send books to their e-readers for the holidays. Kindle Unlimited is a monthly subscription service that allows access to over a million books. Audible is also a great choice if they prefer to listen to books. If they prefer nonfiction, Perlego is a subscription service that offers over 500,000 nonfiction books.
  10. CBD creams and oils: CBD derived from hemp plants is legal in all 50 states. It comes in many forms, from gummies to creams. It is a commonly used product to promote relaxation and decrease anxiety, but also may be helpful for chronic pain.

Plus: don’t forget that if you shop on Amazon Smile, Amazon will donate .5% of your purchase to a charity of your choice (like U.S. Pain Foundation) at no cost to you.

Michaela O’Connor is a U.S. Pain staff member and chronic pain warrior and advocate. In 2013, she was chosen to be a participant in the INvisible Project, which led to her becoming a U.S. Pain Ambassador for the state of California. It was through this role that Michaela became an official part of the U.S. Pain’s team. Michaela graduated from the University of California at Davis in 2009 with a BS in Political Science and a double minor in History and War and Peace Studies. She is the proud aunt to her three nephews and four nieces, with whom she spends most of her free time. Michaela resides in Northern California.

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By: Nina Torres

In March 2020, our lives changed drastically. As a result of the pandemic, I started to work from home, providing virtual learning. As an educator, I provide students college and academic support. My job consists of various meetings with partners, student advisement, parent meetings, educational planning, and college advisement. I began to conduct these meetings on Zoom and started calendaring everything on Google. Like many others, I began to experience Zoom fatigue. However, I also began to notice something else with my body.

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