5) Doing things for other people – This helps me get my mind off my own troubles. I like to speak at Arthritis Foundation events and I’m going to Washington, D.C. (to lobby Congress at the Arthritis Foundation Advocacy and Kids’ Summit). We recently started an Arthritis Walk where my grandma lives in Oregon and that’s raised a lot of money. And we organize a team for the walk at home. Raising money, it all goes to funding arthritis, no matter when you do it or where or how. So wherever you are, it makes a big difference. I think money will help people find a cure someday. I also really want to start doing some work at the local animal shelter.

6) Sleep – Getting a good night’s sleep is really important when you are dealing with chronic pain. When you are tired, your joints are sore and everything is sore, it takes up a lot of energy just to move. The pain seems worse and you don’t have any energy to do the things you like to do. So you need as much sleep as possible to be rested and not be grumpy. Plus, sleep helps you through the days to come. There are lots of things I do to help me sleep and deal with pain at night.

  • I wear loose, comfortable PJs. Something that’s easy to get on and off, without buttons, snaps or zippers and something that won’t be too tight on sore joints. Every touch to the joint hurts when you are stiff, so you don’t want PJs to rub against the joint and have it hurt every second.
  • I make a really comfortable bed area with soft blankets and different shaped pillows. I have a pillow that I keep between my knees to help my knees and hips, and a special neck pillow if my neck or upper back are sore.
  • Sleepytime tea is warm and soothing and can help you sleep. I have also taken valerian root at the recommendation of my doctor and that helped me sleep when the pain was really bad.

7) Don’t resist naps – On the weekends, I try to get some extra rest, even if it only means laying down with a book – especially if I’ve got big plans that involve staying up late, like a slumber party.  It helps a lot if the past week was hard and you did stuff you don’t normally do. You can gain your sleep back and get rested to be able to deal with your joints the next week.

8) Heating pads – I have an electric heating pad, but mostly I use pads that you can heat up in the microwave. I have some with Velcro that I can strap around my waist or legs and even one to use over my eyes. I love being able to put them on while I go to school. People don’t know you are wearing them. Just put it on where it hurts and no one will notice.

9) Baths – I like to take warm baths at night or in the morning if I’m having a hard time getting moving because of stiff joints. The water soothes and takes the pressure off – plus we have a Jacuzzi tub. When your hip hurts, having the jets is really good. I like to use soaps and bubbles that have nice smells that remind me of happy memories. Lavender smells like a spa and reminds me of my Nana’s house. Some of the “after rain” scents remind me of my Grandma’s house. And ones that smell like baby powder or vanilla make me happy, too.

10) ‘Don’t Ask, I’ll Tell’ policy – All my family is used to asking me, “Does your hip hurt today?” Or “Are your knees sore?” I know they only do it because they care. But the problem is, I might not have been thinking about the pain and once they mention it, it’s like – wham! Instant hurt and I’m focusing on it. So instead, they try to ask “Can I get you anything?” or something general like “How’s it going?” Then they trust that I’ll tell them if I’m in pain and need some help. Once they stopped asking, it didn’t bring it to my mind and I started not thinking about the pain.