Are you suffering from chronic shoulder pain after your stroke? You’re not alone. It turns out shoulder pain can be a common issue for stroke survivors. Even if you’re working hard at rehab, you might not be able to recover completely. Because of this, most patients start to come up with their own strategies to deal with daily tasks. And nothing can replace the experience of having to figure out how to accomplish the tasks of everyday life than actually living that life. Tips on arranging your kitchen differently or buying a half-gallon of milk instead of a full one are little things that can make a big difference.
The good news is that we can learn from each other
We have more wisdom than we may think. Doctors have all the tools to deliver medical care, but they aren’t the ones living every day in the aftermath of a stroke. There is incredible value in patient wisdom, and doctors realize this. That’s why Swedish researchers decided to conduct some interviews.
The researchers interviewed 13 stroke survivors between the ages of 57 and 77. These patients were all living with chronic shoulder pain for an average of two years. The scientists asked these patients how they coped with this chronic pain in their everyday lives. They shared their findings in the hopes of helping others who may be going through similar challenges.
More than a dozen patients weigh in on their coping strategies
Each interview lasted 30-50 minutes, and patients were asked how they managed their pain. Researchers used a scale made up of cartoon faces to measure pain. Severity ranges from 0 to 100, with a happy face symbolizing no pain at all and an upset face representing a pain level of 100. Based on the group responses, patients reported a pain level of 50 at rest and during movement too.
Adapting daily tasks to preserve independence
The participants proved to be creative. They had adapted to their limitations and developed practical ways to minimize their shoulder pain during daily tasks. Many of them reported moving household items to lower shelves. That way, they didn’t have to reach as high which would cause more pain. To cook, some patients used helpful aids to reduce the strain on the shoulders. Many carried their groceries in a backpack to help with the load. Dressing differently, such as putting the affected arm in the sleeve first, helped minimize pain too. The key was to avoid activities that forced painful arm movements.
Mental distractions can help you cope
Finally, distractions seemed to be helpful too. Activities like swimming or walking distracted some patients from their chronic pain. Similarly, meditation, reading, and other relaxing techniques reduced stress and helped. Many said they got used to the pain, either learning to endure it or ignore it altogether. Others have more difficulty, especially those who never got an explanation for it. It’s much harder to cope with something when you don’t understand why it’s there in the first place.
You’re not alone
If you’re struggling with post-stroke shoulder pain, know that other people experience this too. Learn from them and see what strategies might help you in your daily life. You don’t have to suffer alone. And remember to ask your doctor for an explanation for your condition. Understanding your body can have a significant impact on your ability to cope.
The lead author of this study was Ingrid Lindgren, from the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine, Skåne University Hospital, in Lund, Sweden.