health · top tips

Coronavirus Second Wave: Surviving Lockdown 2.0

2020 has been a pretty crazy year. I can’t say it’s been a bad year, because my lovely son was born in January, but it’s definitely been a mad year. And now it seems that we’re heading for the second wave of coronavirus… and another lockdown. The first lockdown back in March was a bit of a shock. None of us had been through anything like that before. Will surviving lockdown number 2 be easier, because we know what to expect, or will it be harder – for the same reason? It’s difficult to know, especially as we don’t yet know what a second lockdown will look like.

So in preparation, I’ve pulled together a round up of some of my favourite blog posts about surviving lockdown with your well-being intact…

Surviving Lockdown 2.0 And Maintaining Wellbeing

1. Coping with social isolation

One of the most difficult things about lockdown is the social isolation. It’s particularly tough if you live alone, but even those of us living with family, friends or housemates can struggle not being able to see the people we’re closest to, or even have those everyday interactions with other people that you don’t even notice under normal circumstances – a chat with a friendly check-out clerk, a quick gossip in the office, even just a smile in the street. Humans just aren’t made for social isolation.

This blog post gives some great tips on coping with social isolation, and the impact on our mental health. Check it out!

2. Creating a wellness retreat at home

My idea of maintaining wellness at home is agreeing with my husband an evening that I can have a bath while he feeds Little Man and puts him to bed (Little Man’s room is next to the bathroom and our pipes are super loud, so I can’t bath after he’s gone to bed!). I run a hot bath, add some bubbles, make a mug of herbal tea and grab a book to read while I soak. Luxury!

But this blog post made me realise I was aiming wayyyyy too low. You really can create a luxury wellness retreat at home – it just requires a bit of planning! Even if your family commitments mean you can’t quite clear your schedule for a while day of home spa relaxation, the links at the bottom of this post give some great ideas for lovely ways to boost your wellness when you have less time available. During coronavirus lockdown when you can’t go out or meet friends, it’s so important for your mental health to carve out some time for yourself, and this post is great inspiration for your next block of me-time.

6 ideas for surviving lockdown 2.0 coronavirus second wave mental health and wellness

3. Mindfulness meditations to combat Covid-19 lockdown stress and anxiety

Linked to the above, lockdown is inevitably stressful. Not being able to go out and spend time with friends and family is stressful in itself, let alone worries about catching coronavirus, managing food and medication shortages, employment issues and more. Mindfulness is a great way to combat stress and anxiety, and even as little as a ten minute mindfulness session every day can make a real difference to your mental health and wellbeing.

As we go into Lockdown 2.0, I’m going to be proactive about using mindfulness to manage stress, and working my way through this list of 10 minute mindfulness meditations.

4. Managing lockdown food shortages and limited shopping trips

If the newspapers are to be believed, panic buying has already started in advance of the second lockdown. Back in April, I set out some of my top tips for managing with lockdown food shortages and limited shopping trips. I’ll be revisiting some of those tips, and trying to make sure we have a well-stocked freezer before Lockdown 2.0 hits!

5. Improving Wellness At Home

I like this round-up post about improving your wellness at home. Some things are so simple and yet they do really make a difference to how you feel… Like making sure you get outdoors every day if possible. During the first coronavirus lockdown, we always made sure to pop into the garden every evening with Little Man, to spend a little time with nature, and it always really lifted my mood. Unless it was raining, of course!

6. Tips for mamas to survive Lockdown 2.0

Of course a huge focus of this blog is on parenting and being a mama, so I loved this blog post about how mamas can beat the lockdown blues. Of course a lot of the tips will be great for dads too (although probably not every dad will want a mini makeover). There are benefits to being locked down with kids – at least the time goes quickly as you’re caught in the constant whirl of feeding, naptime, playtime and tantrums – but there’s no denying it can be stressful and exhausting.

What are your top tips for surviving lockdown… again? Let me know in the comments!

coronavirus covid 19 second wave surviving lockdown 2.0 with good mental health and wellness
health

Going To Hospital During Covid-19 Lockdown

I recently had to attend hospital for an MRI scan and scan of my thyroid gland, as my doctors try to work out why I’m experiencing high levels of thyroid hormones at the moment. Although the UK has started easing Covid-19 lockdown measures, obviously in hospitals they’re still very strict about the lockdown rules, so I thought it might be helpful to write about my experience, to help ease your mind if you do need to attend hospital at the moment.

Going To Hospital During Lockdown

28 Days Beta

The hospital seemed very quiet and empty. I’m used to going there regularly with all my health issues, and it’s always a bustling place. Not currently! There were whole corridors completely devoid of human life. It was like being in a really boring zombie movie, where the zombies are quite neat and tidy and make sure to mop the floors once in a while.

photo of hospital corridor during coronavirus lockdown 2020
I am legend(ary with a broom)

In waiting areas, chairs had been moved to a distance of 2 metres apart, and where there were fixed groups of chairs, they taped off every other chair to create gaps. In one department, they had actually zoned the waiting area and each person was directed to their own personal zone! It did mean there was less capacity for waiting, and I saw one guy who turned up very early for his appointment being turned away due to lack of space, so that’s worth being aware of if you’re usually an early bird.

Everyone’s An Expert

Everyone is required to wear face coverings in the hospital at the moment. I brought my own mask (sparkly face mask by the amazing Velvet Jones Bespoke), but they were handing out free paper masks at the main entrances, and most people just seemed to be taking the free masks… Not sure that’s great for our cash-strapped NHS, but there you go.

wearing a sparkly sequin face mask at hospital during the coronavirus lockdown 2020
If you’re going to wear a face mask, it might as well be sparkly!

As a result, walking around the hospital you get the impression that everyone you see is a surgeon, because they’re all wearing surgical masks. There are a lot of sloppily dressed surgeons out there, I can tell you.

Visitor Free Since ’93

Now all hospitals are different at the moment, my hospital has started allowing some limited visiting of inpatients, but if you’re attending as an outpatient you’re not allowed anyone with you, unless they’re your carer or you’re a parent accompanying a child.

Break It Off

The food halls, shops and coffee outlets at the hospital were mostly closed. There was one coffee shop, the canteen and one mini supermarket open, both using social distancing rules. Everyone behind the counters wore masks and were behind plastic screens as well.

I had a big gap between my first and second appointments, so I was relieved that the main food hall was still open. Tables had been moved two metres apart and there was a man with a disinfectant spray constantly on hand, swooping in and cleaning tables when people left. It was very quiet though, only a few people in the whole place. You were allowed to take your mask off to eat and drink in there!

hospital dining hall during the coronavirus lockdown 2020
Table for one

One MRI, No Waiting

From talking to staff, it sounds like they’re doing fewer procedures and seeing fewer patients than usual, which is good news if you’re one of the patients they are seeing! The MRI scan lady proudly informed me that they no longer have a backlog (because they’re doing fewer scans than usual) and the technician who did my thyroid scan said it was the first time they’ve done that type of scan in three months.

That was my experience of attending hospital during the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully it’s useful if you need to visit hospital as well. Or if you’ve had experience of going to hospital during lockdown, perhaps you can share your experiences in the comments below!

health · thyroid

My Experience Of Having A Radioactive Thyroid Scan With Technetium

My doctors told me they wanted me to have a scan of my thyroid to try to help work out why I’m currently experiencing hyperthyroidism. I had a letter inviting me to a technetium thyroid scan, which also specified that I was not allowed to eat seafood or take vitamin supplements containing iodine for 48 hours before the scan. Easy enough! But what is it like to have a radioactive thyroid scan? I’ve written about the whole experience below…

Radioactive Thyroid Scan – My Experience

Before The Thyroid Scan

I arrived at the Department Of Nuclear Medicine at 8.20 on Monday morning, and my immediate thought was that they probably have the most badass name of any hospital department. I got signed in, and waited for my name to be called. The chairs in the corridor were all arranged at two metre intervals, with tape marks on the floor to show safe distancing.

The Technetium Injection Process

Predictably, when my name was called it was pronounced wrong, but that broke the ice with the technician doing my injections, who was lovely. I was taken to a side room to have an injection of a radioactive isotope called Technetium, which sounds like a made-up element from the Marvel universe, but is apparently a real thing. They used to use radioactive iodine for these kinds of scan, but this has now been mostly replaced with technetium, which gives a lower radiation dose.

Before the injection, I was asked some questions. The technician checked whether I have claustrophobia and whether I was able to get up and down from a couch, which I thought was good practice checking for hidden disabilities. Then there was the usual “you’re a woman so please sign on the dotted line that you’re not pregnant” and they checked my identity one last time.

The injection itself was nothing at all! They jab you with a tiny needle, flush the line with saline solution, then give you the technetium injection. Because it’s radioactive, the needle has a little tungsten jacket to protect the technician’s eyes and fingers from the cumulative effect of giving multiple radioactive injections every day! Then they flush the line with saline again.

Before The Gamma Camera Scan

Once you’ve had your injection, you wait about twenty minutes before your scan. I was put in a little side room for radioactive people to wait, because you’re actually emitting gamma radiation during this time. You would never know it at all – you honestly can’t feel a thing! The effective radiation dose of a technetium thyroid scan is about 3.2 millisieverts (mSv) – the average annual dose from background radiation in the UK is 2.7 mSv. So it sounds like a lot, but actually if you live in Cornwall, your average annual dose of radiation is 6.9 mSv, due to the high levels of radon in the ground in Cornwall. And the annual limit of radiation exposure for nuclear industry workers is 20 mSv – so when you put it in context, it doesn’t sound so bad. None of us would worry about spending six months in Cornwall! (Unless you’re a city kid, I guess…)

After twenty minutes, I was called in to have my scan, in a machine called a gamma camera, or scintillation camera. Here’s a picture of the one I was in:

gamma camera scintillation camera machine radioactive thyroid scan with technetium experience sickly mama blog

The Technetium Thyroid Scan Itself

I was asked to have a couple of sips of water, take off my necklace and face mask, and lie on the bed part of the gamma camera machine. Then the panels that you see on the left in the picture above swiveled so one was above my head and one below. They lower the panels until they’re very close to your head – the one above me was almost touching my nose!

The process of taking the pictures was weird because you can’t actually tell that anything is happening at all. There’s no noise like in an MRI scanner – you literally just lie there feeling a bit silly. Each picture took 1 – 5 minutes and at one point they reconfigured the scanner to get a close up of my thyroid gland. Then it was done!

My Experience Of Technetium Thyroid Scan

Overall, this was a really easy procedure. Anything that involves radioactive material can feel a bit scary, but it was totally painless, easy, and comfortable. If you are claustrophobic, you may not enjoy the experience of the scan itself as the machine gets so close to your face, but it’s better than an MRI scan because the machine is open at the sides, so you’re not trapped in a tube, it’s much quieter, and the scans are taken much much more quickly, so you don’t have to spend much time in the machine at all. Plus the staff were very aware that it could be uncomfortable for claustrophobic people and asked if I was okay with the scan etc. while it was ongoing.

What happened after my thyroid scan?

It took a long time to get the results of my technetium thyroid scan and get a diagnosis, but I did eventually get there… Click here to find out what happened next.

food · tea

My Top Teas of Lockdown

I absolutely love tea and I have a tea for every occasion. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been drinking endless cups of tea while stuck at home during the coronavirus lockdown. I thought therefore that I should do a rundown of my top teas of lockdown – the teas that have been keeping me sane! I recommend stocking up on these for any future global pandemics…

My Top Teas Of Lockdown

Yorkshire Tea

Okay, the classic English breakfast tea doesn’t get any better than a cuppa of Yorkshire Tea. This is a tea for all seasons. In my office, any other teabags are treated as pariahs and left unused until we run out of all other options (which, to be fair, happens regularly – we’re not that organised). Now, maybe that’s because our head of service is from Yorkshire. But maybe it’s also because Yorkshire Tea is the best…

Jenier Peppermint Herbal Tea

Now, we all know that the best kind of mint tea is fresh mint tea with leaves picked from the garden. But my favourite teabag mint tea is Jenier Peppermint Herbal Tea. I discovered the brand (and the tea) through a subscription to the Tea and Book Club, gifted to me by my father-in-law, and it’s got a great fresh mint flavour for a dried tea. Peppermint tea is my go-to choice for a bloated tummy, which is happening a lot in lockdown as I stuff my face every day.

Pukka Night Time Tea

My husband and I always refer to this as “sleepy time tea”, even though that’s not actually it’s name. Well, frankly Pukka missed a trick naming it. We are constantly tired at the moment thanks to Little Man, but if we want to wind down and chill out before bed, especially if the wee fella has been stressing us out all day (and when doesn’t he), then Night Time Tea is a great choice. Its gentle oaty, floral flavour chills you right out.

Sainsbury’s Hot Cross Bun Tea

Sainsbury’s launched an own-brand Hot Cross Bun Tea this year for Easter and I loved it! It’s a rooibus base, with lots of orange, lemon and spice flavor (light on the clove, heavy on the cinnamon – just how I like it). It’s a great caffeine free alternative to a breakfast tea when you fancy something with a hearty flavour but you’re going to bed soon. Sadly it was only around for Easter so I’m hoping they bring it back next year.

baking · food · gluten free · recipes

The BEST Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Recipe

Today, I’m going to share my gluten free oatmeal raisin cookies recipe. I love baking, and as my husband is gluten intolerant, it’s hard to find fresh baked goods for him in the shops. So, whenever the opportunity arises (i.e. Little Man is in a good mood and happy enough on his play mat), I get baking.

Back at the start of lockdown, I was planning on baking some chocolate chip cookies one day, but asked my husband if he had any special requests. He asked for oatmeal raisin cookies. I’d never baked them before so I researched a bit online and made my own substitutions to make them gluten free. They’re actually an ideal cookie to make GF, because the oats help to bind them and reduce the floury/crumbly texture that you often get with gluten free baking. For the busy mum (or dad) on the go, the finished cookies can also be frozen and reheated later – see instructions further down this post.

Now, onto the important bit…

Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Recipe

the best gluten free oatmeal raisin cookies recipe the sickly mama blog easy bake

The Recipe

Assemble the following ingredients:

  • 200g sugar (ideally a golden caster, or a mix of brown and white sugar also works well)
  • 150ml sunflower oil (or other veggie oil)
  • 1 egg
  • 100g raisins or sultanas
  • 120g gluten free flour
  • 300g oats (make sure they’re specifically gluten free oats if you’re baking for a coeliac)
  • 1/2 tsp xantham gum (not essential if you don’t have it, but helps with binding gluten free bakes)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – The Method

These cookies are super quick and easy to assemble, because the oil base makes mixing them very simple.

1. Pour 50ml of boiling water over your raisins/sultanas and leave to soak.

2. Preheat your oven to 180 C.

3. Line two baking trays with parchment.

4. Mix the sugar, oil and egg in a bowl until well combined.

5. Add the water from the raisins/sultanas, the cinammon and the vanilla extract, and mix.

6. Add the flour, xantham gum and bicarbonate of soda and mix. Then, add the oats and mix.

7. Add the raisins and mix. Your cookie batter is now complete!

8. Dollop the batter into the baking sheets. Gluten free cookies never spread quite as much as regular cookies, so get them into roughly the thickness and shape you want, but still aim to leave a couple of centimetres gap between cookies.

9. Bake for 12 – 15 mins until golden brown, and cool on the trays. Voila! Your cookies are ready.

Freezing and Reheating Your Cookies

These gluten free oatmeal raisin cookies freeze really well! It’s perfect so that next time you can have that fresh baked cookie taste with even less effort. Ideally freeze them on a tray, before transferring into a bag or container for storage.

You can keep the cookies in the freezer for up to two months. To reheat, simply pop them on a baking tray (from frozen) in an oven pre-heated to 140 C, for 10 – 15 minutes. Everyone will think you just baked them!

mum and baby making gluten free oatmeal raisin cookies the sickly mama blog recipe

More Gluten Free Recipes

Looking for more yummy gluten free recipes? Why not try this recipe for (highly addictive) gluten free rocky roads? They’re perfect to make with kids as they don’t even require baking!

baby · lifestyle · parenting · pop culture · sport

Surviving Lockdown With A Baby Through SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS

When I found out I was pregnant and worked out when my maternity leave would be, I was super excited. And not just about the baby. While on maternity leave there would be an Olympics and the Euros, two major sporting events that I normally only get to watch bits of, and I would get to watch it all – or, you know, have it on in the background while wrangling a small baby.

And then – coronavirus! Which has conspired to ruin literally every plan I had for my maternity leave, including the more minor plans regarding televisual entertainment (although in fairness, BT also had a good stab at ruining those plans before coronavirus even really arrived on these shores).

Coupled with this, over the last six to eight weeks or so, Little Man has gone from a baby who often fusses with a bad tummy, to a Mega Fuss Machine 3.0, who is just so grumpy and fussy that it’s basically impossible to follow anything happening on TV when he’s in the room. Even when he’s in a good mood he now just shrieks. Apparently, he enjoys shrieking. So, given that he’s also not sleeping well, we are really struggling to watch anything other than nature documentaries. And, honestly, if you can’t actually hear the dulcet tones of Sir David Attenborough, is it even worth it?

So – how to survive lockdown with a baby?

Well, recently the Bundesliga returned! Actual real-life football, the perfect entertainment for looking after a grumpy baby, where you don’t need to hear the commentary to follow the plot. Except, obviously, we couldn’t watch it because the days of football betting available on terrestrial TV are long since gone.

So, we’ve cracked and got a subscription to BT Sport, and I’m now rapidly becoming aquatinted with the various teams and players of the Bundesliga. Thank God we have something we can watch (but not hear) while endlessly bouncing the wee man on one knee. It’s the perfect solution for lockdown with a baby.

You can read more about my experiences in lockdown with a baby here!

surviving lockdown with a baby through sports sports sports - the sickly mama blog

food · recipes · tea

How To Make Fresh Mint Tea Recipe

Peppermint tea is one of my favourite herbal teas (and I love tea!). It’s great if you’re feeling a bit bloated after a big meal, or have a bit of a sad tummy. Mint tea is also caffeine free, and it smells amazing as the process of brewing the tea releases essential oils. But did you know it’s super easy to make fresh mint tea at home?

Lots of us have mint plants in our gardens… They tend to go rogue and take over half your shrubbery. But if you don’t have a garden, or somehow have the only garden in England not infested with mint, you can of course buy it at the supermarket too (or alternatively, it will grow very happily in a pot, so you’ll have it handy whenever). Here’s the recipe:

Fresh Mint Tea Recipe

Grab a generous handful of fresh mint leaves for each person you want to make tea for, and gently crush the leaves a little in your hands to help release the oils.

Put the mint in a teapot or straight into a cup, and pour boiling water over the leaves. Leave it for 3 – 5 minutes until the water changes colour to a pale yellowy green. You can add a little sugar or honey to taste if you prefer a sweeter flavour, or even some lemon peel for a hint of citrus.

And that’s it! It’s super easy and very delicious, and it helps tackle the mint problem in your garden (without taking a toll on your liver like a mojito does…). It’s really easy to make this tea your own, by playing with the ingredients and adding your own spin on it. If you fancy a caffeine hit, you can even mix your mint tea with green tea, for a beverage with a little bit more of a kick to it!

how to make fresh mint tea recipe the sickly mama blog tea o clock
baby · parenting

The Unbelievable Adventures of Little Man

One of my favourite things at the moment is Little Man’s conversations with my husband. Little Man is a mega chatty four month old, who loves making as much noise as possible. He loves “talking” with you, and often when he’s having a long chat/noisemaking session with his dad, my husband will “translate” his half of the conversation… And make it sound like he’s been up to the craziest adventures (fun adventures, not the rubbish keeping-you-up-all-night kind). Something like this:

Little Man: *gurgles*

Martin: You robbed a supermarket? What did you steal?

Little Man: *squeals*

Martin: You stole all the formula milk? Why did you do that?

Little Man: *makes a loud shrieking noise, farts*

Martin: Well, I know you love milk, but where are we going to store it all?

…And so on. According to my husband, the little chap has been on some very outlandish adventures, including a trip on rockets into space, a run-in with a pigeon which he threw his dirty nappy at, and a ride on a donkey made of springs. I honestly don’t know where he gets it all from, but baby loves it! Especially because listening to it makes me laugh, so we’re all just sat together giggling away and Little Man gets more and more excited (and consequently louder and louder) as the story gets more ridiculous.

It’s great fun and highly recommended. There’s plenty of advice out there for parents that emphasizes how important it is to talk to your baby, as an essential part of their language learning and development, but it can get a little boring when you’ve narrated your entire morning or told them for the five hundredth time that they’re the cutest little bubba in the world. This is much more entertaining, and it will let them enjoy being the centre of attention as well.

the unbelievable adventures of little man sickly mama blog
baby · child development · colic · parenting · sleeping · teething

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child: Thank You

We’ve been having a pretty bad time the last couple of weeks with Little Man. He has long had bad trouble with wind that wakes him up at night and upsets him regularly. But his teething has now got really bad as well.

We’re currently struggling to feed him at all, because any time the bottle goes near his mouth, he goes through the roof, even with having given him Calpol and teething gel – which obviously we can’t give every feed. Plus it’s waking him up every 40 – 60 minutes throughout the night, so we’re seriously missing out on sleep as well, and thanks to lockdown we don’t have access to any external or family support that we would normally have. So it’s tough.

One thing that is really positive though is all the help that we’ve had from friends and family who have shared some great tips and ideas for things that might help. Ideas from using a teething glove, to freezing ice cubes out of formula to rub on sore gums, to trying herbal teething powders or teas, and trying the next year size up, have all come from our friends, family and colleagues. Even if they don’t all work, at least we can feel like we’re being proactive in how we’re trying to deal with it and help the poor little dude.

It’s especially appreciated at this time. Normally, I would be going to baby groups and socialising with other mums and chatting about what they do or what products they use, but I can’t do that at the moment thanks to the lockdown. It can feel really isolating. So I really want to thank everyone who’s taken the time to share their experiences and their advice. Not only is it really useful, but it makes me feel better to know that other people have had the same issues. When you’re stuck in the house with a crying baby who won’t eat or sleep, it’s easy to get worried about what is it isn’t normal. It really brings to mind the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child. We’re very lucky to have you all in our village.

So thank you, everyone. And thanks also to everyone who’s just checked in on us or let us have a rant or even sent a gift. These are weird and challenging times to have a new baby, as if having a baby wasn’t weird and challenging enough…

coronavirus · health · pain · pituitary · top tips · Uncategorized

Coping With Pain When You Can’t Use Painkillers

Firstly, I want to make it totally clear that I’m not advocating that people shouldn’t use painkillers to manage pain. But thanks to the current coronavirus lockdown, I’ve had a couple of situations where I couldn’t use my normal painkillers, and it got me thinking about coping with pain when you can’t use painkillers.

I have chronic pain from my hypermobility spectrum disorder that flares up now and then, especially when the temperature changes rapidly from hot to cold or vice versa. Usually if it gets particularly bad, I take ibuprofen (Advil, for any Americans). However, since France issued a warning about using non-steroidal inflammatory painkillers during the covid 19 pandemic, I’ve tried to avoid taking it even though the evidence is not really clear either way.

Then I also have an issue with very bad sinus headaches, which is a hangover from two lots of brain surgery done via my nose (transsphenoidal surgery). They get so bad that they also have the fun side effect of making me very nauseous, to the point that I have actually thrown up from them several times. They are aggravated by pollen/hayfever, so tend to get worse at this time of year. Normally, I would take paracetamol because ibuprofen doesn’t work for them… But we don’t have much paracetamol in the house, and it’s been hard to get hold of lately with the coronavirus panic buying. So again, I’ve been trying to avoid taking painkillers.

And so, I thought I’d write a post about some of the ways that I find helpful for coping with pain (especially joint pain, because that’s my most common issue). They probably won’t work for everyone, or every type of pain, but I hope you might find it useful anyway.

Coping With Pain When You Can’t Use Painkillers

1. Heat

I find that heat is so great for managing my joint pain. Pre-baby, I would often try to have a bath or at least a hot shower if they were playing up, as it helps the pain so effectively that I often wouldn’t need to take painkillers at all. Now I have a three-month old baby, I can’t just run off for a bath at the drop of a hat (sadly). So I use a hot water bottle or (preferably) a microwaveable wheat bag. Extra layers also works, but while it’s easy to put extra pairs of thick socks on if my ankles or feet are hurting, it’s not so easy to layer up and warm up a hip joint.

Conversely, ice can also help certain types of pain, especially sports injuries.

2. Breathing Exercises

When I was pregnant, I did an online hypnobirthing course with The Positive Birth Company. Well, actually I did about 60% of the course, because I was totally caught out by Little Man arriving three weeks early. One of the big aspects of hypnobirthing is using breathing exercises to manage pain. I found this really useful when giving birth; I think it’s particularly good for pain which is severe but comes and goes – like, say, having a baby…

3. Distract, Distract, Distract

I always find my joint pain is worst at night, when I’m in bed and trying to sleep. But actually, chances are that it’s not any worse then than it is any other time; it’s just that there aren’t any distractions to take my mind off my poor sad joints. Even something as simple as listening to music or reading a book can help take your mind off ongoing low-level pain. For worse pain, something interactive and requiring concentration is better as it forces your attention away from what’s hurting – like playing a game or reading aloud.

4. Movement and Massage

Probably depends on what’s causing your pain, but for my joint pain, gentle movement is really helpful to take the pressure off my joints. The other day, I was holding Little Man, who was finally sleeping after a very grumpy day (he didn’t poop for three days! Enough to make anyone grumpy I’m sure), and my hips were playing up so badly but I didn’t want to move him! When he eventually woke up, I went to do some chores in the kitchen and the pain in my joints improved significantly just from the movement.

Linked to this, massage can be really great for pain – although obviously some pain locations are more accessible than others.

5. Physiotherapy

Following on from the above, in the longer term, physio can help with some forms of chronic pain. I always assumed physiotherapy wasn’t really very effective, because I’d known a lot of people complain that it didn’t work for them. But when I was pregnant with Little Man, I actually tried physiotherapy for the first time, and I found it incredibly effective.

My hip pain got a lot worse very early on, from the pregnancy hormones (which make your joints looser) and extra weight. It was so bad that I was waking up constantly throughout the night in huge amounts of pain from my hip partially dislocating in my sleep. Then I would swap sides and sleep on the other side for a bit, until that one started hurting and woke me up to swap sides again. It wasn’t fun, although I guess it was great practice for waking up constantly at night with the baby once he arrived! In fact, even on bad nights when he was teeny tiny, Little Man woke me up significantly less frequently than my hips had done throughout my pregnancy.

It took a number of weeks to get an appointment with a physio, but I got there, did a full assessment and got several exercises aimed at strengthening the muscles around my hips, to hold the joint in place better. It was about six weeks of religiously doing the exercises before I noticed results, but the improvement was really noticeable and made such a huge difference to the rest of my pregnancy. So, if you haven’t already – I recommend giving physio a try.

6. Check Skeletal Alignment and Muscle Tension

If this one sounds super hippy-dippy, bear with me. A few years ago, I realised that my headaches (normal headaches, as opposed to sinus headaches where the pain is in the front of my face around the nose and eyes) are often either caused or at least aggravated by tension in my neck and shoulders. It could be from sleeping funny, being crouched over a laptop, or just being stressed and tensing up. Making a conscious effort to relax my neck and shoulders (maybe coupled with a gentle massage) can really help relieve those headaches.

Similarly, with my joints, I’ve realised that when I’m experiencing joint pain the first thing to do is check the alignment of the joint, i.e. are the bones lined up straight or am I sitting, moving or tensing in a way that sends pressure though my joints in an unnatural way. Because I have hypermobility, it’s easy for my joints to partially dislocate or just misalign without me actually noticing, and that can unsurprisingly cause pain.

7. Keep Active

When I was first diagnosed with hypermobility spectrum disorder (as it’s now known), the rheumatologist told me that the most important thing to keep pain at bay was to keep active and build up muscle to support my joints. At the moment, on lockdown, I’m doing yoga pretty much every day with my husband and it’s great exercise that’s very low-impact and thus kind on your joints. I definitely recommend it, and you can find specific yoga flows online that are tailored to particular issues, such as lower back pain or crappy hips (technical term).

Your top tips for coping with pain when you can’t use painkillers:

Do you have any tips or techniques for pain management/coping with pain without medication that work for you? Let me know in the comments below!

coping with pain when you can't use painkillers strategies and tips for chronic pain without medication the sickly mama blog