Being in chronic pain is no picnic. Being proactive can help alleviate some of the stress that pain causes. When I was first told I had shingles, I knew nothing about the virus except that it came from chicken pox. I also had a lot of misconceptions about who got shingles, which you can read all about in my post "How it all began". This post is about one proactive step I took that has really helped me a lot: keeping a pain diary.
After finally getting a shingles diagnosis, I was able to approach the pain in an almost analytical, philosophical way. I wasn't sure I could beat it, but I at least thought I might be able to manage it better. I knew I needed to pay close attention. I also knew some days were just much worse than others. I decided to keep a pain diary to see if I could narrow down a cause, logging what I ate, drank, when I slept, used the bathroom, etc. While it might seem obsessive to some, keeping that pain diary ended up being a lifesaver. Or, at least, a pain saver.
Because of the pain diary, I quickly realized that certain foods were triggers. Most notably, red wine, which might seem a no-brainer. But some things that bubbled to the top weren't as obvious as perhaps alcohol (in any form) should have been. Oatmeal, as an example. I love oats. And they're so good for you! Yet every time I ate oats, hours later I would be besieged by heightened levels of pain.
It was because of the pain diary and realizing the oats = pain connection which led me to discover arginine and its impact on shingles. Turns out that whole grains (including oats) are high in arginine and any food high in arginine promotes the virus.
The pain diary also helped me realize that my most pronounced pain occurred after 11 p.m., usually between 2-4 a.m. in the morning. So I switched sleeping habits, going to bed at 6:30 p.m. to get enough hours of sleep in before the worst pain started. Being well rested has made an enormous difference.
In short, everything I learned about coping with the pain of shingles came about because I kept a pain diary. I also believe keeping a shingles pain diary helped me psychologically (which is important!) because it helped me feel some measure of control, thereby reducing my stress. Since stress naturally makes pain worse, anything that reduces stress is a good thing!