My Mobile First Aid Kit for Chronic Pain/Illness

Preparation is key when you are heading out for the day!

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The past couple of years have been big for me in terms of health. I finally received my formal diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type 3 (Hypermobility type, or H-EDS), and not long after, I got corrective knee surgery, something I’d waited on (and sometimes had to ignore), for the previous five years. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on these major events, but also on the small things that make daily life more ‘normal’.

Due to my increasing understanding of EDS these past few years, I have mixed emotions. I feel relief that I am making changes to prevent and maybe reverse any further injury or deterioration, but I also have concerns, and fear of what lies ahead. I can’t help but feel sad and angry that there are so many things I wish I’d known, or should have done even a couple, let alone five or 10 years ago.

Nevertheless, most of the time I do try to stay positive, and one of the things that has made a difference is something small, but that has significant impact. I pack a day kit of a few small items I can take with me, to help me through days when I am out, which take a bigger toll on my energy, and sometimes cause pain due to the extra exertion.

Some days, I don’t need it at all, but the nature of the illness is such that you will never know what will happen; maybe I turn a corner and dislocate my knee, or I pull my chair in at a restaurant and dislocate my thumb (both of which have happened), among many other things. If someone were to ask me a couple of years ago what I packed for a day out, I’d just tell them: a couple tablets of Panadeine, water, wallet and makeup.

Note: I’m in Australia, so this article mentions products found here, but I’ve tried to keep them general, in that you can find alternatives. Obviously everyone has different needs, but this is what I’ve found to be most helpful, especially as steps that complement each other, or ‘building a ladder’, as Martina Stawski of Simon & Martina (a Youtuber couple I’ve been binging – imagine my surprise when I found a video talking about her H-EDS!) put it. This article isn’t meant to be prescriptive, but more as a guide for you to make your own kit that suits you. I’m also modifying it myself and experimenting with bits and pieces depending on my needs, day to day, but this is my core group:

  • Daiso Cellulite Roller (AUD$2.80) – This works amazingly as a mobile ITB roller/massager. Mine gets extremely tight and pulls my kneecap to the outer side = more likely to sublux or dislocate, so when I do more activity than usual, I NEED to use this. I have quite a bit of trouble standing and walking, but for some reason cycling and gym work is much easier-I’m grateful just to be able to do activity and exercise in general, though. For something so simple and cheap, it’s a must-buy!

  • Lockeroom Pocket Physio Triangle (AUD$15) – You can get this from any physiotherapist, and it basically acts as a pressure point you can use, eg for tight Temporomandibular Joint or for deep-tissue pain in shoulders/neck
  • Magnesium Spray (AUD$20) – this may sting and itch sensitive skin, but it can help muscle aches. I was sceptical at first, but I do find if I’ve been lacking magnesium I get muscle cramps and spasms, so this is a good way to get it into the affected spot quickly
  • Futuro For Her Wrist Guard (AUD$30) – especially if you do a lot of computer work or your hands get stiff, this helps give some support to wrists and hands. I take the metal part out so I can sleep with it if I need to.
  • Oval 8 Finger Splints (~$8 each) – not gonna lie, these can be a bit uncomfortable at first with delicate skin, but I never realised until I wore them just how much I hyper-extended my fingers. You won’t be able to use these if you need to write (unless you can get away with writing like you’re 4 years old), but typing is fine. I’ve lost a few of these, so I suggest keeping them in a little bag/box when not in use!
  • Strapping/KT tape (large) with small scissors – For sprains and dislocations, having that extra support is essential – you can find tutorials on Youtube if you’re ever stuck with how best to use it. Buy the large tape, and if you need to use it for fingers or smaller joints, just cut the tape lengthways/half as required.
  • Brita Sports Filter Water Bottle (AUD$15) – there’s hard water in the taps where I live, so it’s nice to be able to fill up wherever. If I don’t drink at least 2L of water a day, I don’t feel very well, so this is extremely important. I’ve found it is the most sturdy filter bottle widely available in Australia, and I always look out for 30% off sale specials for the filters.
  • Deep Heat Cream (AUD$5) – first of all; if there was a perfume of Deep Heat, I’d be the number one customer in the world, second; this can help even just by distracting from acute pain with the coldy-hot sensation (via Methyl Salicylate – be careful if you have a sensitivity – I do, but for some reason, I find using this fine), and the smell (for me) is super comforting and refreshing
  • Omron TENS Unit (AUD$50) – Again, something at first I was sceptical of, but when I tried it, it can help with pain management. Unless you need to place it in an awkward area, these are nice and discreet, and you can adjust the intensity and type of pulse stimulation. TENS units are really expensive in Australia for some reason, but thankfully I was able to get a really nice unit from Amazon US for a fraction of the price. Lately, Aldi has a sale where their TENS machines are only ~$30!
  • Crystallised Ginger (AUD$4pk) – I get really nauseous due to certain foods, or if I don’t eat regularly enough, or if I am being driven somewhere, so having a tin of ginger on hand that I can chew has saved me from needing to go home early many times

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  • Couple blister packs of over-the-counter medication each (Mersyndol, Paracetamol, Panadeine Extra, Telfast, Sudafed). Ibuprofen (Neurofen) or Aspirin is not on the list as it causes a lot of issues to gut lining. The pain killers in the list generally don’t take away much pain, and only usually last for an hour or so, but are sometimes preferable than taking anything stronger or nothing at all. I’ve included antihistamines such as Telfast or decongestant (Sudafed), as I get awful sinus and migraines due to allergies/sensitivities that would mean my day was a write-off without. Best advice: follow the directions of each medication, such as taking them with food or not to mix them with certain other drugs.

I keep all of these in a clear case I can easily slot into my Anello backpack that is extremely handy, light and easy to carry.

Hope this post has been helpful!

Love,

Lo xx

Why I Switched to a Korean Skincare Regime

This is somewhat of an embarrassing confession, since I am a qualified beauty therapist, but I have always struggled with my skin. As a child, it was eczema/psoriasis, worsened by wearing certain fabrics and dry Adelaide winters, and then it was acne. Like, really bad, teased for, bright red against super pale skin, acne. I know now it was because of hormonal issues like Hashimotos/PCOS, but I had no way of knowing that when I first started to experience problems.

When I was 11, I was prescribed an antibiotic for my acne, every day, twice a day, for about 4 years. Every time I went back to the dermatologist who brushed off my concerns, I was too shy to speak up for myself (something I still struggle with), and so I stayed on them. It utterly ruined my digestive and immune system and after a while I started to experience a whole lot of problems due to that, which I’m still trying to fix. If you’re wondering, it didn’t help my skin. At all.

That’s not what I’m writing about, though. What I’ve finally realised is that my skin never changed, really. It was always sensitive and dry, but the products I was using were dehydrating my skin and causing it to overproduce oil, hence the congestion. I thought: more oil? Need to cleanse more/deeper/harsher, right? Nope. That is a one-way ticket to dehydrating your skin, causing it to over-produce oil to counteract it.

In the past couple of years, as I experimented more with skincare and makeup, I found that I was reacting quite badly to certain exfoliants or changes in weather and diet, the most recent of which was entirely my fault, but I ended up having what seemed like an ‘opposite t-zone’: super dry t-zone, with normal skin on the rest of my face, where it was sucking up all moisture, including barrier creams, no matter how many layers I put on, while continuing to be flaky and painful. What??!! *insert Dali’s scream face here*

There are only two things that helped: remembering that I know what is best for myself, and Asian skincare – Korean in particular.

When I first heard about Korean skincare, I was like; “Tch, that’s way too many products, your skin won’t even notice the difference between one moisturiser and three/a serum/mask/sleeping pack”. BUT IT DOES!!! I cannot live without the products I’ve found, and steps I’ve started to take, and I was lucky enough (after doing much research) to find exactly what I needed on my first try.

Korean skincare, and asian skincare in general, seems to be a world ahead of their western counterparts, and it’s because they address specific skincare concerns, instead of a more general approach that has been typical in the west (although they are catching up – mostly by copying asian skincare trends). From demanding the best ingredients, to the least amount of irritation, sun protection, anti-ageing, etc, it takes a holistic philosophy. While there are specific concerns to be remedied, it’s a process that incorporates diet, sleep, overall health and wellbeing, in tandem with the actual products and usage. It’s all in the same vein of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Confucianism – prevention is better than the cure, and honouring your parents by taking care of your body, and something that was beaten into me studying beauty: it’s all about what you do everyday.

If you keep up good skincare habits everyday, or dietary habits or exercise habits, you can afford to skip this or that once in a while, or eat that doughnut *_* or whatever else. Likewise, it’s not about getting some fillers or botox after you’ve already developed lines – if you rely on quick fixes rather than a lifestyle you choose every day, no matter how much you pay for those ‘miracle cures’ for whatever issue, you’ll invariably have more to keep nipping and tucking, whereas someone who does keep up a daily habit suited to them will be able to achieve a much better outcome combining the two.

As always though: whatever works! If you find the most basic bar soap and water works for you, that’s fine! If you’re happy, you don’t need to change.

When I visited Japan in Winter, 2016, my skin freaked out, and the products I was half-heartedly using did not help. I know, I know, I should know better. In my defence, I don’t have a lot of energy at the best of times dealing with chronic illness, let alone being non-stop for two weeks in dry-ass winter weather, having packed no suitable clothes from my sub-tropical homebase. It took me over a month to get my skin to calm down upon returning, and I learned a very important lesson: to pay attention to my skin and my body, and not just keep blindly following something that worked for me in a different time or situation.

Photo one: Terrible, but it was the only one that illustrated what I’m talking about. Can you see the fine lines? What the heck?! I don’t even have them – they are literally just from dehydration O_O

Photo two: After using a more suitable regime and products for my skin concerns

I’ll be doing a series of posts on the regime I follow and the products I use and would recommend. My ultimate goal is yuri pibu: a Korean term for ‘glass skin’, or skin so clear and glowy it’s like glass, so that I never have to wear makeup again muahahah! One of the many things I’ve been discovering recently – I really hate the feel of makeup on my skin these days. I’m all about the long-term instead of quick fixes – and having limited energy, the less I have to do to get ready in the mornings, the better!

I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time but life (surgery, recovery, school, holidays and work) have gotten in the way. So, stay tuned!

Thanks for reading,

Lola xo