Image of a house with a pillow, water, and proper medication versus a hospital being compared

How I Manage Sickle Cell Pain at Home

Last updated: November 2022

Sickle cell crises are unpredictable and can happen anytime and anywhere. The pain usually starts slowly.

I sometimes wonder if I am the only person that gets worried whenever there’s a sign of pain. I’m worried that I might have to visit the hospital and get admitted for days. I’m worried that the pain would hurt more this time. I’m worried that my plans will be disrupted and work will pile up.

The worry begins

So many things worry and scare me when I can feel the pain coming. I think one of the reasons I worry is because a pain crisis like the vaso-occlusive crisis is rare for me. In years, I might not experience one but when I actually do, it causes more pain and anxiety. No matter how small the pain, it brings a certain worry and feeling.

I experienced that feeling recently. Still not sure but I believe emotional stress is one of my pain triggers. I think it was the excitement that started the pain this time. It started as a mild ache in my back. I knew it could get worse but I ignored it and went ahead with my morning.

Getting on with my day

I did my usual morning routine before stepping into the day. Luckily, it was a Friday so there was not too much work to be done. As the ache increased towards the afternoon, it made me remember the last vaso-occlusive crisis I had which got me admitted to the hospital for days. It started the same way. Minor backache that graduated into full-body pain.

Was this going to cause another hospital admission? Do I need to put everything on hold today? I started to worry and hope that it did not get worse as my day continued. Unfortunately, I had to be somewhere that evening, plus work had been like a distraction so I did not notice the pain.

Crisis on public transportation

I took public transport to return home but it only made it worse. The backache became stronger. The bus seat was a little inconvenient and it was hot. I don’t know whether it was the heat or the discomfort, but something made the ache worse. When I got home, I drowned my gut in water and used paracetamol.

I still went ahead and wrapped up work before going to sleep. The pain did not really let me sleep, and by Saturday morning, it was worse. It had spread to my chest and I could barely breathe. Even when I forced my breath, there was pain. At this point, I knew that I had to slow things down. In fact, I needed to shut things down.

Dealing with the pain

Going to the hospital was not an option yet, I didn’t consider it at all. I made my breakfast and took diclofenac. Usually, I don’t like taking diclofenac because it dehydrates me from the inside and causes constipation but it was the only painkiller available at that moment. The pain stopped but continued again later so I took another pill of diclofenac and slept. By the time I woke up in the evening, the pain was mild.

Sunday morning, I no longer felt so much pain; only when I took a breath I felt pain in my chest and I was so tired. Fatigue has always been a struggle so I didn’t pay much attention.

Avoiding the hospital

I could say that I succeeded in avoiding going to the hospital which is what many sickle cell warriors do. I mean, I believe no one really likes going to the hospital unless it’s the last option. So, I think these tips might help you:

  • Always have a painkiller that works for you at home or around you.

    This is very important because the pain usually comes suddenly. It is good to have different painkillers but most importantly, the ones that work for you. Not every painkiller works for me. Diclofenac does but it has a negative effect on me so instead I keep mild painkillers like paracetamol at home. I only get diclofenac or any stronger one when the need arises.

  • Rest when there is the slightest pain.

    You know your body and it knows you. Pain can be a sign that you are over-exerting your body. So, take a rest, get comfortable, and don’t feel bad about doing that.

  • Drink water like never before.

    We all know that sickle cell pain arises when the sickle red blood cells have obstructed blood flow. Drinking lots of water can help flush the cells. Drown your guts in water.

  • Visit the hospital.

    Yeah, the final option is to go to a hospital. After you’ve tried everything and nothing is working, you should head to the closest hospital next.

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