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What I've Learned About How to Move House With Chronic Pain

Kymberly has managed many chronic illnesses for 25+ years. During that time, she has moved house 20 times.

Sometimes you just have to move house... despite your normal fatigue and pain if you are suffering from a chronic illness.

This is one of those times for me.

I'm moving house for the 20th time. Yup. You read that right. I've moved 20 times in the last 20 years. Admittedly, some were smaller moves than others. And sometimes I stayed in one location for more than a year. The worst was when I moved five times in just over a year.

Throughout that time, I've been battling chronic pain. Sciatica, costochondritis, endometriosis, fibromyalgia... and the list continues.

Even though at times I didn't think I'd pull through, I did.

When I have to move, I use a bunch of techniques and tricks to make every happen smoother, and my pain and stress more manageable.

How can I move house painlessly?

These are the topics I will cover in this article. Scroll down to the section you are interested in, if you like.

  1. Most importantly - take care of yourself!
  2. Plan the move
  3. Pack something every day
  4. Decrease your load
  5. Take time out
  6. Find local resources
  7. Expect things to go wrong

1. Most importantly - take care of yourself

Breathe - being mindful of and relaxing your breath can reduce pain in the best of times. While you move house, it's even more important.

Stretch regularly - I can't emphasize how much stretching and gentle movement helps with muscle and joint related pain. Both my sciatica and costochondritis are made much more manageable!

Move a little at a time - if you have an overlapping lease, you can move gradually. A carload of boxes each day for several weeks is more manageable than a household full of boxes and furniture all in one day.

Do things slowly and carefully - avoid injuries and lessen stress. Use the correct posture when lifting, twisting and carrying.

Get help - get your friends and family to pitch in and lessen your load. Alternatively, pay a moving company to do all the heavy lifting and carrying (or even the packing/unpacking if you can not handle it).

Proactive - tiger balm, ankle and wrist braces and a massage heat pillow - prevention is better than dealing with a pain flare!

Proactive - tiger balm, ankle and wrist braces and a massage heat pillow - prevention is better than dealing with a pain flare!

Use sports rubs or anti-inflammatory gels - if these help you, use them proactively, of course, according to the directions on the pack.

Take your medication - understand that your pain medication needs may be higher during this time and talk to your doctor in advance.

Deal with the dust - if you have dust allergies, use a dust mask and gloves when packing, moving and unpacking and dust as you go.

Use wrist, knee, ankle or other joint braces pro-actively - if you know you have a problem with a certain joint, don't wait for it to hurt - protect it in advance to avoid joint pain!

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Have a nightly hot bath - great for aching muscles and for getting to sleep.

2. Plan the move

Organising your move carefully. helps you manage your pain and your stress levels and keep you healthy, providing you don't procrastinate or try to be too much of a perfectionist!

Set dates - key pick up, moving company (or friends), electricity, phone, water, gas, internet, purchase of new appliances, etc.

Keep in mind any doctors, vets, or other appointments, especially if you are a freelancer.

Make lists and checklists - things to buy, shops to go to, people to contact, places where your address needs to be changed. I find keeping everything in one book useful.

Proper lifting posture from a PT

Get packing supplies - fruit boxes from your local grocery store are stable, although are typically not sealed. Packing boxes can cost a fortune, but if you are moving overseas, this may be your only option.

Buy more than enough packing tape or fabric tape than you think you need - I bet you'll make at least one more trip to buy some more!

Get family members and friends to save up things you can use to pack - newspapers, boxes, bubble wrap. It will reduce the costs.

Tip: Boxes with handles built in are easier to lift and carry safely if you have back problems.

Take photos - more important in Australia than here (where renters have a few more rights), but take photos of the condition in which you received the rental - before you clean, paint or move anything in.

Give a copy of the photos to the agent on a CD/DVD. Useful for getting your bond back.

Measure everything and simulate - once you have the key, get in and measure everything.

If you have non-right-angled walls, measure the angles too!

Then measure your existing / newly purchased furniture.

Make a scale diagram of everything, and arrange so your furniture fits. That way, you won't have to move heavy furniture twice.

I've the added bonus of planning a kitchen for the first time in this move.

At least, I've chosen all my appliances! Still, worktops, sink and cupboards yet to be planned -- need measurements!

Paint - if you want to decorate the walls with wallpaper or paint, do it before you move anything. Select your colors and paints in advance, and purchase the needed brushes, rollers and clean up equipment.

Clean - finally, clean all surfaces before you start moving in - it's easiest to clean when there is nothing in the way! You may need to clean again after unpacking to get rid of the dust of the boxes, especially if you have a dust or pollen allergy.

3. Pack something every day

Pack at least one shelf or cupboard per day - you need to spread the activity out and reserve your stamina. Chronic pain sufferers have less than normal, healthy people!

Plus, if you have pets, they will get less stressed if you pack over a longer time, than if you are a bundle of stress and try to do it all in one week.

Start with the less often used items, like books, DVDs, etc., and work your way through to the more often and more recently used things.

Keep a few towels and cleaning supplies unpacked.

Make sure your medication and helpful treatments (sports rubs, braces, etc.) are always accessible.

Label your boxes on three or four sides - top and at least two of the sides. It's not fun looking through all of your boxes for something you know you have already packed.

Clutter makes it really stressful to move, and more painful too!

Clutter makes it really stressful to move, and more painful too!

4. Decrease your load

Sort as you go - you don't want to move junk and clutter. Use this an opportunity to get rid of your clutter.

Sort your stuff into piles as you go, bin the rubbish and donate the good stuff.

If you have time, sell the extra stuff you don't want, or give it away to friends, family or charity. Less to move, and you'll be emotionally lighter too!

Sell the more valuable items - if you have a long time before you move, you can sell excess stuff on eBay, Craig's list or hold a garage sale. Freecycle is also good for reducing your pile of unsaleable items.

Just be sure to plan the extra time needed to collect payments, organise pick-ups, and factor in time needed to package and send things at the post office. Buy postage in bulk in advance - saves time and money.

Eat up your pantry - do you have a lot of different things in your pantry, fridge and freezer? Don't shop for a week or so before you move (except for necessary things), and eat your larder down. Again - less to carry!

Photography (and walking) helps me relax, focus on my breathing and turn my brain off.

Photography (and walking) helps me relax, focus on my breathing and turn my brain off.

5. Take time out

Physical breaks - you can't be a packing and moving machine when in chronic pain.

Take regular breaks, hot baths, do stretches and relaxation exercises. It definitely decreases the pain and stress during the move.

If you have the time, take a day off from doing anything related to moving. Your body (and your stress levels) will thank you!

I find McKenzie stretches are the best for my scaitica after packing loads of boxes - all that bending forwards is not good!

I also need to stretch my chest several times a day, and be careful how much I carry, to avoid a costochondritis flare.

Mental breaks - just as you can get physically worn out, you can also get mentally drained from the moving house.

Make sure you take time out to catch up with family and friends, and distract your brain from the move - meditate, read, game, go for a walk, take photos, play with your pets, listen to music, watch a movie - anything you find relaxing and distracting!

The back service entry of the local station from my back gate - great for running late in the mornings!

The back service entry of the local station from my back gate - great for running late in the mornings!

6. Find local resources

Learn the area - find the local shops, banks, bakeries, libraries, doctors, take away restaurants, etc., before you move. Use Google maps, or spend a day there in person.

This will save you time and stress during and after your move.

Learn the public transport routes or roads you will drive to/from work or school. If you're forgetful like me, write them down on a slip of paper in your wallet or purse!

7. Expect things to go wrong

Almost nothing goes as smoothly as planned. Moving house is no different, even when you have planned it 'perfectly'.

  • Pets (and you) can get sick during the move, and require extra attention and vet visits.
  • Work project will run overtime, and you'll be expected to spend longer than normal hours at work solving problems.
  • Your planned helpers (family and friends) may have unexpected circumstances and be unable to help.
  • The weather may not be nice - plan for rain (or snow/ice in winter), and then you'll be pleasantly surprised if the weather is actually good on the days you move.
  • Breakages happen - not nice, but also not the end of the world.

Don't beat yourself up over things that can and do go wrong.

Instead, pace yourself, follow your plan as you can, try not to stress, and keep plodding on.

You'll be settling into your new place before you know it!

Your comments

What are your tips for moving house when managing chronic pain? Let us know in the comments below!

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Dianna Mendez on August 14, 2013:

We have moved six times and are experts in knowing what to pack, donate, or trash. Your tips are excellent! I know that doing it a little a day, as you suggest, will keep the pain minimum.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 31, 2013:

You have to be really strong in spirit to do all this moving and become expert at it. I admire you. All very well done. I moved once when my hand was in a cast and the pain of uselessness hurt more than the physical pain. God help and enable you! Voted Up.

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