Tips for Pain Coping, by Dr. Z

I have an admission: I am a Nature Nerd.

Always have been, probably always will be. 

You can regularly find me outside with my butterfly guide, tromping through grass and lagging behind on hikes waiting for a butterfly to land.


Getting outside is important for kids with chronic pain and health conditions for so many reasons. To list a few:


1) Sunshine: Exposure to sunlight increases the brain's production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. More sunlight = higher serotonin = better mood!

2) Distraction: A simple, effective pain coping technique is to try to focus on something other than pain (see: Gate Control Theory of pain on the Resources page.)

3) Movement: Exercise helps desensitize the brain once it's trapped in a pain cycle (see: How Pain Works + Central Sensitization on the Resources page.) Walking outside for just 5-10 minutes a day is a great start.


If your child has been stuck inside with pain or illness, consider grabbing a butterfly guide and stepping outside! (This one is portable, durable, and has great illustrations.) Just having a hobby and something to look forward to can be therapeutic!


 Here are some butterflies I've found in the Bay Area: 



The Red Admiral is a medium sized butterfly that can be found year-round. It usually hangs out by the banks of rivers and streams, like the stream at Redwood Regional Park. You can recognize it by the reddish-orange band across its wings.


 The Pipevine Swallowtail lays eggs on a plant called the Dutchman's Pipe, and emerges from its chrysalis in April. Males are a beautiful metallic blue-black, and females are brown with white spots. They can be found in moist areas like Tilden's Botanical Garden. (This one landed on the ground at my feet!)


The Common Buckeye is easily recognizable by its "eye spots." It's thought that eye spots prevent predation by birds by making the butterfly look like a larger animal, like an owl. Buckeyes can be found year 'round, often sitting in the middle of a trail. 



 The Sara Orangetip is a fast-fluttering butterfly found exclusively on the west coast. She likes fields, meadows and open woodlands. Look for the bright orange flash on the inside of her wings as she flies. If anyone knows who Sara is, please tell me!




The Western Tiger Swallowtail is one of the largest butterflies in the Bay Area. It's easily confused with the (also yellow) Anise Swallowtail, but can be distinguished by the four black stripes on its upper wing. If you catch it resting, you can see blue and orange spots along its tail.