3 Things That Healed My Chronic Pain
Chronic pain has become an epidemic in our society. So many people automatically turn to pain medication to deal with this problem and many medical doctors over prescribe pain pills to deal with pain. It’s like a vicious cycle. Problem is, it doesn’t actually deal with pain in a way that fixes it. It just covers it up.
People aren’t being given constructive activities to get rid of pain. They are not being taught to change their thought patterns and rewrite the pain pathways in their brain. Remember, thoughts are things and thoughts can hurt, further perpetuating the pain cycle. But the good news is we can stop it. I’m living proof. I spent over a year in pretty serious pain on a daily basis until I decided to change my outcome.
This is my story.
In the beginning of 2015, February to be exact, I fell while on the job. I had been cleaning a large walk-in shower after performing a body treatment. Something I had done at least a hundred times. I was spraying cleaning solution as I walked myself backwards out of the shower and stepped up onto an 8 inches high and wide tile step. I leaned forward slightly, to get in a few more sprays and both of my legs slipped out behind me.
I remember it like it was yesterday.
I landed in a push up, half in and half out of the shower, with my rib cage hitting the tile step and my left hand supporting my upper body and protecting my face from hitting the shower floor. For some crazy reason, I didn’t drop the spray bottle. Apparently, I thought it needed to be saved.
I froze in that position for a few moments, not knowing what happened and then I pushed myself up and sat on the floor. The wind had been knocked out of me and I couldn’t breathe. I hadn’t felt that feeling since I was a kid and fell out of a tree, landing flat on my back. I didn’t know what to do because I had a massage client coming for an appointment in 15 minutes, which I ended up doing. Badly, I’m sure. Luckily, it was someone who had never had a massage before and had nothing to compare it to. I left right after the appointment, but I probably should have left before it.
Anyway, you get the idea.
I was hurt pretty badly, I just didn’t know it yet. I took a few days off work, then went back to massaging. Two days later, my body got all tingly and numb from the neck down. I lost all strength in my arms and hands and I could hardly hold my toothbrush. Or write my name. This lasted for a little more than 6 months.
My extremely swollen hands turned somewhat reddish purple and my worker’s compensation doctor wrote down that I had contusions to my hands. Contusions? Really? Was he crazy? I don’t want to get started on the incompetence I encountered with the worker’s comp system and the doctors that participate, but I can tell you, it has nothing to do with the care of the employee, that’s for sure.
After a slew of tests (as well as heartbreak and indignation), my injuries consist of 11 herniations and 8 pinched nerves, broken down like this: 3 herniations and 2 nerve impingements in the cervical spine, 4 herniations and 2 nerve impingements in the thoracic spine and 4 herniations and 3 nerve impingements in the lumbar spine. And, on top of all this, a pinched ulnar nerve in my left elbow.
I was in extreme pain for quite some time and did a lot of crying. A lot of crying! The doctors just tried to give me various pain medications, all of which I was or became allergic to. They even tried to give me antidepressants! Probably because of all the crying, but I politely declined. Worker’s comp had denied all requests for physical therapy. So, I decided that I needed to take matters into my own swollen hands.
1) Walk it out. Get moving, even when it's hard and you don't want to.
My legs, although constantly tingly, still worked pretty good and one thing some doctors (or chiropractors) tell you to do when you have herniations, is to walk it out. So, I started walking. I walked an average of two miles a day, sometimes 4. I decided that as I walked I would leave my pain behind with each step I took. In the beginning, I felt like I was collecting other people’s pain who walked this trail before me, but eventually it started to work.
I was feeling better and crying less.
2) Meditate. It doesn't matter how you do it, just do it. Have a conversation with your body. Listen to your body's answers.
Once I was feeling comfortable with this routine of walking daily, I started to meditate. Not just regular meditation, but very specialized meditation. Each day after my walk, I would get into a meditative state and have mental conversations with my injured body parts. I imagined each body part telling me of its pain as well as its plans to get better, as if my individual body parts were a separate being.
This took my focus off of me and placed it solely on my injured body part.
I began to feel sorry for my injured neck and back, instead of feeling sorry for myself. It really reiterated the fact that I am not my body and I am not my pain. I began asking what I could do for these body parts to help them improve. The most consistent answer I received was to love them, to love these body parts that needed extra attention. I began imagining myself hugging my individual body parts and sending them love. This might sound crazy, but it really helped my pain levels. And I stopped crying!
3) Write. Pour your heart out. Get it out of your head and out of your body.
During this time, I also made it a point to journal every day, something I typically do most days, but I wanted to make sure I was cognizant of the process and really expressing my feelings around the changes that were happening in my life at the time.
At the time, I was also mourning my breakup with performing massage and trying to honor my new path moving forward. Recognizing this new path which had been laid out before me and focusing on what lay ahead, instead of behind, helped me remember that everything happens for a reason.
No one was to blame and everything was as it should be.
Through this process of walking, meditating and journaling, I began to change the way my central nervous system interpreted pain. I started to train my brain to not see the pain as an intruder, but to see it as a signal for these activities that were giving me so much pleasure and as an opportunity to surrender to my circumstances instead of fight them.
I believe anyone who suffers from chronic pain can learn to overcome it. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s a whole fix- physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. After all, we are whole beings.
Why should we settle for less?