If you’re in chronic pain, it’s important to know that you already have the tools to reduce the intensity of your pain. Body discomfort and chronic pain is as much about how we think about our body and live in it, than it is about the specific syndrome or diagnosis we’ve been labelled with. I believe this so much!
Without putting myself out of a job here, relying on just other specialists to heal really isn’t a good approach to managing your pain and injury, by doing this we forget in a feat to alleviate our pain, that we actually have ourselves too- we live in a body that is designed to heal itself after all.
What is Pain?
Have you ever thought it’s funny how some of us have some horrid looking injuries and experience no pain, and yet for others the lightest touch to an injury can still generate severe pain? Very strange, but that’s because pain is a result of processing in our nervous system, so although we can all look at an MRI scan, we can’t all predict or ever really know how much pain another person is in. A diagnosis may be universal, but the experience of pain is definitely not.
The two main things to know about pain is that 1) it’s an output, and 2) that it relates to safety. So if your brain thinks that something is unsafe, ultimately those things will hurt more than if your brain thinks you’re safe. If you’re safe then that pain will go down.
There’s not one magic answer to pain unfortunately, which is why it’s such a complex topic, and why perhaps your friend can easily heal from a fracture in 5 weeks but you’re still healing and in pain at 7 weeks. But if we know that the pain we experience is determined by how we are calibrating it, then there are approaches we can try that may turn the volume down on our pain a little bit.
Natural Ways to Beat your Pain
1) Do New Things
One thing about pain is that it’s high intensity all the time, and it’s unrelenting. So inevitably this can make you act and think in a negative way, and you end up anticipating pain, which is often worse than the pain itself! Your body ends up being tight and rigid, and probably the flexibility of your thoughts are rigid too. One thing you can do, is break out of this pattern that isn’t serving you, and do something new. Act your way in to thinking, rather than think your way in to action.
Even if its small, learning something new will help you and your pain so much. It’s challenging, the last thing you want to do is something new when you’re struggling and managing pain! But, this will move you away from the inner attitudes like expectation, dread, and judgement that come along with pain, and invite you towards attitudes like compassion, care, and creativity, that come along with alleviating pain.
2) Don’t let your body become too abstract from you
Take time to learn the subtleness of your body, and sense what is happening moment by moment. What happens to your body when you see something you like? What happens when you’re in a bad mood? Find the things that feel good and stimulate your bodies sense of feeling alive. Take a walk outside and take in things around you. Activities that heighten your senses and foster calmness within you, will absolutely reset your nervous system, and will allow you to be less in your head thinking about how much pain you’re in.
3) Refer to your own body map
Your body has a great way of showing you how you aren’t how you think you are. Be open to learning and receiving new information about your body that may not be the same as what you thought you already new i.e exactly like the anatomy image you saw on Wikipedia, or exactly how your body responded to something a year ago. Try and come in to your body’s reality as as a point of reference as much as you can. I think when we think we’re right, we generally stop listening…but our system is constantly changing and adapting so it’s important that we maintain an open mind and keep tuning in.
4) Change how you perceive pain
Sell yourself a better story of your pain, change your thinking or your language, for instance, ‘slipped disc’ – slipping a disc is virtually impossible to do! So why put yourself through imagining you’ve got something slipping out of line inside of you? Think what lens you want to live through, if you think of pain as its been bestowed upon you then you’re going to end up creating a life that looks like that. Instead, opt to thank your body for the ride so far and thank it for giving you a sign that it’s struggling and needs some tender loving care.
5) ALWAYS keep moving
Your body is designed to move, it moves as you breathe, when you focus your eyes, when you’re sitting and standing, as well as when you walk, run and dance around. Although you will be limited with your pain, don’t stop your system from moving! Focus on what you can do instead of the things that you’ve had to forgo due to your pain.
I hope these words are supportive. Pain management is about adapting to a new kind of normal and that doesn’t always have to be a negative thing… I think that each bump in the road provides you with new discoveries, and when it comes to wanting old movement ability back, just set mini goals and trust that your body has your back.
Always work to find your own ease, to change your perception, and to tune in to your own body as a point of reference, as it’s often your inner attitude that will regulate you the most.