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When You Have Pain, You Don't Have to be a Pain

Posted Sep 16 2010 6:15am
There are some things in life that are simply priceless. Here's one; from a Hall of Fame client of ours. Unsolicited.


Ellie, Katie, Doug, Christine and gang -

Quote for the day …

I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one..' 

Maya Angelou

Miss you guys … hip and knee are continuing to do great – it’s like I have a new life!!!  Have a great rest of the week!!!


P.S.  Give Hanna extra pats from me!


Ok, so I'll admit that when I hurt, and that's been fairly often over the last three years from three different injuries, I'm not always the cheeriest person in the room. But, how do you do what Maya Angelou has learned?

  1. Admit you hurt. At least to your self and perhaps to someone close to you. Denying your pain will usually make it worse because, well, you will do things in denial that will typically overload the injured area and the result is more pain which you then deny and on it goes.
  2. Recognize that pain is a vital sign like pulse and blood pressure. When you hurt, something in your "system" is off. It could be physical, mental, or emotional. I hurt, typically at night in my sleep, mostly in my thoracic spine, when I'm under heavy emotional stress. It's my mind's way of letting me know and finding an outlet. Why at night? Because the unconscious is free. During the day, the unconscious part of your mind is not within your awareness. I haven't figured out why, in my case, that my spine hurts and not other body part like my foot or elbow but the unconscious will often use metaphors, for example in your dreams, and maybe I hurt there because the spine is the "backbone" and when I'm faced with situations or decisions that challenge my sense of stability or my "backbone", my mind uses it to tell me about it.
  3. Breathe. Deep breathing has been shown to lower pain levels and anxiety which really go hand in hand. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position in a quiet space (or use Bose headphones - the ones that block out noise).  Close your eyes. Breathe in slowly and deeply and then hold your breath for about five seconds and then let it go. Let all the energy just flow out. Then repeat it. Clear your mind and focus on the breath. See how you feel after about five minutes.
  4. Recognize that pain is three dimensional. Pain is physical, mental. and emotional. And the suffering, the part that makes you a pain to others, is from the mental/emotional aspect. Check your self during the day about what and how you're thinking about your pain. What line are you running through your head? I recently over loaded my right shoulder. Yeah, the one that I had a torn rotator cuff and spent all that time in prolotherapy and rehab. It happens. But, because it hurts, because I know what I gave up to get it fixed, my mind instantly went to,"Great. I probably just tore something else. Now, I'll be in prolo again, and rehab, and have to give up a bunch of stuff, and then I'll gain weight, and then my back will hurt because I gained weight, and then....." STOP THE INSANITY. Stop the projection into the future. Yeah, my shoulder hurts but it's not the same as before and even if I did tear something, I'll deal with it. But, the mental control is an active process. You choose your thoughts which then alter your feelings and actions.
  5. Be thankful you can feel. Huh? Well, there is a condition, a rare genetic condition, that prevents people from feeling pain. It's called Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis or CIPA. People with this disorder often die at a much younger age because the pain, which normally would alert you to a problem and then action, is absent. Pain is a vital sign. Remember that. It's there to help you. It helps you change. Click here for a post I wrote several years ago about pain and change. I think you'll like it.
  6. Remind your self that you will get better. Most musculoskeletal conditions improve although sometimes you need some help along the way. One of my teachers said that pain is just a sensation. We attach meaning to it. If you can detach the meaning and think o fit as sensation, it will help you get better faster.
  7. Choose. This is at the heart of Maya Angelou's statement. She is simply saying that she can choose to be a pain with others or not. Now, notice that she didn't say it was easy and that's because it's not easy. We have to balance denial against admission, admission against intrusion into other's space, and then action against inaction. We have to make a lot of choices along the way to move from being in pain and suffering to being in pain and living.

And one parting thought. Anger. Anger about your injury, surgery, position in life, what other's have done to you, wherever anger resides in you, do your best to deal with it and let it go because anger will find an outlet and usually it's in the form of pain. Anger is an unexpressed hurt. Someone or something hurt you and, in the moment, you failed to express it. You buried it. And over time, that buried anger will become entangled with other hurts and then one day you fly off the handle because someone cuts you off in traffic or brings you iced tea instead of Diet Coke. If this sounds like you, try reading Emotional Resilience by David Viscott. Lots of great, practical information on anger, the past, and what to do about it.

Life is too short to be a pain when you're in pain.


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