Find your path to healing and managing chronic pain.
We’ve all experienced pain to some extent during our lives. Mostly the cycle of pain follows a straightforward pattern: we get injured, we’re in pain for a while, the injury heals, then the pain goes away.
What about when the pain doesn’t go away?
Definition: Pain is often considered chronic when it lasts beyond the normal time it takes for tissue to heal – which is typically 3 to 6 months.
Whether your pain started from an injury, from postural tension or from emotional trauma, your body braces and alters movement patterns to help protect you. Trouble can begin when these patterns do not have a chance to release and reset naturally – your nervous system stays in protection mode and becomes extra sensitive. Pain can also linger because of stress, poor sleep, nutrient deficiencies or many other factors that affect your overall health.
Pain is a message sent from the brain and any sensation or movement can trigger this as a warning signal alerting you to “possible” danger. With chronic pain, this signal is amplified and usually way out of proportion to the actual trigger – think of it as a faulty alarm system. Even though the pain you feel is real, when pain has become chronic, pain does not mean further injury.
Pain is complex and confusing and frustrating and stressful!
Because of this, you may start limiting activities to avoid pain and the perceived damage in your body. But again, stress and decreased mobility can lead to more pain. Ending this cycle takes time and there really aren’t any “quick” solutions – it’s a journey and a process to find true healing.
Your healing journey will be as unique as you are. And when it comes to relieving chronic pain, it is important to set yourself up for success. In my view, these 3 components are essential for building the foundation that will guide you on the path to healing:
1. Practice Awareness
When you have awareness, you have choices. Awareness of your pain means to feel all the sensations in your body – the area that is painful, are you holding tension there or elsewhere, does that area feel warm, heavy, restricted, etc. Learn to focus inward and notice how your body feels and any emotions or thoughts that surface. If you are always blocking the pain mentally or with medication, you will not get to the source. Finding awareness is not an easy exercise, so be patient with yourself and the process – it will happen in time with repeated practice.
2. Creating Calm
Meditation, exercise, listening to music or anything that you find relaxing will help sooth your nerves. When you are worried, stressed, anxious or afraid, your body is in fight or flight mode, which is exhausting if you are going through most of your day like this. And by keeping your nervous system in overdrive, you perpetuate the pain cycle through a hypersensitive system that does not get a chance to reset and rest. Just a few minutes a day of meditation or other relaxation activities will do wonders for creating a sense of calm.
3. Experience Movement Without Pain
Movement is essential for health and healing, but when you are in pain, activities become difficult. At this point, it is key to have movement experiences that do not elicit pain or fear. Some soreness may be completely normal depending on your situation – learning what is ok to feel and what may indicate you should back-off a bit will help you move forward. Walking is usually a good place to start. I also recommend consulting with a physical therapist or other healthcare provider specializing in movement and rehabilitation so that you receive appropriate guidelines tailored for your body.
Know that you have the power within to create health and to heal your body. You do not have to accept medications and surgery as the only options for managing pain. The human body has a truly remarkable capacity for healing, even when chronic pain has been with you for years. Through awareness, mindfulness and gentle movement you can face your pain, embrace it and then begin to let it go.