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Stop Pain Spreading

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Put Your Back Into It (Or Don’t)!

We’ve written before about Managing Chronic Pain (Realistically!), and today we’re going to tackle a particular aspect of chronic pain management.

  • It’s a thing where the advice is going to be “don’t do this”
  • And if you have chronic pain, you will probably respond “yep, I do that”

However, it’s definitely a case of “when knowing isn’t the problem”, or at the very least, it’s not the whole problem.

Stop overcompensating and address the thing directly

We all do it, whether in chronic pain, or just a transient injury. But we all need to do less of it, because it causes a lot of harm.

Example: you have pain in your right knee, so you sit, stand, walk slightly differently to try to ease that pain. It works, albeit marginally, at least for a while, but now you also have pain in your left hip and your lumbar vertebrae, because of how you leaned a certain way. You adjust how you sit, stand, walk, to try to ease both sets of pain, and before you know it, now your neck also hurts, you have a headache, and you’re sure your digestion isn’t doing what it should and you feel dizzy when you stand. The process continues, and before long, what started off as a pain in one knee has now turned your whole body into a twisted aching wreck.

What has happened: the overcompensation due to the original pain has unduly stressed a connected part of the body, which we then overcompensate for somewhere else, bringing down the whole body like a set of dominoes.

For more on this: Understanding How Pain Can Spread

“Ok, but how? I can’t walk normally on that knee!”

We’re keeping the knee as an example here, but please bear in mind it could be any chronic pain and resultant disability.

Note: if you found the word “disability” offputting, please remember: if it adversely affects your abilities, it is a disability. Disabilities are not something that only happen to other people! They will happen to most of us at some point!

Ask yourself: what can you do, and what can’t you do?

For example:

  • maybe you can walk, but not normally
  • maybe you can walk normally, but not without great pain
  • maybe you can walk normally, but not at your usual walking pace

First challenge: accept your limitations. If you can’t walk at your usual walking pace without great pain and/or throwing your posture to the dogs, then walk more slowly. To Hell with societal expectations that it shouldn’t take so long to walk from A to B. Take the time you need.

Second challenge: accept help. It doesn’t have to be help from another person (although it could be). It might be accepting the help of a cane, or maybe even a wheelchair for “flare-up” days. Society, especially American society which is built on ideas of self-sufficiency, has framed a lot of such options as “giving up”, but if they help you get about your day while minimizing doing further harm to your body, then they can be good and even health-preserving things. Same goes for painkillers if they help you from doing more harm to your body by balling up tension in a part of your body in a way that ends up spreading out and laying ruin to your whole body.

Speaking of which:

How Much Does It Hurt? Get The Right Help For Your Pain

After which, you might want to check out:

The 7 Approaches To Pain Management


Science-Based Alternative Pain Relief

Third challenge: deserves its own section, so…

Do what you can

If you have chronic pain (or any chronic illness, really), you are probably fed up of hearing how this latest diet will fix you, or yoga will fix you, and so on. But, while these things may not be miracle cures…

  • A generally better diet really will lessen symptoms and avoid flare-ups (a low-inflammation diet is a great start for lessening the symptoms of a lot of chronic illnesses)
  • Doing what exercise you can, being mindful of your limitations yes but still keeping moving as much as possible, will also prevent (or at least slow) deterioration. Consider consulting a physiotherapist for guidance (a doctor will more likely just say “rest, take it easy”, whereas a physiotherapist will be able to give more practical advice).
  • Getting good sleep may be a nightmare in the case of chronic pain (or other chronic illnesses! Here’s to those late night hyperglycemia incidents for Type 1 Diabetics that then need monitoring for the next few hours while taking insulin and hoping it goes back down) but whatever you can do to prioritize it, do it.

Want to read more?

We reviewed a little while ago a great book about this; the title sounds like a lot of woo, but we promise the content is extremely well-referenced science:

The Pain Relief Secret: How to Retrain Your Nervous System, Heal Your Body, and Overcome Chronic Pain – by Sarah Warren

…and if your issue is back pain specifically, we highly recommend:

Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection – by Dr. John Sarno

Take care!

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