Pain-what does it mean? Everyone is either in some kind of pain or has experienced pain at some point in their lifetime. More than one-quarter of Americans (26%) age 20 years and over – or, an estimated 76.5 million Americans – report that they have had a problem with pain of any sort that persisted for more than 24 hours in duration. And more than 1 in every 10 people suffer from chronic pain in the US. That is a lot of people in pain.
Pain-what does it mean?
Pain has been with me for many years. I have suffered from back pain longer than I care to remember. I have tried everything from massage, to chiropractic therapy, cranio-sacral therapy, epidural injections and steroids. Eventually I had two back surgeries. Somewhere along the way, I found acupuncture. And I thank God for that. I wish I knew back then what I know now. I would never have undergone the surgeries. The good news is that my relationship to my pain has changed. And this attitude has altered my life.
The way it was:
I am a mother of four children, a nurse, a golfer, and runner. In college I played competitive volleyball and for years after. Insistent on staying in shape, I rollerbladed, ran and/or walked regularly, and lifted weights. For years I was an avid gardener, working for hours on end bending over with my flowers, herbs and vegetables. And when I was not doing all of those things, I had a baby in my arms or on my hip. Basically, I overdid it constantly, carrying too much, physically and mentally.
More importantly, when my body was in pain, I took medicine to make it go away or at least lessen, and I went on. I continually “pushed through” my pain, so often that eventually it caught up with me. Pain medications were no longer effective. And they just made me too tired to do what I needed to do. I was at the end of my rope.
What I did:
After years of suffering, sadly, I gave into having surgery. I was praying that I would wake up post operatively and be pain free. The surgery was painful and difficult to recover from. And I still had pain. Even after physical therapy and rest, I was still in pain. I began to see an acupuncturist and slowly, I started to feel better. You see, acupuncture gets to the root of the problem. Unlike taking pain medication, which only sometimes helped, getting regular acupuncture treatments helped me figure out WHY I was having so much pain.
What I’ve learned:
Because of my suffering, I felt called to help others. I was already a nurse, but I wanted to do more. So, I went back to graduate school to become an acupuncturist. I spent the next 3 years studying very hard to earn my Master of Acupuncture. Throughout my years of learning this amazing medicine, I was slowly transforming myself. During one of my classes, I remember my professor used a patient example with back pain. Perking up, I listened attentively as I am always interested in hearing anything related to back pain. They told us that our symptoms are our messengers.
What does THAT mean?
As mentioned before, everyone suffers from some kind of pain during their lifetime. Thequestion is, where is that pain coming from? And what does it mean? Sure, there are traumatic injuries, car accidents and acute back sprains from lifting something heavy. Those are acute incidents of pain that are caused from trauma.
I am talking about chronic pain that creeps up on you little by little, and one day you realize that you’ve been feeling this for a long time.
What is your body telling you?
So often I tried to mask my pain. It was there and I did whatever I could to make it go away, usually with medication. I never asked my body “what are you trying to tell me?” In my case, the answer was simple. I was pushing myself too hard. Most days I would go, go, go for 16 hours days. Rarely did I stop to pause, breathe, meditate or listen to how I was feeling. I finally started to listen. My body was telling me to stop. SLOW DOWN. Rest more. Take care of ME.
Pain-what does it mean? And how do we cure it?
The way it is now:
I tell you all this because my life has been forever altered by what I have learned. Some of the greatest moments in grad school were when I was able to relate what I was being taught and apply it to MY LIFE! My back pain became my teacher. It is the thing that happens when I work too hard, and do not have a balance in my life. Therefore, the cure for my pain is actually IN the pain. I am learning to dance with my pain. When I am hurting, I put my feet up and rest. Or, I sit with a heating pad on my lower back. When the pain shows up, I slow down and take a hot bath (with my favorite soaps!). Sometimes I drink a glass of red wine. And I get acupuncture and zero balancing regularly. Additionally, I move my body gently. Mainly, I listen.
Pain-what does it mean?
Life is about balance:
Our bodies are very wise. No matter what we do to inflict pain on ourselves, our bodies continually try to put us back into homeostasis. It WANTS to feel well. So, the way our body speaks to us is through our symptoms. You have a headache? Ask yourself, did I eat today? Have I had enough water? Have I slept enough? Is something bothering me at work or in one of my relationships? Am I holding in resentment or anger? We need to listen to what our body is telling us. Most often it is something very simple. Are your basic needs being met?
- Adequate sleep— are you getting enough?
- Water intake [half of our body weight in ounces/day]
- Healthy diet [not only what we eat, but when we eat and how we eat is important] Go here for Chinese Nutrition tips
- Exercise–are you moving your body regularly?
- Emotional stability–are you holding onto something? Are you angry, worried, or sad about something?
Pain-what does it mean?
Emotions can get stuck:
Everyone experiences emotions. This is completely normal. Yes, even anger is a normal response to some situations. The key learning for me was that when we begin to feel an emotion, such as frustration or worry and we ‘stuff it’ down inside, we create suffering in our body. Instead the healthy thing to do is to move that emotion. So, if it is anger you are feeling, what can you do to release that in a healthy way?
Going for a run, punching a punching bag, hitting a bucket of golf balls, singing at the top of your lungs in the car ride home, having a good cry, or scrubbing the bathtub with vigor are all good ways to release pent up emotions. Another possibility is throwing a dozen eggs at a tree out in the woods, or writing a letter to the person you are angry at and burning it when you are done!
Reframing our thoughts is another way to move and change negative emotions to positive ones. It is so easy to get into a downward spiral of how we talk to ourselves. This is another way to cause suffering and pain in our bodies. When you start with the negative talk, try taking a pause (and taking a deep breath) and reframe what you were thinking. It is hard at first, but once you start practicing it, it is amazing how much better you will feel. We become what we think about ourselves.
Pain-what does it mean?
Pain means different things for everybody. Every headache is unique, just as every person is a beautiful individual. It is impossible to get inside someone else’s body to feel their pain. The good news is that there are many powerful, natural ways to help our bodies feel better. This may require a little time and effort, AND… it is well worth it. Explore my holistic medicine page which describes many integrative approaches to wellness. Maintaining health in Body, Mind and Spirit is a beautiful way to feel whole again.