5 Keys to Taking Power Over Your Pain
The following keys can not only enhance recovery from pain, but allow you to be happy and powerful in the midst of it.
Key #1: Visualize Yourself on the Other Side of Pain
Life is made up of two distinct experiences: thephysical realm and the conceptual realm. There is a lot of evidence that the conceptual realm has strong effects on the physical. In other words, what we imagine creates a physical experience. Studies are growing in number showing improved recovery from pain based on positive thinking, such as the recentstudy on ABC showing improved migraine treatment and research on positive thinking being as effective for back pain as pain killers.
How we view ourselves has a psychosomatic effect, meaning a mental to physical reaction. According to Sharon Sauer, nationally certified myofascial trigger point therapist and author who worked with Dr. Janet Travell herself and treated thousands of cases of pain since the 80’s from untouchable fibromyalgia patients to professional athletes, the most important way to set yourself on a path of recovery from pain is to view yourself from the perspective of what it will be like when you are free of pain. In other words, VISUALIZE YOURSELF ON THE OTHER SIDE OF PAIN.
Pain is an experience that can either rule our lives and make us victims of it, or it can simply be an experience that we are having. When we imagine ourselves doing all the things we plan to do after this experience of pain has passed, our minds create the psychosomatic effect of recovery. We avoid the helplessness and depression and start living life as we truly are again now. The happiness of the pain free truthful state of our being can be experienced today, no matter if the physical reality of it lies in the future. And more and more research shows that this perspective speeds our recovery process greatly.
Visualize yourself achieving your goals and enjoy it now! Reality lies in your mind’s eye!
Key #2: It’s Not as Bad as You Think – It Might Be Muscular!
One of the crazy things about pain is that it can feel much worse that the actual problem, especially muscle pain! Have you every had a charley horse? The pain from a simple muscle cramp can be extreme when in reality, there isn’t really much of any tissue damage at all.
Patients regularly present to trigger point therapy clinics with severe pain in the neck, back, knees, shoulders, hands, etc. and after some simple trigger point therapy compression to a few muscles, they are walking out with much less pain.
To the left is a diagram that links to an online program called the "Symptom Checker" for pain that is caused by trigger points in muscles. It won’t help you treat your pain, but it is useful to see that the entire body is covered in pain regions caused by muscles. Check it out and you’ll find that the pain you are experiencing might not be as serious of a problem as you think – IT MIGHT JUST BE A TRIGGER POINT!
Key #3: Focus on WHAT YOU CAN DO
Set goals and takes steps that are achievable. We teach you self-care tips every month that just about anyone can employ to be proactive in addressing pain and improving function in their bodies.
- What if it didn’t hurt AS MUCH, if the pain dropped from an 8 to a 5 in severity?
- What if I could move a little more than I did last week?
- What if I could pass this range of motion test?
- What if I could perform this activity for a little longer period of time than before?
- What if I became less upset about this pain and didn’t let it affect my happiness?
Then, perform the simple 3 step self-care routine that you have been learning to achieve these goals:
- Heat – Warm up the area where the suspect muscle causing the pain is
- Compression – Use self-care tools to compress the taut painful bands of muscle so they release and relieve your pain
- Stretching – Follow the simple stretches to increase your range of motion and retrain the muscle to be long and flexible instead of short and painful
Focus on what you can do everyday, and soon you’ll look back and see how far you have come!
Key #4: Be Brave – Sometimes We Have to Go Through the Pain to Get to the Other Side
It has been said that if you put pain in front of someone, they will likely move backwards. If you put pain behind them, they will go forwards. Above them, they will duck. Under them, they will jump. And so on…
But when we are dealing with muscular pain from myofascial trigger points(which is nearly always present if the not the major component of physical pain), the direction we must go is right through the pain. This does NOTmean that we perform the activities that cause us pain – which might exacerbate our pain or lead to injury. Rather it means that we perform the trigger point therapy and self-care to the painful bands of muscle.
The treatment may involve some pain during the compression. Many times, it is experienced as a ‘good pain’. Research shows that in the taut bands of muscle, there are painful chemicals such as Substance P that sensitize the tissue causing it to hurt when you press on it. There is also some serotonin in these bands of muscle, which may be why there can be a pleasurable sensation, as well (good hurt).
If we avoid doing things that are good for our muscles, such as avoiding the self-care because it hurts to press on the muscle, or such as not moving through our full range of motion because of the pain, we may be perpetuating the problem and even making it worse.
So, of course with proper guidance, be brave and perform the recommended care for your muscles even if there is some pain involved. Note: It should not be sharp pain that makes you withdraw and tighten up or electrical shooting pain such as from a nerve. As long as it is good pain, which a good trigger point therapist can help you understand (hurts so good), it is very beneficial to not be afraid of it and to go through it to get to the other side!
Key #5: Eliminate Perpetuating Factors – Don’t Fight a Losing Battle
Nothing is worse than the frustration of working hard to improve, meanwhile a perpetuating factor is undoing all your efforts. Perpetuating factors in physical pain include:
- Bad postures: You might be sleeping in a position that causes shortening of muscles and recreates your pain every night. You might have a terrible ergonomic setup at your desk. These postures can be corrected and save you a lot of work and pain.
- Short Leg: When one of your legs is shorter than the other, it can make your pelvis not level, which will cause muscles to have to work in abnormal ways and tighten. The right trigger point therapy and heel lift can solve this problem easily.
- Small Hemipelvis: It is not uncommon for one side of the pelvis to be slightly smaller than the other, which causes a lot of muscular pain and dysfunction, especially when sitting. The right lift under one side of the buttocks can make all the difference in the world for pain relief.
- Paradoxical Breathing: When we breath with our chest instead of our abdomen, it creates chronic tightening of neck and chest muscles, which can be extremely painful as it accumulates over time. Retraining your breathing can make everyday life much more relaxed and less painful.
- Long Second Toe (Morton’s Foot): This vastly overlooked physical condition is very common. When the great toe is shorter than the second toe, it causes instability in the foot and lots of muscle tension from the ankles up to the neck from walking. A simple toe lift under the base of the big toe can resolve this issue, causing remarkable results.
- Dehydration: Think of your muscles as kitchen sponges. When they dry out, they lose their flexibility and are more susceptible to injury. Make sure you are getting your 8 glasses of water in per day. Your muscles will thank you and cause you less pain.
- Stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine: It shouldn’t be a surprise that stimulants create muscle tension. Keep this in mind and seek proper guidance on how to eliminate these harmful chemicals from your lifestyle.
There are other perpetuating factors, as well. A good trigger point therapist can evaluate you and eliminate them so your efforts at recovery aren’t futile.
If you use these 5 keys, along with proper guidance, you will have power over your pain. This power will start immediately, even before full recovery, and last you throughout your recovery to the end.
Enjoy the start of this new year and pass this information on to anyone who is suffering from pain!