I have always been moderately active throughout my life and, have been fortunate enough to say that the only physical discomforts I have suffered from are minor muscle aches from over exerting myself. These minor aches and pains never hindered my abilities to go to work, take care of my kids and go about my daily routine: they merely caused me a few days of discomfort which I stoically endured – or so I thought. About a month ago I wrenched my lower back executing one of my yoga poses, I would like to stay for the record that I have done this twist pose a thousand times but this time was different. When I stood up I felt a sharp shooting pain starting in my lower back and radiating down both legs and through to the ends of my toes. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. As the day progressed my pain worsened and my overall mobility was impaired, this unbearable pain lasted no less than ten days, and for those ten days I was not myself. I was dependant on my husband and my children to perform the simplest tasks like putting on my shoes, and helping me get in and out of bed. During the first few days of my injury I took muscle relaxants and, upon the advise of an athletic massage therapist, I performed hip mobility exercises to strengthen and lengthen my muscles (as we age, our mobility diminishes leading to muscle strain and injury), eventually the pain receded and today I enjoy full range of motion.
When I look back upon those ten days I ask myself what I would have done if the pain hadn’t gone away?
October 22nd marked the beginning of National Pain Awareness Week, and according to the Chronic Pain Association of Canada One in five Canadians suffer from some form of chronic pain impairing their ability to function daily and thus diminishing their quality of life. What does one do in this situation? How does one find relief particularly if he or she had, or is predisposed to developing an addiction? (see last week’s blog about addictive personalities). The conventional approach to dealing with chronic pain is pharmacological, doctors prescribe various opioids to help with pain relief, however long term opioid use can result in addiction. Alternative treatments include things like behavioural therapy, psychotherapy, occupational therapy and acupuncture. In recent years however, the practise of mindful meditation has proven most useful in dealing with chronic persistent pain. Mindful meditation is the practise of paying attention to our inner and outer experiences and encounter them with acceptance, patience and compassions. In the case of a patient who suffers from chronic pain this means by accepting your pain you will be in a better position to diminish it. Traditional medicine seeks to supress our symptoms rather than accept them. “What we resist persists” If you mindfully feel the pain it will slowly begin to recede, your pain will ebb and flow like the clouds in the sky, reminding us that nothing in this life is permanent. Not the good things, and most definitely not the bad.
It must be noted however, that the results of mindful meditation are not immediate and should not be the singular approach to dealing with chronic pain. Mindful meditation is among other things a relaxation strategy which should be used in conjunction with other alternative therapies.