The 7-point-plan for chronic pain and tension:

So, you’re hurting?
And it’s been a long time?

Then you’re like a lot of my clients.

Acute muscular pain is relatively easy to treat, and often goes away by itself anyway.
When a new client tells me that her neck/shoulder area has been painful for a couple of weeks, and nothing seems to help, I’m thinking “oh, this is going to be great!”. In 90% of these cases, it takes one treatment, and things are fine.
There really aren’t a lot of things that give me more pleasure than that new client checking out with the receptionist, exclaiming over and over “This is amazing. I can’t believe it. Look, I can move my head!”

Chronic pain is different.
It’s not easy to treat at all! It’s persistent, nagging, evasive, and it’s hard to predict what treatment will help. I started comparing it to predicting the weather–there are just too many different factors playing into it.
Chronic pain is now seen as a disease itself, not just a symptom, and it’s more a disease of the nervous system than the muscle or connective tissue.

So how do we treat the nervous system?

We need to get moving, develop a better attitude, get out of stress, but we also need good feelings in the areas that hurt–that’s why massage therapy can be very helpful. It gives the nerves something else to report than just pain, and feeling loose afterwards is sending signals to the brain that “this area is functioning well” which in the long run can re-educate the brain.

Here’s a video to explain these concepts. Of course it’s not as easy as that.

It’s hard to develop a positive attitude if you’re hurting so much that you can’t sleep, can’t think, and can hardly get through the day.

So here are the seven interventions, tested and approved by my chronic pain clients:

 

1. Make it a priority to get some kind of bodywork once a week, for about 6 weeks.

Of course best would be a GREAT therapist… but if you can’t afford that, try massage schools, your friends, people who want to practice massage, chair massages.
Contrary to common beliefs, they can’t do much damage as long as you communicate CLEARLY.
Even if it’s just 10 minutes, in a way that feels “useful” to you. If they’re too soft, or they just poke you painfully, it’s no good. So make sure you pick someone who listens to your feedback!
You should expect it to feel better afterwards. If it doesn’t, find a different therapist. The problem in the beginning is just that the improvement doesn’t last long. So try to get frequent treatments, even if they’re very short.
After the six weeks, you’ll know which treatments work best, and you can find a good maintenance plan. Often, a good massage once a month is enough!
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2. Exercise! Find a buddy, join a gym, or use YouTube… just do 30min 3x/week.

If you don’t know what to do… start with www.yogatherapyexercises.com.
Best would be to have a private instructor, or personal trainer who pays a lot of attention to alignment, and strengthening supportive muscles.
Just start very slowly, and the first week VERY lightly, and pay attention to keeping the shoulders BACK AND DOWN and the low belly in.
You start slow so you can feel how you react. Take notes about what you did, so the next day you can check in with your painful spots, and find out what was beneficial, and what you should stay away from.
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3. Whatever else helps you–put it into your treatment plan.

Find things that make you feel better. That’s a hot bath? Well, now hot baths are on your schedule 3x per week, at least.

Of course, on the flip side–avoid all the things that make it worse!

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4. Meditate. Somehow. Talk to a spouse or friend, maybe you can make a pact to meditate together for 5 minutes a day for starters.

Try www.calm.com. They have apps and a web version. No more excuses… meditation helps A LOT with pain.
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5. Educate yourself. Seriously–education about pain helps against pain!

Check Paul Ingraham’s site about pain, for example, but don’t get hung up on “pain is an opinion”. He doesn’t mean “it’s in your head”. But pain exists only in your brain. Ironically, the more strange and alarming a sensation is, the more pain is created–so knowing about pain makes it less “strange”, and so the pain lessens.
It’s like flicking the light on in the closet to look for monsters. If we know for sure what exactly is in the closet, the fear stays at bay.
If you love reading and learning, check out this book: “A Nation in Pain” by Judy Foreman.
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6. Maybe you should get meds.

Seriously. If you can’t sleep at night, because you’re hurting so much, you’ll do more damage to your whole system than painkillers do. Lack of sleep actually makes all kinds of pain worse, and especially worsens cases of chronic pain.
Just make sure you have a good doctor who cares, and is board-certified in pain management.
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7. Find your way.

What helps you might be useless to others. It’s important that you trust yourself, and that you find doctors and practitioners who listen to you, instead of insisting on their own agenda.
But if you find someone who listens to you, somebody who is on top of the research, and willing to share–make sure you listen to them, as well.
Please share in the comments what has helped you–we could all learn from one another.

 

 

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