In my previous post, I shared my story to help bring you to a place of Understanding Chronic Pain. In this post, I share my insights from living with chronic pain aimed at helping someone going through a similar experience. I hope this post helps you in some way.
Tips for Living with Chronic Pain
Self-Empowerment is Everything
When you first start experiencing chronic physical pain, you may find yourself experiencing a spiral of shame, blame, resentment, depression, and other uncomfortable emotions.
After my car accident, I thought the pain would just go away on its own, but it didn’t. I blamed myself for not seeking help sooner. I internalized a lot of difficult emotions, engaged in many self-destructive habits, and struggled from day to day.
When I finally did seek help, the process was miserable. I fought to receive any kind of coverage for chiropractics and physical therapy, but it was short-lived. I blamed my car insurance company for treating me poorly and cutting off my coverage so soon. Afterwards, I was still in severe chronic pain. I blamed myself for not advocating for myself better or hiring a lawyer to file a lawsuit in time.
I realized that these emotional events felt bad energetically and they were holding me back, keeping me stuck in the past, and preventing me from getting the healing I needed. I chose to let go of all blame and resentment towards everyone involved. I completely forgave myself. I resolved to take full ownership of my healing process.
Amazing things can happen when we begin to have a positive perspective.
Even in the depths of our pain, we can choose to look for the light in the darkness. If we make a positive shift in our perspective, we can help facilitate our healing. Even in the midst of suffering, we can be grateful that we’re alive and having this human experience. Pain hurts us, but it can also teach us valuable lessons in patience, resilience, grace, and so much more if we allow it to.
When I fully committed to my healing, I released my feelings of worry and attachment about how much energy, time, and money it would take. After that, I was able to completely focus on the process of healing and everything began to move in a positive direction. It can be empowering to actively make the decisions in regards to your own health.
Shifting Our Mindset
When it comes to coping with chronic pain, having an all-or-nothing mindset is the enemy of positive change. Living with an all-or-nothing mentality sets us up for disappointment. We either burn ourselves out doing the “all” or let ourselves down doing the “nothing.” It does nothing positive for our pain. Ultimately, we need to take a deeper look at why we want to do things all-or-nothing. It has everything to do with ego, desire, and idealization.
When our bodies are in physical pain, we tend to look at everything through the lens of our fears. We have intentions to do what we can to avoid inflicting further pains on ourselves.
One of the most important changes we can pursue is shifting from a mindset of fear to a mindset of curiosity. In that curiosity, we can still be gentle and caring with ourselves. From that place of curiosity, we can begin to explore what is possible, a little bit at a time.
Instead of focusing on what our bodies can’t do, we can begin to ask, “what can my body try to do today?”
- We may not be able to carry the heavy laundry basket downstairs, but we may be able to do a couple gentle stretches.
- We may not be able to do a whole workout, but we may be able to focus on one exercise that doesn’t flare up our pain.
- We may not be able to go on a long hike, but we may be able to go on a short walk.
Awareness is Key
Everyone experiences chronic pain slightly differently. It is important to gain awareness of what is specifically triggering your pain and making it worse.
When we’re in pain, we may be tempted to remain motionless, but in my experience, movement is the key to helping us move forwards in our healing processes.
My worst pain occurs in my neck and lower back. My pain often gets triggered when I do movements involving those areas—but even more so than that, my pain gets triggered when I spend hours sitting or laying motionlessly.
When I used to work a full-time desk job, I would sit at a desk all day every weekday. I tried my best to maintain good posture, but it was incredibly difficult. Sitting at a desk for countless hours contributed to the worsening of my pain. Now, I work at home as an entrepreneur, but I still need to use a computer daily. It has really helped me to have an adjustable height desk in my home office. Having this type of desk enables you to choose whether you want to stand or sit. My body can tolerate standing well so since I’ve been working at home, I have not adjusted my desk to the sitting position once.
Now when I’m working, I also make sure to take frequent breaks to walk around the house and do other things. I do not spend countless hours working motionlessly at my desk like I used to when I was working for someone else.
Having full body awareness and maintaining proper posture is extremely important when it comes to pain management.
Remaining present with this awareness is a full-time job in and of itself, but it is so worthwhile.
It is helpful to work with a doctor, but I would also recommend doing your own research and making your own decisions about what you do and don’t do. Be aware that a lot of doctors can use fear tactics and are quick to recommend addictive pain pills or refer you to someone who advocates giving you surgery that you may not necessarily need. Know that there are so many beneficial healing modalities available outside the Western standard approach to medicine.
We have bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, cartilage, joints, fascia, and more. Our bodies are complex and our pains are multifaceted. It is oftentimes not just one thing causing our pain, but a combination of various factors, and so our approach to healing also needs to be multifaceted to address everything involved.
Below I discuss the various modalities that have helped me in my healing process.
I have seen 7 different chiropractors over the course of this journey. These experiences have been both good and bad. All in all, I’m really glad I did not give up on chiropractics.
The first time I went to a chiropractor, I was grossly disappointed in the intake process, I felt extremely uncomfortable, and I did not go back.
With the second chiropractor, I went once every month or so depending on what issues I was having. This chiropractor was older and he only did manual adjusting. I didn’t keep that up, though, because I felt like I wasn’t getting the value for how much each visit cost.
I had a positive experience at the third chiropractor but I did not go consistently. It was close to my work so I mostly did occasional emergency visits on my lunch break when I was experiencing significant pain.
The fourth chiropractor didn’t last long. The office had long wait times and I spent more time in the waiting room than in the appointment itself. I was disappointed and so I stopped going there.
With the fifth chiropractor, I was in a lot more chronic pain at this point. I was willing to give anything a try. They used manual adjusting as well as a traction table. I got adjusted once a week, then twice a month, then once a month. All the while, I was still in severe pain.
The sixth chiropractor was where the real progress started to happen. I enjoy working with a young, motivated chiropractor who uses an Integrator™ tool. I get adjusted 2-3x/week. I experience less pain and more functionality when I get adjusted so frequently. These adjustments significantly helped reduce my knee pain and contributed to me having a better curve in my neck.
I began searching for another chiropractor to get another opinion. My seventh chiropractor was an upper cervical specialist. Unfortunately the adjustments were too painful and I could not continue care with him.
I learned about network spinal analysis / network care chiropractics when I was experiencing an episode of severe but temporary nervous system dysfunction. It is a deeply relaxing, subtle energetic form of adjustment which calms down the nervous system. My body loves network care so I added it to my healing repertoire. I continue to see my sixth and eighth chiropractor regularly. Under the care of both chiropractors, I’m finally feeling like my body’s healing processes are overcoming the “sticking point” I’ve been at for quite some time. I experience far less pain, more functionality, and better range of motion.
I completed 2 rounds of physical therapy which helped me gain confidence in my ability to consistently do small movements. Resistance bands are a great tool to use. I now take a DIY approach to physical therapy, as I regularly do many of the same exercises. I have made movement a consistent habit in my life. It does not look the same every day, but I always try to do something, even if that is only a few stretches and foam rolling.
It’s about assessing exactly where I am each day, and fitting in the appropriate amount of movement without overdoing it.
It’s about really slowing things down, being patient, and moving deliberately.
It’s about fully understanding what movement I’m doing while I’m doing it.
It’s about being fully present in each moment, and making sure all the right muscles are being utilized before rushing through something.
It’s about exercising to address my weaknesses instead of ignoring them and hoping they magically go away.
I’ve received at least one massage every month for the past few years. I’ve showed up to these appointments in anywhere from minor to severe pain. I have enjoyed these massages for pain relief, relaxation, and healing. I’ve experienced great results from regular massages and I now aim to get 2-3 massages a month rather than just one.
I recommend finding yourself a massage therapist that is so wonderful that your reaction to the massage is basically, “shut up and take my money!” Seriously, though. Personally I enjoy working with a massage therapist that is extremely knowledgeable and experienced. She also happens to be only 15 minutes from my home. She is well-versed in deep tissue massage, myofascial release, lymph node drainage, Orthopedic massage, Swedish massage, Reiki healing, Theta healing, craniosacral therapy, cupping, and more. I’m so grateful for the massages I receive from her.
After my car accident, I fell into a downward spiral that involved using food as an emotional outlet and gaining a lot of weight, which made my pain worse. After I came up from rock bottom, I began to change the way I was eating. I healed my relationship with food and lost 55 lbs in the process. This significantly reduced the strain on my spine and body. Specifically, I experience much less knee pain than when I was at a heavier weight.
Reiki is an energy healing method that effectively helps promote the body’s healing processes. I give myself reiki energy healing every day, and especially before bed at night. I offer in-person and distance reiki energy healing; if you’re interested in exploring this, you can contact me here.
Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) Therapy
Similar to reiki, PEMF therapy works with your energy field. PEMF aligns your energy field to a designated frequency which can be fine tuned to address a certain issue you are experiencing. Typically you either lie down on a large mat or have a smaller mat placed on your affected area. The process of receiving PEMF therapy extremely relaxing and enjoyable. PEMF has helped me achieve some immediate pain relief.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
HBOT involves lying in a pod, being put under high pressure, and receiving pure oxygen to help promote the body’s healing processes. HBOT can be used to treat various chronic conditions. It is called a “dive” because it simulates what the body feels like to do a deep underwater dive. I’ve never been scuba diving but I regularly have some ear pressure issues on airplanes. During HBOT, I experienced some ear pressure discomfort with residual effects that ended up lasting for a week afterwards. While I had a fairly positive experience breathing the pure oxygen, I would not do HBOT consistently due to my own ear pressure issues.
The neural pathways in our brain associated with pain are constantly being utilized. Even if our pain is getting better, it may seem like it is still the same because the same neural pathways keep firing habitually. One way to help calm down those pain pathways is to engage in a regular meditation practice while being in a physical position that does not cause us further pain.
Meditation is wonderful because it is free and it is something that can be done nearly anywhere, whenever we need it. We can meditate with one of the many free guided meditations available on YouTube or we can simply listen to the birds outside. Personally my favorite way to meditate is lying on my back in bed listening to binaural beats.
Physical pain and emotional pain are so intertwined. Starting a regular journaling habit is a free and powerful way to work through your emotions. Journaling is a great way to help shift your default habits from a place of ego to a place of intuition, compassion, and awareness.
Allow yourself to write exactly what you are thinking and feeling. Write down the hard questions. Allow yourself to fully experience exactly what you are going through in this present moment. When we have deep, uncomfortable feelings, we are allowed to lean into those feelings and experience them for a while. We are allowed to cry the tears we want to cry. We are also allowed to write through our struggles. Writing our feelings in a journal can help us fully experience and release these emotions. After we cry, write, and process these emotions, we may feel lighter.
Navigating Travel & Social Situations
I have chronic pain in my neck and back which is further aggravated by traveling. Even on my best of days, traveling still feels like a risk.
The roads are full of potholes which create bumps when ran over, in turn causing neck and back pain. When driving, it is imperative to consider which roads to take for the least amount of pain. You can keep track of which roads in your area are the best and worst for your pain. When you are driving yourself somewhere, you can choose to take the route of least potholes. If someone else is driving you, make sure to communicate clearly with them beforehand so they know your pain may be aggravated by the route they choose to take and the way they drive. You can recommend the best route beforehand. Let them know that you would prefer that they do not drive fast over bumpy roads and that they do not bring the car to a sudden stop unless it is an absolute emergency.
I optimistically commit to showing up somewhere weeks or months in advance, hoping that my pain will allow me to attend. But when the day rolls around, I often have to cancel because I know my pain will only worsen if I go. This may make me seem flaky to some people. That is why it is important that your family and friends understand what you’re going through. If someone cannot understand why you sometimes have to put yourself first, then you can find someone else who does understand. It has been so healing for me to find a wonderful friend who is always willing to drive to me so we can enjoy each others company without causing my body further pain.
Ask yourself, “do I think I’m going to feel better or worse after going to this?” Consider the physical, emotional, and spiritual impact.
When you are in a social situation, allow yourself to ask for what you need without fear of being judged. When I am socializing in a room full of people, I need to make sure to position myself in the most comfortable chair possible in a position that minimizes the amount of back-and-forth neck motions I need to make. I do not hesitate to ask to switch seats with somebody in order to minimize my pain.
Flying takes another toll on the body, especially when it comes to longer flights. Know that planning a big trip, while it may seem exciting, probably isn’t what your body needs during a time when you are heavily focused on healing. I learned this the hard way when I spent a month in New Zealand. The trip ended up being physically painful and it set my healing back a lot. When you are experiencing severe chronic pain, it is best not to plan any big trips into the future. If you are traveling anywhere for a period of time longer than a few days, it can be helpful to book an appointment with a local massage therapist or look into any other healing modality that may be available in that area.
Rather than plan a faraway vacation, it can be more sustainable to focus on what is possible to explore and enjoy in your immediate local area. Spending time immersed in nature is incredibly healing. You can open a map and begin by exploring all the parks located nearest to you. You can find great joy in having a regular habit to go on nature walks.
You Are Worth It
Please don’t wait until you experience severe problems to take control of your health, even if you don’t have any symptoms or your symptoms seem minor. Oftentimes it’s not until a problem has completely developed until you start to experience physical symptoms. You can make the choice now to be proactive instead of reactive.
Check in with yourself and your needs every day.
When was the last time you’ve…
- Been to a chiropractor?
- Gotten a massage?
- Done physical movement?
- Written in a journal?
I give you permission: You are allowed to spend as much time, money, and energy as you truly need to move towards your healing. You are 100% worth it.
Your body has an incredible innate ability to heal, especially if you intentionally do things that move you towards your healing, and if you work with your body rather than against it.
You don’t have to have all the answers right now.
You only need the intention and willingness to pursue your healing in its totality.
Thanks for reading! I would love to hear about your own experiences with chronic pain. If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll share it with a friend.