Most of the time when we think of pain we’ve been taught to think of it as bad. Yet what most of us do not realize, is that our pain has insights, which if acknowledged, can greatly improve our future outcomes.
Just last week I had a very real experience with pain. After waking up early one morning, in a half sleepy daze, I was attempting to make it to the kitchen to grab water. I unintentionally decided to miss a step and fall down 7 steps of my staircase. I’m talking the completely unexpected, feet fully kicked out in front of me, landing flat on my body kind of fall. Luckily the stairs were carpeted and I didn’t do any rolling, tumbling or breaking of bones.
The most significant initial injury was to my pride, the shame quickly coursing through my mind of how it was possible for me to fly down my own staircase. In general I consider myself to be a relatively fit and strong individual. I work out five days a week. I’ve played competitive sports my entire life. I eat healthy. Yet, my shame was at an all-time high.
My second brewing emotion was that of anger towards my staircase. After a couple deep breaths, I realized the anger would not serve me very well and the only fault was that of my own.
So what did I learn about falling down my staircase? I learned that it hurts and my forearms and elbows were pretty well scraped up. Alongside that I had a slow onset, increasingly irritating amount of pain firing through my mid back between my shoulder blades creeping all the way up to the base of my head.
Over the course of the next 5 days, that pain taught me the following 5 truths.
- Pain is Real
I quickly learned that no matter how much I didn’t want that pain to be present, there was a very real reality it was not going away in the immediate future. This realization and understanding is something worth noting.
Many times in my clinic patients come to me after having pain for not only hours, days or weeks, but many times months or years with a very similar statement, “I thought it was going away so I tried to ignore it.” Before moving on further I think it’s worth asking yourself the same question:
What pain or symptoms have you been ignoring, dealing with or hoping will just go away?
As the day progressed my pain started getting worse. Not worse to the point of horrible, but worse to the point of moving my neck. Relatively simple activities such as looking up, down, and side to side significantly aggravated the problem. Even looking at my phone seem to make the pain worse. This leads me to the second truth I learned from my pain.
- Pain gives us valuable insight into what activities, actions, or movements increase or decrease our symptoms.
As seemingly simple as this sounds, I also find it something that is relatively ignored.
Most individuals usually know what causes their symptoms to become worse, yet are unwilling to stop doing those activities.
Most of us also know when we put ourselves in positions that help reduce our symptoms. Yet it is uncommon for us to recognize these because when we’re not in pain we’re usually not focused on the pain or lack thereof. One of the first things most well-trained doctors ask is, “What seems to make your problem worse and what seems to make your problem better?”
As I made my way through the weekend, I instantly realized I had big decisions to make. Would the plans (landscaping, gardening, paddleboarding) for my weekend previous to my staircase episode supersede the symptoms I most likely would exacerbate by engaging in those plans? Which brings me to my next truth.
3. We live in a society that does not honor rest, recuperation, or healing.
My typical entrepreneurial, go get it done attitude first kicked in and said, “Suck it up! You can handle it. Get the things done you need to get done.” Yet my intuition and pain were telling me something very different, “Rest, relax, and do the things necessary for your body to heal.”
My question to you becomes:
Which voice speaks louder when you are injured?
We all have obligations and commitments. Yet what hierarchy do those commitments fall in comparison with the commitments we do or do not have in relation to the health of our physical body?
Often times the idea of cancelling plans, changing itineraries, or taking a day off just does not seem possible. Yet at what expense to our own health, healing, and full recovery?
- Symptoms can be used as a guide.
When confronted with pain, have you considered your pain and symptoms as intelligent and guiding?
Your body uses pain to communicate something to you. More times than not, our outside commitments usually come first over healing and rest. On top of not resting, pain medications or medications to reduce or cover up our symptoms are usually the first line of defense to numb the pain. Cover it up. Go on with life.
I considered this concept. By masking my pain, I most likely would have went on with usual plans, been unaware of overdoing it, and ran a high risk of doing further injury without even knowing it; Potentially even for days, weeks or months if medications were what I fully relied on for healing.
My weekend came and went. Come Monday, I did what was most intuitive in my mind.
I called my Chiropractor to get my spine and nervous system checked.
(Yes, even Chiropractors have a Chiropractor).
Upon a careful evaluation and exam, it was found that I subluxated my lower cervical spine (neck) and a Chiropractic adjustment was recommended. With a slight alteration to my normal wellness and maintenance chiropractic care, I was able to quickly, conservatively, and relatively easily put my body into a better position to heal over the coming week.
- Pain and symptoms are good indicators to consult with a qualified Physician to uncover the root cause.
My problem wasn’t pain, muscle spasms, or fractures. It was damage to the nervous system, which travels through the vertebrae in my lower neck. The trauma to my nervous system put my body in a lowered state of functioning. Typically when this occurs, not only does the body heal at a slower rate, but the nerve irritation stresses other parts of the body as well.
Over the following four days my body began to do what it intuitively and innately knows how to do: it healed.
As my Chiropractor is a good friend, I know he would find it important for me to say this statement: Chiropractic care did not do the healing; It removed interference to my nervous system, allowing my body to better do what it was designed to do.
The nervous system is a master controlling system that coordinates healing within a healthy body. When the nervous system is working at its best, the body is at its full potential to self heal and self regulate not only pain, but all the systems in the body.
The next time you decide to hurt your body (and maybe your pride) like I did, whether it’s from falling down your stairs, a sports trauma, or any other pain that might be occurring in your life, take a moment to discover the five things that you too might be able to learn from your pain.
By being aware and not ignoring what your body is telling you, listening to what your pain is advising you not to do, and modifying your life accordingly to allow for self-reflection and healing, you too may be better guided in faster ways to healing and recovery.
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