HOW TO TAKE THE PAIN OUT OF PAIN MANAGEMENT
By Cindy Fisher, MA, RCC
Who enjoys talking about pain? Pain is a miserable topic. Wouldn’t you rather talk about everything you can possibly think of other than pain? Hopefully you answered “Yes!” because that is what pain management is about. It’s about focusing on and managing everything in your life other than pain.
Have you ever noticed how, after you get a new car, there are suddenly so many on the road just like it? There really aren’t. It’s just that as your brain sorts the information coming at you moment by moment, it finds what is important to you and brings it to your awareness.
Your brain decides what is important based on what you are thinking about and where you are focusing your life. Your reticular activating system is responsible for bringing these things into your awareness. You can’t pay attention to all the information coming at you, so the brain filters out the irrelevant and helps you notice the relevant. What you focus on expands. Where attention goes, energy flows and the result shows.
Do you want pain to be bigger in your life or do you vote for everything else?
Now I’m not suggesting you don’t pursue solutions to your pain. There are many solutions out there. Different things work for different people. So do what you need to do in this arena.
What I am suggesting is that whether pain is in your life for a short or long while, you won’t want it to dominate or take over. You need to be in the driver’s seat in your life, not in the passenger seat with pain driving.
Ask yourself, “Do I need to RECLAIM my life from pain?”
To help you answer this, take a moment to look at the role pain is playing in your life. Do you have a long list of things you can no longer do because of pain? Does pain make you decide not to go to a movie because you can’t sit for two hours? Has pain lowered your activity level to the point of becoming physically unfit? Has pain eliminated some friends from your life because you aren’t doing the things you used to do with them?
When you let pain have its way, it takes all of your attention, energy and goodwill. So, don’t let pain have its way! Take your life back!
Here are two practical tips for reclaiming your life from pain:
1. Keep a list of things you do each day. Keep track of your accomplishments. For some, this will be as basic as getting up in the morning or getting dressed, while for others it may be stacking the dishwasher or going for a walk. This helps to shift the focus off of what you cannot do and onto what you can. Work towards feeling a sense of accomplishment each day regardless of how long the list is.
2. Reclaim one thing in your life – maybe gardening or using your dust-collecting stationary bicycle. Re-introduce it at a ridiculously small level that will not increase pain or symptoms. For instance, you might pull one weed, or you might get onto the bicycle and turn the pedals two or three times. Do this daily. Then, every few days, increase this activity by a ridiculously small increment – pull two weeds, or turn the pedals five or six times. Keep going with those increases! Feel good about doing it again and look forward to all the things you will bring back into your life in this gradual way.