Sunday, December 14, 2014

From Pain to Equilibrium: Getting Started

As we all know - if only from reading the last 5 posts I've written on the topic - pain is a sneaky bitch that requires one's masterful manipulation to evict.

Mind you, I love having options, doing research and conducting experiments - so from my vantage point, this aspect of pain management is enjoyable (if one can ally pain and enjoyment in the same sentence).

The more creative you are, the more fun you're going to have. So let's spend this series wearing all the hats: tailor, chef, doctor, healer, critic, carpenter, cheerleader. Let your own needs be your guide.

I think about the methods of pain management and correction (cuz management ain't good enough, IMO, even if complete restoration seems a distant glimmer) into the following categories*:
  • Diet and Nutrition
  • BodyWork
  • Self-Bodywork 
  • MindWork 
  • Aromatherapy
  • "Aversion Therapy", aka avoiding the stuff that hurts
  • Structural Correction
  • Sleep
*Note: This list isn't exhaustive by a long shot. It's just all I've had time to reckon with so far.

Needless to say, each of these categories breaks down into numerous sub-categories. Some are fairly "universally approved". Who's gonna argue with a diet free of processed foods? Others are less mainstream, more tailored to the niche. Essential oils and potions have always been a huge part of my daily regime and the right concoction can change my state of mind dramatically. Do I hear many people speak of them as floridly as I do? Not so much.

You'll note that I've left out a couple of fairly major categories: Prescription Drugs and Talk Therapy. 

Vis a vis, drugs: I don't want to go there for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that I'm not a doctor and I have very limited experience of pharmaceuticals for pain management. I also truly believe - and this is a construct about which we may need to agree to disagree - that drugs simply mask the issue. They do not fix it. Often, they mess up the body in entirely new ways with unpleasant side effects. Furthermore, one generally sensitizes to pharmaceuticals, eventually - and too many addictions are borne of this methodology. Having said this, there's no reason why you can't take drugs and explore other pathways too. I don't think that those on pharmaceuticals are limited in pursuing all the additional options. Since pain is complicated, many options are indicated, regardless of which of those options provides the greatest relief at any given moment.

In terms of talk therapy: I have more than enough experience of many types of talk therapy to engage in a lively discussion on this topic - it's just never done a damn thing to help me get over pain. Look, I'm nothing if not introspective (about everything, including myself) and I definitely believe that it's critical to be able to unburden oneself of - and give voice to - the fear, anger and other emotions one encounters when dealing with pain (or potential emotional precursors of pain). Thing is, I do that. All the time, with lots of people and by myself. So, this method isn't part of my current trajectory. If you've never gone to counseling, I urge you to consider it. I'm just not going to dwell on it here.

Manage or Cure? My personal goal is to cure my pain by resetting the balance in my body, the loss of which has led to a current state of myofascial unpleasantness in a variety of areas. Pain is simply a response to disequilibrium of many sorts, albeit a whacked out, seriously bad one. I absolutely believe that it is possible to cure this and, really, I'll hazard to say that one must believe it's possible in order to make it a reality. Your brain is extremely powerful. A fucked up autonomic response (fancy term for unconscious brain activity) is likely what's causing it in the first place. In the same way you access pain, you can diminish it. So don't discount that placebo response. It's not a dirty concept - it's the fortuitous outcome of mind over matter and it's just as real as any other kind of fix. 

Cost Benefit Analysis: I've heard from a few people who've expressed an interest in many potential methods for pain relief, followed by the proviso that they can't afford to explore them. Look, we've all got a financial limit. If money were no object, you can bet I'd be at a medical spa in Austria right now. Of course, it's ever trickier if one's budget maxes out before visiting the doctors, not covered by insurance, or trying the acupuncture or buying the vitamins and books. 

All I can say is that we are all enabled, within the limits of our means, to do the best we can to get better. The internet is your friend. So is the library. So are e-books (cheaper than the real thing and easier to store. Read them on your computer if you don't have a Kindle.) Many yoga studios offer free community classes. My Yoga Online offers some awesome Yin yoga (one of the things I've spoken about at length and will continue to discuss in this series) and it's 10 bucks a month. You can't take one live class for that price. Some practitioners will barter (if you have a skill they can benefit from), though I recommend you play that card carefully, after assessment. Sometimes it's a matter of going more slowly than you might appreciate - which, fortuitously, may have  the benefit of maximizing the likelihood that you'll see an emerging solution as a result of one particular avenue taken. Research well and act, first, on the viable methods that resonate. There are lots of options out there that are not expensive.

Next up -  Diet and Nutrition.

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