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Category Archives: hip dysplasia

First Aid for Chronic Pain

This past weekend I was hit with a virus. It took me back to my pain days, when I was spending more time in bed than on my feet. I am guessing that most folks have had at least one encounter with a major virus, and can remember the anger, frustration and lack of energy that are part of this experience. Imagine how it would be if you were constantly trapped in this situation.

If you come across someone you love who battles chronic pain and you see them engaging in what might seem like a leisurely activity, like laying down and reading, don’t rush to judgement. They may appear to be lounging, but in reality, they are engaging in a healthy dose of “First Aid.” They are seeking a diversion from their situation. They are choosing to take control of their life and engage in something  manageable and meaningful. They are attempting to avoid suffering. This is good medicine. Encourage them and their efforts to stay engaged.

To see someone in pain, not engaging in a healthy activity, that is when you should worry. These folks are feeling a loss of control and trapped in their pain. Depression is sure to follow.

First Aid can consist of simple measures, but can also be life saving. Do you have certain “First Aid” measures that you employ to ward of suffering? What gives you a sense of being able to escape the ugly pit of chronic pain? Have you found yourself misjudged as being lazy when in fact you are doing the best that you can at a given point in time?

Playing with Chronic Pain

I just got back from an amazing vacation in Mexico that centered around swimming with dolphins. They are truly amazing creatures. I felt drawn to want to be around their energy. Evolving over ten million years ago, they are considered one of the most intelligent animals. Play is an important part of their culture. This tells me they understand something significant.

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which…. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both…” -Zen Buddhist teaching

With Chronic Pain, it is too easy to become serious about everything. Taking a lesson from the dolphins, that play is an essential activity, I am anxious to incorporate their wisdom. I can already guess that it will make some unbearable parts of my day more bearable. Hey, if we can redo the daily food pyramid, maybe it is time we rethink our priorities regarding daily activity needs.

Have you understood the wisdom of the dolphins and put play in each day? What works for you?

Transforming Pain

As a child, I remember my father doing a trick where he would hold a coin in his hand, make it disappear and then magically reappear behind one of my ears.I was amazed at how this happened.

This morning watching the Royal Wedding, it was equally magical for me thinking about how Kate was transformed from a commoner to a Princess with her wedding vows. She is no different a person than who she was yesterday, but now her life will have the capacity to expand in unimaginable ways.

Sometimes I think that as chronic pain sufferers, our pain has robbed us of our original identity. It has taken away from our self image and perceived value. What we need to do is give value back to ourselves. Believe that we are worthy of the best that life has to offer and never stop believing that tomorrow can be transformational, just like today was for Princess Kate.

Keep believing that transformations, large or small, are possible. Here are some magic coins for safekeeping.

New “To Do” for Chronic Pain

Mary Byrne Eigel

In 2010, I am going to add a new category to my daily TO-DO list, “What Have You Done for Yourself Today.” All the other items on the list depend on me being nourished, flexible, focused and feeling good. Why is it that my list rarely focuses on what I need to do for myself? So rather than feeling good about checking off the usual to-do’s, I am going to re-frame my thinking and be conscious of the ways I have spent time replenishing my physical, spiritual, creative and emotional needs.

I can hear the Staple Singers song “Respect Yourself” playing in my head.

Do you have any new ways you will be reframing your thoughts in the New Year?

Blessings, Mary

Get Fascinated with Chronic pain

c. M. Byrne Eigel

This time of year, when I was a child,  I recall being swept into another world looking at all the colors and lights that appear this time of year. I just wanted to shrink myself and crawl into a world where I was surrounded by their magic.

I am sure there are compelling psychological reasons why this felt so good.

As an adult I try to find things that fascinate and take my breath away. These are the experiences that then become ‘special places’ I can mentally go when I need to brighten my day.

What  fascinates you? What magic places have you found that can mentally provide a haven of bliss for pain-filled days? I invite your thoughts.

Chronic Pain Journey

Driving across the Midwest the last few weeks I have witnessed flocks of birds winging their way to warmer climate. It boggles my mind to think of the distance some of them will travel.  As they fly overhead, I contemplate how they work together, taking turns to lead and then follow and collectively  carve a path through the air.

It reminds me of how a chronic pain journey can be eased by working with a group of supporters. It is not a journey one should travel alone. We can lighten our own burdens by allowing others to intercede and help direct us when we have moments of need knowing that life may present opportunities for us to take the lead for them in the future when their needs arise.

Pain, the Motivator

My journey with pain has played a dramatic role in my life and led me places I may not have gone had I been pain free.  After each of my three hip surgeries and three knee surgeries I was highly motivated to move “through” the surgical pain and was able to envision a place without pain.

A friend, who was feeling fine, was recently diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo major surgery. She had not spent any real time in a “pain place”. Her surgery was successful, cancer was removed. But she is physically drained and feeling a bit blind-sided. Her cancer was invisible to her and had not caused her to make major alterations in her life.

Being with her I can see my own situation and realize that my pain strengthened me. My goal was to be as far away from it as possible. But anyone having a health issue that is not preceded by pain has a different perspective.

I would not wish my pain experience on my enemies.  But I see now that it gave me strength and courage to work as hard as I could and endure great discomfort. I am feeling compassion for those whose health issues do not include pain. It plays with my mind to wonder where your courage would come from to endure post surgical rehabilitation when you felt fine prior to surgery.

c. MaryByrneEigelFor me, being able to color, paint, sculpt or draw has been a means of escaping my chronic pain. Loading a paintbrush with a visually stimulating blend of colors and smearing it onto canvas or paper, savoring the ways the colors blend and interact with one another, transports me to another stratosphere, one that denies access to the physical pain echoing in my legs or hips.

Having had chronic pain since childhood, I learned at a young age that if I involved myself in something pleasurable I could alter my sensation of pain. Being able to work with color, whether it was planting flowers, designing with fabric or working with paint, paper or clay, I was able to engage my senses, brain and imagination and take pleasure in what I was creating and escape the confines of pain.

As a child I did not consciously know this but hindsight has shown me that there may have been several factors at work when I was engaged artistically.  Firstly the sheer sensory pleasure derived from working with materials. The earthy smell of clay, the visual vibrancy of bottles of paint, the rough-hewn texture of wood, and the sound of pieces of metal clinking together were all things that captivated me. Secondly, considering the possibilities of how I might do such things as bend colored wire into shapes or carve a solid surface were mentally challenging and required my full attention.  Thirdly, my imagination was sparked when I began to envision and see something taking shape.  It was like reading a good story, you weren’t sure where it was going to take you, but you knew you wanted to go along for the ride.

An additional benefit of art endeavors was that it gave me a sense of confidence that I could do things. Walking was often painful and it was isolating and hard to accept that something others did seemingly without effort was such a challenge for me.  But working creatively was what I could do effortlessly and it helped me regain confidence in myself that pain had stripped away.

Being able to enhance my surroundings with artwork helped to diminish the ugly environment of pain. Leaving that ‘place of pain’ let me feel that I could exercise some control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. I may not feel beautiful but I could gaze on beautiful things and lift my mood.

I have been asked,  “Do you use your artwork to visually describe your pain?”  I have only done this occasionally and for personal work, not work that I intend others to view. Pain can be ugly and brutal, and it is what I wish to escape. I do believe there is great therapeutic value in being able to give pain a face and address it head on. But by focusing on other subjects of interest I can travel to other places and take my mind off of what I am feeling and replace negative feelings with positive.

Strengthening the Weakest Link of Chronic Pain

In any scenario, there is usually a weakest link. It does not possess the strength of everything surrounding it. And when it fails, it usually means chaos for all involved. For those of us with chronic pain, weak links such as muscles, energy or body parts, have to be considered when making any type of plan to do something. Their capability works in tandem to define our overall strength.

I have often told my art students that by working daily we strengthen our strong skills but do not improve our weaknesses unless we make a concerted effort to focus on improving them. Exercising our weak link to encourage strength and flexibility is essential to making it as strong as possible and allowing ourselves more options.  The stronger this one link is, the stronger we become.

What special focus do you give your weakest link?

Visualize Pain

There is a great website, Pain, that has asked for submissions from chronic pain suffers worldwide to visualize their pain. The focus of the project is to be able to educate others about the experience of pain. It is affirming to be able to see  how using line, colors, texture and shapes folks can communicate their feelings and emotions. It is great to see how many pain related facilities are using the site for educational purposes. Even though some of the images are very honest and graphic, there are also those that affirm the strength of the individual to deal with their pain.

If you are so inclined to want to share your interpretation of pain, they are currently accepting new submissions. And if you are into visually expressing your pain, check out getting paid for submitting work to sites like This site and others like it have some pretty simplistic images when you search under chronic pain, they do not come close to the intensity of images from those who have endured a chronic pain experience.

Have you done visualizations of your pain? How did it feel doing it?