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Category Archives: hip replacement

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.

“Lightening Up” Pain Management

Exercise is a great pain management technique. But when you are in pain it can be your nemesis and most of time it can feel like work. It is usually something I do because it is a good thing to do, not because I want to do it or that it is enjoyable. My logical brain tells me that it is a way of maintaining flexibility and keeping pain at arm’s length. But I have noticed something recently that has happened in relation to exercise that I felt worth sharing.

I have only been on one team in my whole life, a college intramural basketball team. I had occasion to observe folks at our local “Y” playing water volleyball. They appeared to be having so much fun. I just happened to be in the pool when they were asking if anyone wanted to play. I thought “They are playing in  water, I love being in water. If I fall, I’m in water, how could that hurt?  If the ball drops, it does not fall to the ground where I cannot retrieve it, it’s on the water.” So I decided to give it a try.  Needless to say I am now  playing each week. I look forward to playing. I have never looked forward to exercising like I look forward to this.

There is a real sense of “joy” that comes from engaging in this activity.

It is joyful playing with others.

It is joyful being able to be on a team.

It is joyful being able to do something that is so beneficial and fun.

Being with others with various physical limitations, playing a sport that has very loose rules, laughing at silly mistakes and getting one heck of a workout makes this a perfect pain management tool. What keeps me valuing this  activity is not that it assists with pain management, but that it is “fun” and that I can do it, and that does wonders for my self image.

Do you have an activity that gives you joy that is also beneficial in terms of pain management? I would love to hear your answer.

Favorite Blogs

I was so humbled to accept an award from a fellow blogger, Wendy Burnett at Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired.  I  am just  getting around to fulfilling the requirements that go along with this honor by selecting my favorite blogs and doing a brief description of them.

* Accept the award and post it on your blog with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

* Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered. (if possible)

* Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Here are some of the blogs that have inspired, informed and uplifted me.

1 . Dancing with Pain, Loolwa Khazzoom is the founder and CEO of Dancing with Pain®, a health & wellness company that offers natural pain relief solutions and that has been featured in media outlets including ABC News and The New York Times.  Her approach and program are worth checking out.

2. How to Cope with Pain, a blog hosted by a Board Certified Psychiatrist in practice for 18 years in Pennsylvania who focuses on chronic  pain  patients. His blog is always insightful, provocative and educational. Sign up for his monthly Pain blog carnival.

3. Chronic Babe for those who are not defined by their pain, but want to help define pain. My only regret is that blogs  did not exist twenty years ago. This would have been a “home”. It is wonderful for networking, resourcing and just making each day more meaningful by being able to share with others on chronic pain journeys.

4. Addiction Free Pain Management, Dr Grinstead treats chronic pain patients and other co-existing disorders. His informed and heartfelt understanding of pain issues and broad based approach to treating them makes me wish I lived a whole lot closer to his center.

5. The Positive Mind, the Di Mele Center in NY is both blog and radio program focusing on helpful resources in dealing with life issues. And with chronic pain, I have found that the more tools I have in my tool bag to deal with stressors, the better I am at pain management.

6. Health.com always has interesting articles on everything from side effects of pain meds to improving your sex life when dealing with chronic pain.

7. Heroes of Healing Heroes of Healing is a non-judgmental, forum-based website for caregivers and those in pain to come together to share personal stories of struggle, perseverance and triumph. Very validating.

8. Life with Chronic Pain:A how-to guide Sue takes a glass-half-full approach to her disease and says she tries to do something useful every day.

9. Creaky Joints: Bringing Arthritis to its Knees . The name says it all. There are several great columnists all speaking from their personal and professional points of view on issues. Very uplifting.

10. Overcoming Pain by Mark Borigini discusses why people experience chronic pain, and the power they have to de-intensify it. Great topics, information and insight.

11. Rising Above, John has an incredible personal story and a very inspirational newsletter that you can get.

12. Graceful Agony a long time favorite. Jolene believes in living your best life in spite of pain and offers lots of reflective articles about her journey and resources.

13. Phylor’s blog I always enjoy her musings, creativity and alternative approaches and research.

14. HealthSkills a blog for health professionals working in pain management. I value her research and love to read what is being discussed. I believe that those of us in pain can help inform those who work with pain. And I value being informed.

15. Wordle.net this is not a blog but a great website for creating word clouds. I have used it to create lovely graphics for many presentations. Just upload one of your blog articles and see what it does with it. It  puts joy in my day when I see the words that I have used, their frequency and have them arranged artfully.

Dis-connecting to connect

We just got back from a  refreshing vacation along the shores of Lake Michigan and I only briefly missed the fact that I had poor cell phone reception, no internet connection and was unable to get TV or radio news for days.

I reflected on how we change our daily expectations and routines when we are on vacation. Sleeping late, lazing around in pj’s on the cottage deck, enjoying leisurely meals, savoring each others company, taking more walks, doing things that bring joy and not wanting to rush are the priorities.  Multi-tasking and feeling pressure from obligations seem like unhealthy things to do. They do not belong here.

I saw this video clip last night from Sunjay Gupta entitled “Is Technology Making Us Dummer?” It is about a group of neuroscientists who abandoned technology for five days and immersed themselves in nature.  They were experimenting with the notion promoted in great literature by Thoreau and Muir, that getting away and into nature does have restorative effects for our brains and that may even be essential for our brain to take a break from constant activity.

My promise to myself is to try and allow myself  “vacation privileges” sometime each day to try and stay connected to the bliss that comes from dis-connecting. This may be turning my computer OFF, allowing myself to just “be” without having to feel obligated to “do” or just remembering to do something that brings me joy and nourishment.

Have you found ways to bridge the gap between dis-connecting from the everyday demands and connecting to a more sacred space?

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 Exhibit.com, 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 fotolio.com. 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?

Chronic Pain and Weight Issues

Talk about a double whammy, it’s bad enough dealing with pain issues but when you couple that with hearing your doctor say “Losing some weight would  take some pressure off your joints and relieve some pain”. That is like asking someone with joint pain to comfortably walk down this rocky road. It is an extremely difficult challenge.

Of course it makes sense, on a logical level. Anyone in pain would do anything to lessen their discomfort. But when you are facing daily doses of pain and the only pleasure you can count on comes from being able to indulge in your favorite snack, being told that you need to lose extra pounds sounds like “And we need to deprive you of your one consistent pleasure”.

Anyone who is dealing with chronic pain and weight issues needs the assistance of compassionate professionals and loved ones who understand that this is a very slippery slope that needs to be tenderly navigated.