The Emotional Side Of Stubborn Pain
Pain & Feelings
The suffering that underpins every stubborn pain is basically always the same. There is the pain of course, but along with that often comes feelings of frustration and even fear.
Being unable to play golf, lift children, mow lawns and put rubbish bags on the street are elemental forms of physical freedom. Activities that go along with a thousand other little daily, weekly and monthly tasks; to manifest a basic quality of life as it relates to movement.
The feeling we get from being able to perform all our tasks and activities in a state of comfort is ‘freedom’. The feeling of not being able to perform all these tasks is a state of comfort is limitation.
Thankfully many are spared the worst pains, but there are a percentage of back pain, hip pain, knee pain, ankle pain, foot pain and plantar fasciitis sufferers who find themselves unable to stand, sit or even lie down comfortably. These poor souls know that even the ability to sleep comfortably is actually a form of freedom. And there are many simple movements and positions that we cherish – even if we don’t usually give it much thought when things are going well.
When our basic physical freedoms are temporarily impacted by a virus or an injury, most of us are okay mentally and emotionally; safe in the knowledge that it will pass.
Conditions like neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, ankle pain and heel pain cause create longer term restrictions in our ability to move comfortably however. This takes on different meaning. Even the toughest amongst us have strong feelings around the desire to be pain free long term!
There is often a fear dimension in the psychology of chronic pain, that usually comes from the persistent uncertainty.
When it comes to pain complaints like back pain, hip pain, knee pain and migraine headaches it can be very difficult to get clear answers and even harder to get results. Lack of clarity from our doctors and clinicians frequently leads to increased uncertainty and fear.. or at least concern.
In contrast when we have dental pain it’s much easier to get consistent answers and consistent care. There are no legions of people out there turning themselves in side out over what they are supposed to do about their toothache.
Pain & Life Force
The frustration that comes with chronic pain conditions is deeply connected to our deepest desires for full expression of our ‘life force’. By life force I mean the energy and desire we have to lead a full and productive existence.
The expression of our life force is predicted entirely on movement, everything from running an ultra-marathon to clearing some dust from our eye with a blink involves movement. Even the couch potatoes can’t escape, that remote doesn’t work itself!
Even when we minimise our relationship with the outside world to the act of texting, we still need to move our thumbs. Down to a cellular level we are constant movement.
It’s only natural to feel frustration when we find that movement is feeling persistently limited by pain and discomfort. At the end of this spectrum where we find that even standing, sitting and lying are limited – frustration has the potential to give way to real unhappiness.
In bad cases – the combined impact of physical pain, physical limitation, unclear diagnoses and unsuccessful treatment can merge into a large grey mass that sucks your life force. Many find themselves despondent, unhappy, unproductive and tired. It is bloody hard to express your full potential when you are consumed by pain and its psychological impacts.
In A Nutshell
There is a simple equation at play here….
Pain + Time + Uncertainty = Fear/Frustration/Unhappiness
If you are suffering with pain and the sucky ‘add on’s’ of concern, frustration, fear and unhappiness I have some good news for you. There are literally millions of people alive today who have been through heaps of frustration and uncertainty about what to do with their pain, but who have found answers!!
Take comfort from the fact that many have walked this path successfully before you and don’t give up!
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Pain is a symptom. Symptoms are the feedback that the body generates when it faces problems with its delicate internal balance (homeostasis). Without symptoms like pain, thirst, nausea and fevers, it would be very difficult for us to maintain a healthy body in the same way that it would be hard to drive a car safely with no dashboard display.
John is one of those rare gentlemen who has continued to play competitive soccer well into his late 50s. He is in really good shape, which you need to be to play football at that age—good shape except for his left leg. His left leg is not in good condition at all. In fact, once you get to know his left leg a bit better, it becomes apparent that it’s miraculous that he’s able to run at all, Let alone the type of running required to play competitive soccer against younger men.