“People go through so much pain trying to avoid pain.” –Neil Strauss
Most of us are in physical pain to some degree and the way we’ve been handling it doesn’t stop the suffering. Our medical system has thrown painkillers at pain until we’ve found our society in the middle of an opioid crisis. As a culture, we’re being asked to deal with pain in a new way.
The killers we throw at pain are killing us at epidemic levels
Why doesn’t masking pain with painkillers work? Because the pain is still there. And as soon as it surfaces again, you have to mask it again, and again, and again. Until you are addicted and then the painkiller begins to kill you.
The opioid crisis is affecting many of us. Personally, it is hitting very close to home. I have a family member who has admitted to being addicted to opioids. Now, I’m watching her attempt to recover with methadone. Yes, our societies way to treat opioid withdrawal is to put the addict on another painkiller. And this love in my life is doing worse on methadone than she was on opioids.
Moving in the right direction
Thankfully, there is good news on the pain management horizon. The US government has formed CIPM, Comprehensive Integrative Pain Management. CIPM includes biomedical, psychosocial, complementary health, and spiritual care.
It is person-centered and focuses on maximizing function and wellness. Care plans are developed through a shared decision-making model that reflects the available evidence regarding optimal clinical practice and the person’s goals and values.
Could it be that we’re going to look at someone in pain as an individual? A whole being? Is it possible that we aren’t going to push the pain away with drugs and pretend it doesn’t exist?
My pain story
In my early thirties, I experienced episodes of excruciating pain on the right side of my abdomen. A jabbing intensity would come roaring in and cause me to falter, crash into things, and at times fall to the ground. After about a week of riding these waves of intensity, I went to my gynecologist.
My doctor did a sonogram of my abdomen and found an ovarian cyst the size of an orange on my right ovary. I was feeling pain when the cyst pulled down on the fully engulfed ovary. The doctor recommended surgery to remove the ovary right away and painkillers for the pain.
I needed time
“No, thank you,” I said to the painkillers and requested thirty days to work on my body. Reluctantly, my doctor agreed. I took that time to do a daily practice for my pelvic bowl. I breathed in and out of it, asked my pain how it wanted to move and began to move with the pain when it was present. Sometimes, it took me to strange positions and I allowed myself to go there.
I added sound to my movements. I moaned and groaned and cried out. Until my body was done moving and sounding. Feeling complete, I rested and watched the pain flow out of my body.
I did this every day for one month. The pain abated about one week into the practice and at one month it was gone.
When I went back to my doctor, she did a follow-up sonogram, and the cyst was gone. She couldn’t believe it and asked me questions about what I had done. I told her about my movement and breath practice. She shook her head asking me if I felt the cyst burst. I hadn’t.
About a month later she joined my yoga therapy classes. Several months later she began referring her patients to my studio. I watched them and other students experience pain relief by relating to the pain-filled space in their body and asking how it wanted to move.
Get to know your pain
I’ve noticed in my practice the best way to deal with pain is to get to know it. I like to ask my pain — How do you want to move?
Connect with your breath. Find a place in your body that is painful begin to breathe in and out of the space. Focus and ask, How do you want to move?
Listen, really listen to your painful spot. Pay attention to it. Start to move with it. Let go. There are no right or wrong movements. Does it want a ball pressing in?
Stay with the movements, the ball rolling, watch, and witness. Don’t edit or judge. As you do, notice your pain. What is happening to it?
Now add sound, moan with your pain. Scream, cry, allow whatever needs to come out of your mouth to come out. Again no judgment. Just notice.
When your body stops moving — allow it to rest. In this space of rest, let go. Watch your pain flow away from you.
Freedom from suffering
Moving pain away is nothing short of a miracle. The pain is there to get your attention and when you take the time to be with it and really listen it can ease up. You can suffer-less and possibly avoid or get off painkillers.
A practice to get you moving out your pain
Try this week’s Ageless Movement Practice to move your body out of pain. You’ll work with a painful place in your body the teres muscle. Located in the outer edge of your shoulder blade.
The teres is your arm swinger and it gets so tight and painful when you lose your freedom. Try this little movement to begin to free your arms and hands from pain. It’ll get them freely swinging. Oh, and your neck will release too!!
Lie down on your side and place a ball in the space slightly to the inside of edge of your right shoulder blade. Move up to your shoulder joint and down to the bottom of your shoulder blade. Find those painful points and breathe, move and make sounds to release.
When done, rest on your back and notice how your right shoulder, arm, and hand feels. Switch sides when ready.
When you’ve done both sides allow your body to rest. In this space of rest. Let go of the pain. Watch it flow away from you. And be in this space of freedom.
I’d really like to know what happens to your pain as you allow it to move. Let me know in the comments below.