Forging Meaning in Your Pain
I have had the opportunity to get to know thousands of patients with chronic back or neck pain. I have been struck by their amazing stories, and have learned much from their struggles. I would like to share one of these pearls that I indeed need to remind myself of often.
The pearl is simple: The successful patients use their major life challenges to grow strength from them.
Spinal pain can take over lives. There are patients whose lives revolve around their pain. Some are minimally active, avoiding any action that may result in pain. Some take medications to dull their pain sensations. Others become depressed by their perceived new reality, a reality clouded by immeasurable chronic pain and increasingly deteriorating status.
There are others patients, many of whom have even more severe spinal conditions, but who have thrived since battling their spine condition. The common denominator is their attitude toward this challenge. They learn all they can about it. They learn about their anatomy, what their radiographs show, what their diagnoses mean, and what the studies say about what the future holds. They knock down every door to find holistic methods to help with their pain. They challenge their habits.
The successful ones have forged meaning from the major challenge of their spinal condition. They eat better, knowing that their diet can add to inflammation and worsen their condition. They lose weight, realizing the increased strain on their spinal structures. They exercise regularly, learning how to correctly strengthen their core and build endurance despite their pain. They become more mindful, meditating or at the least realizing the deep link between their anxieties, cravings, and aversions, and their body sensations. They don’t wonder what their life would be without their spinal condition. Instead, their spinal condition is part of who they are, and they love who they are.
“Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities…for when I am weak, I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10. The successful ones live this.