So, today I have lower back ache.
I was fortunate that for a period of 10 years previously, I had remained unaffected by back problems or the back aches that I spent my childhood and teenage life with, but for a number of reasons, some of the old, niggling pain had gradually resurfaced again.
Why was this happening now?
Well, this period of change came about 5 years ago when I temporarily veered away from a natural and holistic practice in favour of receiving drug therapy for my autoimmune condition.
To begin with, this appeared to have been the right decision to make but as months went by, I began to experience a return of old symptoms or the start of new ones.
My body was reminding me of how sensitive it is to foreign, artificial substances and I wasn’t surprised. After all, this was the reason why I turned to natural therapies in the first place!
So, I again accepted that I would now need to safeguard the condition of my immune system where possible by minimizing or illuminating the use of pharmaceuticals.
So, what is the safest way to manage pain?
These days, I rarely turn to the use of pain killers to manage persistent pain because their effectiveness goes as far as dulling the pain but very often leaves me with unwanted side effects; a bad sense of taste, skin irritations and irritable bowel (IBS) for example.
Instead, I reserve pain killers for the times when I need a full arsenal of pain busting relief and by turning to them sparingly, I increase their effectiveness, reduce the unwanted side effects and greatly minimize any chance of becoming so dependent on them that they no longer work at all when I need them the most!
In any case, before I reach for pain killers, I follow a few steps to assess how bad pain really is.
Well, I work on a scale in my head…a scale of 1 to 5 – where 1 is normal or a little pain and 5 is unmanageable. I briefly acknowledge the pain I’m experiencing only so that I can create a plan of action to ease things.
I notice that however much pain I’m experiencing, the first thing I find helpful to do is to move around in a way that confronts the area that’s affected; instead of trying to avoid it. I touch, massage, stretch and connect with my painful site.
Although this can often be uncomfortable, I remember how important it is to ensure the movement of blood and oxygen to damaged areas to prevent premature cell death and permanent damage while promoting repair.
The plan also usually calls for me to ‘up’ my physical activity, so I make an extra point of walking around my home-using the stairs- pausing on each step to stretch out my limbs. Stair rails, ledges, shelving, chairs and tables become even more useful as makeshift exercise equipment! I also begin to focus on and look forward to a swimming session and imagine the weightlessness and freedom I feel as I move through the water.
It’s amazing how focusing on these strategies has the subtle ability of downgrading the initial pain and discomfort I felt in the beginning. It’s almost as though I have developed a distraction strategy that works long enough for my body to become more relaxed and ready to begin the process of healing.
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