I was fortunate that for many previous years, I had remained unaffected by back problems or the acute back ache that I spent my childhood and teenage life living with, but for a number of reasons, some of the old, niggling pain had gradually resurfaced again.
Why was this happening now?
Well, I believe that this new wave of pain- slowly trying to take centre stage was actually triggered when I temporarily veered off my normal track from a natural and holistic practice in favour of receiving drug therapy for my autoimmune condition.
To begin with, it appeared that my decision was the right one to make because I experienced improvements to my condition but as months went by, I began to see a return of old symptoms and the start of new ones.
My body was reminding me of how sensitive it is to foreign, artificial and chemical substances.
I couldn’t really say I was surprised about the symptoms I experienced after using these medicines because this was actually the reason why I moved away from a drug based approach in favour of natural therapies.
It was definitely the case that I had forgotten how miserable and unwell I became when relying on a regular drug regime.
My immune system was struggling from a high toxic load that was creating more side effects as a result.
So, I accepted that I would again need to safeguard the condition of my immune system by minimising or illuminating the use of pharmaceuticals as much as possible.
So, what is the safest way to manage a symptom like pain?
Well, these days, I rarely turn to using pain killers to manage persistent pain because at best, they were sometimes effective in damping down pain but in place, left me with unwanted side effects; dry mouth, a bad sense of taste & smell, muscle cramp, skin irritations and irritable bowel (IBS).
Knowing that the risk- reward ratio of using pain medication weighed very heavy on the side of risk, and is detrimental to health has made my decision easier to make.
I decided to reserve medication such as painkillers for the times when I really need a full arsenal of pain busting relief. That score of 5 or more.
Well, because I believe that by turning to pain killers sparingly, I can increase their short term effectiveness, reduce or manage their unwanted side effects and greatly minimize any chance of building a dependency on them-needing higher doses; a dependency that would quickly render them ineffective so they no longer work in the future when I need them the most!
In all case, before I reach for pain killers, I follow a few steps to assess how bad pain really is.
I work on a scale in my head…a scale of 1 to 5 – where 1 is my normal (a little pain) and 5 is unmanageable. I acknowledge the pain I’m experiencing and try to work out why it is there and then I start building 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 instead of trying to avoid the problem areas. 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 a subtle ability of downgrading the initial pain and discomfort I started with and developing this process is an effective distraction strategy that works to put my body, mind & soul into a relaxed space-ready to begin the process of healing.