Dealing With Pain
Sometimes it’s difficult to know ‘what causes what’ when it comes to pain. You can have a diagnosis, and then the pain turns up somewhere totally different. For example, about 2 years ago, I had tremendous pain in my right leg, from my knee to my ankle. It became so bad that I could barely walk, and then it even became hard to stand. I was used to going on long walks. Heck, I even walked 30 minutes to and from work each day, no matter what the weather. I walked to the subway and along the stations with no problem. I rarely bothered to drive, unless absolutely necessary. Not being able to walk without pain was a tremendous shock to me; it had a huge affect on my work and social life.
Get a proper diagnosis
Eventually, three doctors later, I found out I had something called lumbar stenosis, a narrowing of the space for the spinal cord. For me, my immediate reaction was, “Oh, I guess I’ll worry about this when I’m 80 or 90. The neurologist said, “Or, you could be paralyzed just walking down the street next week.” Of course, that scared me half to death. Fortunately, I found a different neurologist who said to not worry about it; it was likely a very slow process. The back surgeon I went to said a disc was pressing on the nerve to my leg, and that was causing the pain. His closest surgery date was almost two years away! “Why don’t you try swimming in the meantime?” he said. He also recommended massage therapy and physio.
Plan of Action
I was quick to try all three. I honestly feel that course of action ‘saved my life.’ Massage soothed my muscles and my soul. Physio gave me some gentle exercises to try. And getting back to swimming began to strengthen my core in a very gentle way. I also heard about a rehab pool, where the water is 85F and the exercises are lead by very knowledgeable physiotherapists. That course of action—massage therapy, physio and swimming, meant that I felt physically better than I had in years. I also felt emotionally better. Do I have still pain? Of course I do. Is it better? Most definitely. Now I see my surgeon once a year. I may need the back operation at some point, but in the meantime, I believe the course of action I took truly was a life-saver physically, emotionally and even spiritually.
Dealing with Pain
- Everyone’s situation is different. When I had to use a cane, I got ‘free’ advice from everyone I met, even if they, their dad or great aunt on their cousin’s side had a different problem. Just go with your specialists and your gut.
- Pain medicines work. I don’t think any of them come without side effects, but when you need them, you need them. Go off slowly if you think you can do without.
- Your massage therapist and physio can become your friends. You get to know them and share as much as either of you are comfortable with. I like both of mine a great deal and look forward to my appointments with them. I know when I don’t go, my pain is much worse, so I try to keep a regular schedule. It may cost a bit, but I think that walking and having my independence is worth very much more than a new purse or outfit.
- I have a new job. I think my job now (and that of some of my ‘over 50…60…70’s pals) is to keep ourselves as strong and healthy as we can as we move along in years.
- Life is meant to be enjoyed. Pain can be a major inconvenience, or a horrible situation to deal with. Everyone’s pain is different, the causes are different and the levels are also different. Hopefully, although pain can curtail some of your activites, it can still be managed, because there’s still a lot of living to do!
Reva Nelson is a speaker, educator and writer. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org