Monday, August 17, 2015

Before my eyes the pain eased

I was 4 weeks out of arthroscopic hip surgery and back to work full time.  I had just gone down to one and sometimes no crutches.  It wasn't my hip but sciatica that had really flared up.  After a phone call with my physical therapist, I set my mind to follow the plan: ice, anti inflammatory, and back to two crutches.  After feeling hopeless, I had to trust that it would work.  And before my eyes I saw that my progress, though not large, was undeniable.

When you are experiencing pain, it is not uncommon to just want it to go away.  In cognitive behavior therapy, scaling is used to set realistic goals.  Maybe it is not reasonable to think that I will have zero pain tomorrow.  So instead I am going to focus on how I can get my pain down to a 2.  Utila actually helped me feel more hopeful because I could see that I was suffering less.

Scaling the pain also helps you get in touch with your pain as opposed to avoiding it.  Mindfulness--that is, tuning in to the sensation of pain without trying to change it--can be immensely helpful for those suffering chronic pain.  This has also been the case for me--when I actually tune in to my pain and stop trying to avoid it, suddenly it becomes much more tolerable.  The simple act of scaling my pain on a daily basis helped me be more aware of my pain, which paradoxically, made it less distressing.

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