Diary of a Day in Pain


I deal with pain every day, but not usually my own. As a “pain therapist” I am well educated in solving the pain and discomfort that others are dealing with, yet a few days ago I found myself confronting excruciating, pounding pain in the left side of my jaw, neck, eye, shoulder and upper back. The experience provided me with new insights and ideas that I’d like to share.

When the pain took hold, nothing else seemed to matter. I was transformed from active and upbeat to grouchy and self-centered. My focus was how much it hurt and I was desperate to get relief. So, I went to work on the muscles that I thought were causing the pain, using some of the self-treatment techniques that I teach to others. Although I knew that the problem originated from a night of grinding my teeth, I allowed myself to become distracted by the pain itself and skipped over the fact that the underlying cause was stress. Needless to say, while the self-treatment alleviated some of the pain, it stubbornly rebounded because I was still stressed out.

The first real relief came unexpectedly. My dog insisted on a walk, so I conceded. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and every few minutes she threw herself down in the grass and rolled around on her back like Snoopy. Her joy was infectious; I found myself smiling, and taking pictures of her to post on Facebook. After a while I realized that the head pain, which registered a “15” on a scale of 1-10, had dropped to a “5”! The pain therapist inside started waking up again with the realization that it wasn’t enough to just treat the muscles; distracting my nervous system by getting out of my head was critical to relieving my symptoms. It was both an “Aha!” and a “Duh!” moment, since these are concepts that I know and talk about to my clients on a regular basis.

The next significant relief occurred when I finally took a long Epsom Salt bath—another bit of advice I share with clients ALL THE TIME. Why it took me until evening I don’t know, but that was the beginning of the end of my pain. The lingering muscle tightness loosened, and I returned to the self-treatment methods that proved to be more effective at finishing off the lingering pain now that I had confronted the root cause of the problem: my stress! For more information on how an Epsom Salt bath can ease pain and relieve stress, check out this article from Mind Body Green.

What did I take from this experience?

Well, when pain strikes, it’s a lot like hearing shocking news; the only thing you can focus on is the immediate effect on you. The more severe the pain, the less ability we seem to have to reason and think clearly. Having personally experienced this confirms that having a plan of action to follow will lead to a faster solution.

Assuming that your pain is stress-induced and/or muscular, the following steps could help ease the pain.

  • Take an Epsom Salt bath- the magnesium contained in Epsom salts helps relax muscles and nerves. Essential oils, like Lavender, can enhance the experience. Two cups of salts in a full tub provide the best results.
  • Distract yourself- It sometimes seems easier said than done, but talking to a friend, meditating, doing gentle yoga, watching a funny show or taking a walk can give you a sense of normality and liberate you from negative thoughts and feelings.
  • Learn techniques and movements to counteract common muscular pain. As part of our treatment protocols, we teach our clients simple self-treatment methods and movements to help handle many of their own pain problems. In addition, yoga (guided by a skilled practitioner) is one of our favorites to help avoid or disable pain.
  • Make an appointment with a qualified therapist to more permanently address the soft tissue aspects of your pain. A gentle, targeted approach settles down the nerves and releases muscular tension to quickly relieve pain and some of its underlying causes.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. If you are suffering from pain or another injury, seek the advice of your personal physician.

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