Chronic Pain


I am NOT a doctor.  This is purely my own living wisdom for me.

I live with chronic pain.  In the last few weeks I am hearing more from some friends about their lives with chronic pain, and frankly, I am so used to it (40 years now) that often I don’t notice it, consciously.  On bad days, it feels like a knife in my spine, or someone’s used my body for a punching bag.  Pain can feel overwhelming.   I take strong drugs at those times, unless I have to drive.

Mostly, though, I don’t notice it unless I put my mind to the problem, like right now, as I write this, I am aware of the places that hurt, as they say in the doc’s office, on a scale of 1-10, about 3-4.  By the end of the day it will be closer to a 7, mostly because I have to do some shellacking today and that means from time to time I will be leaning a certain way over a piece of furniture and that will cause a spasm.  (And I have to work, its our business!)  Hip, lower back, and shoulder stemming from my neck, all hurt this morning, and probably a mild muscle relaxer will keep me off pain meds today.  I’m careful about pain meds, because they are addictive, and they also put me in a bad mood if I take them for any length of time.

I don’t “notice” my pain this morning  because it is not a 6-7, and I have turned my attention elsewhere.  I am not saying this is for everyone, but it helps me.  I ignore it.  I don’t mean I ignore it and lift heavy boxes and do the stupid things that will cause me grief.  I mean, I treat it like a child with a tantrum and send it to its room, not to be paid attention to until it can play nicely.  I don’t discuss it, and really don’t complain much.  When my mom had real pain for the first time, she constantly complained.  I know it is startling to people when they first experience pain, and they can’t believe I live with it almost every day, because they figure I can’t be in as much pain as they are because they would know — I’d tell them, right?  No, but when I first had it I told everyone, and thought about it all the time.  Gradually, however, I saw that it didn’t help me much to talk about it, and I read about a Roshi (Zen master) who had very bad cancer and rarely took pain killers (he could not teach on them) and took his attention and placed it elsewhere.  I tried that, it took a long time, and now it is a habit.  I turn away from the pain.

I don’t want to make anyone who has chronic pain feel badly if they cannot do this, and understand I cannot do it when it reaches a high level — and to the drugs I go!   On the other hand, if it helps me, it may help you too, even some of the time.

I’m no doctor, but I use HerbPharm’s tinctures, and find they are the best tinctures.  Ed’s got the herbal wisdom.  He has some good sedatives, some of which make for mild muscle relaxers, and a good pain response made with Willow Bark.  I highly recommend care when trying tinctures (I usually try 1-2 drops to see how I react when trying a new tincture), and working with a naturopath.  Tinctures may be natural, but they are strong drugs!  Don’t mix them with regular meds without a doctor’s or pharmacist’s okay.


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About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
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19 Responses to Chronic Pain

  1. susanissima says:

    Pain is a huge challenge, but you seem to have some effective strategies, Katie. Thanks for sharing them. At one time I worked in a pain center, a place where those with chronic pain came to learn strategies because their meds were not working or were getting in the way. Learning how to progressively relax their muscles was effective in many cases, though counterintuitive. Most people, as you know, tense up with pain which makes it worse.

    • A pain center; always finding new things out about you . . .
      It is counter-intuitive, and I am glad that I learned that I could relax the muscles and not have to take a pain killer all the time. I sometimes use HerbPharm’s California Poppy, mild but can take the edge off. My mom also taught me how to relax my muscles, but for insomnia — and I use that technique. Tensing hard, then relaxing, each muscle? Works well for me. Can’t wait to meet you in person — R too!

  2. susanissima says:

    Forgot to say I love your painting in this post!

  3. Sammy D. says:

    Beautiful art. I think I turn my attention elsewhere, but the hardest part for me is how cranky and impatient I can get with Hub without realizing I’m doing it. It becomes crystal clear when I’m without the pain and I feel so bad for unknowingly treating him differently. He’s been awfully patient through the years.

  4. Kate, I’m so glad you posted about this! I have chronic pain (Fibromyalgia and Crohn’s) and I always feel a kinship with others who feel what I feel. Not necessarily happy, but just a special bond. I had never really thought about it before reading this, but I pretty much ignore my pain until it’s a 6 or 7 or so. Gosh, I HATE that number scale. I can never really put a number on my pain level. I am finally starting to learn when to push through and when to stop and rest though. If I catch it just right, it doesn’t linger. I have to be patient with myself. My husband can often warn me about my pain levels before I am even aware! If I stop then, I’m good. 🙂 I used to get quite grouchy with him, but he took the time to read and understand what is going on with me and it has been much smoother sailing now that we are on the same page.

    Next year, I’m going to try to pull back on some of the meds I’m on and try some more natural remedies to see how it goes. I’m pretty happy with my cocktail right now, but would like to be off the meds as much as possible. I’ll still have to keep the big guns around like you do, though. Thank you for sharing, it can be so hard to open up about this sometimes.
    Heather ❤

    • I had no idea. I don’t know as much about Crohn’s, but I have a good friend with Fibromyalgia. I kept bugging her to go see an acupuncturist and just see if it helped her, and finally after three years of me bugging her she tried it. The woman is also a Chinese herbalist, and has helped her tremendously. She said she had forgotten how it felt NOT to be in so much pain. Thank god/dess for patient husbands. ❤

  5. I just posted about pain in my finger– and it’s really cramping my knitting! I’ve seen how my parents turn their attention elsewhere– much better than popping a lot of pills. I’m trying a natural substance and plan to try some acupuncture too.

    • You are one of the blogs (there were six) which wrote about pain and got me thinking. The woman who wrote about excruciating pain does not allow reblogging or I might have reblogged her post as the lead in to mine. It’s been a cacophony of pain posts, friends stepping into it for the first time (my husband) that pushed that post into my head!

  6. Yes, I know what you are talking about. Back when “they” thought I had fibromyalgia, pain bugged me quite a bit. Then I saw a hypnotist and was taught how to put my pain in a box. Between that and eliminating wheat from my diet, I feel much better. Sounds like you’ve got your remedy figured out a bit. I think alternative approaches, including chiropractic care can help immensely. The NYT had a great article about new medical approaches this weekend. Interesting stuff. Take care.

    • Finding my food allergies when I started in with “arthritis” was a god-send. Most of arthritis suffering is actually food allergies, or rather, things we shouldnta-ate-when-we-were-younger-but-our-bodies-processed-that-crap-better! So many folks are allergic to wheat. I have found one bread that I eat when I really want a sandwich — Dave’s Organic Bread. I think it is sprouted, organic, or just plain magic.

  7. nenamatahari says:

    Oh, I can so relate to this. I’m sorry you have chronic pain, too. It’s really rotten.

  8. I do that very thing, putting my attention elsewhere. It DOES help, when it’s not too bad, doesn’t it?

    I am always constantly grateful for the mobility I have–as well as my other blessings–and try to remain mindful. Doing stupid things hurts!

    And like you I have less pain when I eat what works for me. (No wheat, no grains, good fats, proteins, fruits and vegetables.)

    • Thanks for reading! Yes. It helps amazingly on days when it is a 2-4 on their crazy pain scale. Counting blessing keeps me UP without being a Pollyanna or in denial. One thing I give thanks for is Dave’s Organic Bread — it is the only wheat I can eat from time to time that doesn’t cause me any grief. But like you, I am finding less grains (rice and whole oats seem okay) and lots of good fats/fruits/veggies and organic or close to it meats seems the best way. Best — DK

      • I often have those middle-of-the-night pains…it’s very helpful then to place my attention elsewhere!

        You may have seen my gratitude lists…just simple things, and definitely NOT the “I have so much to be grateful for, how dare I whine” kind of counting blessings! No guilt. Just being aware that there is always something to be grateful for–even in the hard lessons!

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