What Causes Chronic Pain? Life Can!
Updated: Aug 17
I enjoy telling stories. I think this love of storytelling arose from having to explain and educate my clients about their pain, why they have pain, what are the solutions to stopping, curing, or at least reducing their pain and its impact of their daily lives.
But what has surprised me over the years is the greater number of stories clients have shared with me, they are openly happy for me to add their stories to my repertoire knowing it will help others in the future.
Pain Stories Of Three Clients
During the time running my pain clinic in Perth for over 15 years I learnt that many client stories were connected to leaving their home country and emigrating to Australia.
Losing Almost Everything Brings Pain
Donna was one such person. She was living in South Africa with her husband and three young children. They were feeling unsafe and felt it would be a better future for their children in Australia. They both made the decision, both parents were excited and looking forward to their new future. The decision to move was rewarded by a great life for the next twenty years. So, how can this positive life experience for her immediate family become a reason for chronic pain?
This was what she discovered in the process of “connecting the dots”
“Although we were looking forward to our new life and knew it was the right thing for us to do – I lost so much! I lost my home, my neighbourhood and community, I lost my extended family, our family gatherings. I lost my friends, my workmates, and support systems. I lost everything”
We must also remember 30 years ago, air travel was more difficult and expensive, there was no Facebook and social media that now brings us closer to family and friends in different parts of the world.
My Clinical Research Into Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain
This story was part of my clinical research, a woman, I’ll call her Sally was 41 years of age, she was a nurse.
o Her pain was stiffness and restriction in her shoulders,
o left weakness on inversion,
o pain worse in the past six months,
o pain in knees over the past 3-4 months,
o 1-2 days had a limp due to the pain.
Connecting the dots for Sally took her firstly, to age 37 – 4 years previously. At this time, she suffered severe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and during this illness lost a lot of weight.
Secondly, age 20, when she was doing her nursing training and beginning to interact with patients.
Many of the emotions around these times of her life, were anger, and rejection. It’s worth noting that kinesiology indicated that all involved emotions were self-to-self. This is a manner of identifying the direction of an emotion, indicating that she had a tendency, for putting the emotions onto herself.
A brief summary of my clinical research is available here
Grief And Loss Precedes Chronic Pain
One of the saddest consultations I've had was in Perth, many years ago. Even today when I recall my meeting with this chronic pain client his story still pulls at my heartstrings.
The sad beginning to Joe's pain was the death of his wife six years previously, when his daughter was still a baby.
Joe, a semiskilled worker, then had to raise two children alone. His pain began when his wife died; he said he had to learn to take care of a baby. He said this was "something a woman does".
Learning each step of the way as he was thrust into a non-traditional role, his mind and body told him it was alien. He talked about his physical pain, but he would return to say things such as:
o My daughter is growing up without a woman to explain how to be a woman-I can't do that.
o I need a wife for my daughter, but how can I do that as I miss my wife so much.
These comments that stay with me especially when he completely debunked the saying that the pain of loss gets better with time -"time heals". He heard that too often from too many people. Even from family and friends. He said his emotional pain of missing his wife, has done nothing but get worse during the six years since she died. This was accompanied by worsening physical pain.
When you meet the clinical pain specialist office that you've been referred to by your GP. They may be talking about test results, MRIs, pain relieving injections or possible operations, but we all have a story behind our pain. What we have experienced has an impact on that pain; its progression, its severity and how it debilitates us - as Joe had struggled for six years before I met him.
My pain story - Challenging life threatening illness on my about page.
Myself and other clinicians who work in, what could be called the pain industry need to see the person. We need to consider their life, past, present and future-the psychosocial part of the biopsychosocial model of health and wellness.
How can we address these unwanted emotions, such as the emotions Joe and the others have been living with all these years?
There are a number of clinicians such as Howard Schubiner and David Hanscom who encourage patients to look at and acknowledge their emotions. These doctors agree, just as Joe's story illustrates, if one is able to release emotions from past trauma it can bring relief and be beneficial to chronic pain patients.
How to release emotions that impact chronic musculoskeletal pain.
David Hanscom talks of the groups that he runs when patients are encouraged to write down their emotions surrounding a past experience then they tear up the piece of paper.
Recently I went to a weekend expo, I sat at my booth, inviting people to come and 'Talk to Jean about your pain'. During one conversation the lady recognised that she had much that could be 'released' but writing just wasn't her thing.
"But, I do like painting," she said.
"That sounds like a good way to express those emotions, drawing whatever comes to mind. Then destroying it," I replied.
"I'd burn it. Watch it all go up it flames."
This shows how effective my C.A.R.E strategy can be, giving clients the space to discover ideas themselves providing the chance to grab onto self-responsibility and place their care in their own hands.
Thanks for listening to these stories.
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The Biopsychosocial Model - Explanation of chronic pain disorders, Herdecke University
David Hanscom Orthopedic Spine Surgeon - Back in Control; a Chronic Pain Series
This article is the personal opinion of the author, Jean Jordan who is a natural therapist who works online with people who have chronic pain and related stress and anxiety.
Want to find simple effective ways to reduce your chronic pain without increasing your stress and overwhelm? This is where I can help! Ideas can be found in the articles on my website. You can sign-up to regular updates or spend time using some of the collection of self-help techniques. After over 20 years of having my own pain clinics pain I started Natural Pain Solutions online business to reach more people, rather than one person at a time. Therefore when I completed my postgraduate pain management studies I wanted to spread the word about holistic self-help techniques that people can use at home.