"Well, everybody hurts sometimes." REM
(Before we begin, some newsletters are light like popcorn and fun to read! Others are educational and heavy like lead. Let's just say this one is a little on the latter side, but keep reading because this topic is important. Especially if you suffer from this or love someone that does.)
I’ve delivered three babies (2 of those were twins and one was a breech extraction), I’ve broken bones, suffered dance injuries, survived years of migraines, emerged from a severe concussion, and have experienced the everyday fare of pain that comes from dicing your finger on a mandolin, dropping a full can of something heavy (was it beans?) on my foot, and catching each baby toe on the coffee table. Multiple times. Ouch.
None of these things, however, come even close to the two most physically painful events in my life.
No, not even the twins.
I was running around a tree, chasing a little neighbor. We were playing “catch me if you can” and after several times around, I stood up from my toddler stance and ran right into a small branch. With my eyes wide open.
Ok, I know, I know. Who does this?
I quickly covered my eye and told the little boy that I had to go inside and I proceeded to flush out my eye with eye drops to make sure there was no debris in there. I, foolishly, tried to rub it, open and close it, and finally cover it with some ice (I’m not sure why?) while I laid down to experience some of the most intense pain I’ve ever felt in my entire life.
That night, I didn’t sleep at all. I’m very good with pain (I’m in no way bragging about this, I’ve come to find out that it's somewhat of a genetic trait) but this was almost unbearable.
The next morning I called my ophthalmologist and she agreed to see me right away. What I’m about to describe to you next was one of the most welcomed and blissful moments of my entire life:
Her nurse put two anesthetic drops into my eye.
Instant and complete relief. I could breathe again. I wanted to hug her. I wanted her to sell me those drops for any ridiculous amount of money. I would gladly pay it.
When the ophthalmologist finally came in the room and examined my eye with that crazy magnifying contraption thing, she said these exact words:
“I don’t know how you are just sitting in front of me so calmly like that right now. You have sliced your eye wide open and you have a deep and long 5 mm corneal abrasion.”
I slyly replied “Well, I’ll tell you. I can thank a tree branch for that injury and we can thank your nurse for my calmness. Now, how do I get more of those drops?”
It turns out that I couldn’t get more drops because it slows down the healing process. When she said this, I almost started crying hysterically. I knew that I would be returning to that level of pain that I’d gotten to know so well in a few short hours. What I didn’t know was that this injury would also plague me for years to come.
If you're a careful reader, you’ll remember that I said I had experienced TWO very painful injuries. I have. The second one was worse. It involved spinal fluid bursting out of an intervertebral disc in my cervical spine and showing up all over my back in an MRI. Let’s just not even go there.
Pain is an extremely complicated phenomenon. It’s defined as the body’s neurological response to tissue damage or perceived tissue damage. There is acute pain and there is chronic pain. My story above was an acute situation turned chronic.
This month’s theme at AG is a three word-power-punch-combo that has to do with pain: Repair, Release, and Rewire.
I’d consider myself overzealous if I tried to go into a lofty dissertation on pain. Even pain specialists love to say that there is SO much we don’t know. So, I’ll stick with some stats and figures:
-20.5% of people in the world suffer from chronic pain. (50 million in America alone)
-70% of emergency room visits are due to pain in the US and $560-$630 billion dollars are spent on treating chronic pain.
-Chronic pain is the #1 cause of of long term disability.
-There is a correlation between the perception of emotional pain and physical pain. The area in the brain where both are processed overlap in the amygdala and people who tend to be sensitive to one, tend to also be sensitive to the other.
-People with chronic pain are 3x more likely to commit suicide.
Here’s the good news. The fact that you're reading this now means that there is a high likelihood that you are interested in health and well-being and a very high likelihood that you do one of the things that helps keep chronic pain at bay: exercise.
Research has shown us that chronic pain from arthritis, a leading cause of pain for so many, is improved with movement. Poor sleep and pain are interestingly correlated. Exercise helps you sleep better. Stress and pain are also very interestingly correlated. Exercise helps that too.
If you suffer from any sort of chronic pain, you are not alone. There is hope. There are treatments. There are specialists. Keep searching to improve your situation.
If you live a relatively pain-free life, keep doing the healthy things that keep you there. While I wouldn't wish the kind of pain I described above on anyone, I'm grateful for the experience. I can better understand those living with intense pain, having dealt with it multiple times in my life for a limited amount of time.
This month at AG, we'll discuss, on a basic and introductory level, the physiology of pain and tools to help release it. We’ll talk about repair through movement and physical therapy, and neurological rewiring to help us live pain free lives.
I’m going to leave the rest of this conversation to the experts. Please join us on Wednesday, October 16th from 7-8:45 pm for our workshop What a pain: How to repair, release and rewire.
Joining us first is Melissa Hanson Gahr, physical therapist and owner of Seacoast Body Balance. Melissa will talk about common injuries of the recreational athlete, how to assess your pain, when to contact a specialist, and how to heal through movement.
Joining us for the second part will be Julie Farrell, licensed therapist, who will discuss the science behind the neurological rewiring of pain through EFT, a technique that she’ll teach us how to do ourselves and that is backed by scientific research.
As always, our workshops are complimentary for our Unlimited Members. If you are a guest or use class passes, please join us by getting a day pass for this event on our website. As a gift to one of our awesome friends, we'll be randomly choosing one of the first 10 to sign up for the workshop to give them a complimentary day pass. Your workshop could be on us!
The moral of the story? Keep exercising, listen to the experts, and always, always, ALWAYS close your eyes around low hanging branches.