Pain Management

masseuse working on woman's back

I have been functioning lately with some muscles in my neck and shoulders that are pretty knotted. It got to the point where I was taking stuff for the pain daily, sometimes more. Which is not good. While the boys were gone a few weeks ago I took advantage of the opportunity to get a massage in hopes of working some of the knots out.

Stephanie, the massage therapist, had this to say about me “Your shoulder is messed. Up.” She gave me a new cream to try and sent me on my way. The next day I had a migraine that was just awful. I think it was triggered by the massage, and specifically I hope it was a sign of the muscles starting to relax.

The next time I saw Stephanie she inquired after my shoulder and I told her about the migraine and how severe it had gotten. She asked how it was doing then and I responded that things were a lot better, but I’m never really pain free. Things were uncomfortable but tolerable.

Hmmm. We all carry pain in one form or another, don’t we? Physical, emotional, spiritual…so many have pain of some kind.

I’ve been thinking about how we as parents deal with pain, and how that affects our families. Using my knotted shoulder as an example, I pulled the following principals from the experience.

Pain is something we can carry and even become resigned to or learn to ignore long-term. It’s safe to say that I’ve had stiff and/or painful muscles in my neck since high school. I’ve tried different things over the years with limited success. There is more I could do to work on the problem; it’s very easy to just rely on the ibuprofin and keep going rather than deal with the source of the issue.

When the pain becomes so severe that it interferes with living, we’re more likely to take action. Yeah, I know. This is a rather obvious statement. It’s true though, even for emotional pain. While there are individuals walking this planet who work through their issues consistently, for many of us it’s easier to just set it aside or stuff the emotions down deep, put on a mask and keep going. Unfortunately, problems don’t go away when ignored. More often, they fester and grow.

Pain inhibits our activities, sometimes before we realize it. With the physical pain, I don’t turn my head as far to either side as I’d like. Playing rough and wrestling with the boys is something I’ve been avoiding more lately, because I’m more fragile.

The adaptations we make in life to work around the pain can cause more difficulty for us. I’ve not been exercising the way I should. This means I am not irritating the painful areas, but I’m not strengthening them either. Rather, I’ve put myself into a holding pattern.

Removing the cause of long-term pain can result in more severe pain temporarily. The migraine after massage episode is proof of that. A second massage a week later resulted in more pain the next day; it wasn’t nearly as severe though.

How we handle pain is apparent to our children and sets the stage for their own methods.
We can set good examples (handling difficult or painful circumstances with honesty and grace) or bad (playing the victim or wallowing in defeat). The choice is up to each of us.

Earnest Parenting: helping parents deal with different kinds of pain.

Image courtesy of FoundryParkInn via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

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  • Evan March 3, 2008, 11:50 pm

    For personal growth my motto is: follow the pain (it can be more motivating than ‘follow your bliss’).

    If you listen to the pain there is much wisdom waiting.

    Making you life more painful than it need be is doing no favours to your self nor the children to whom you are teaching what life is like (whether like it or not we do the teaching by example).

    When you can get some free time from mom-duty spend some of it listening to what the pain has to say. In my experience this can be hugely beneficial. You do need some good support to do it though.

    Reply
  • Michelle Vandepas March 4, 2008, 6:28 am

    I’ve had shoulder pain from an old injury for years. I’ve also been working on what emotions were trapped inside the shoulder. Once there is a weak spot, that is where all the emotions will just go lay and stay, keeping the pain and the injury! After I was able to finally let go of all the emotions, the pain went away.

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  • Blaine Moore March 4, 2008, 6:51 am

    My mother has every single point of fibromyalgia (however it is spelled) so she is in pretty constant pain. A year or so back, she needed to have a test done on her elbow before surgery, and it was one of those tests where they stick the 9 inch needle in your arm and is extremely painful.

    The doctor looked at her as he was doing it and asked if her arm was numb. “No,” she said, “why?”

    “Because most people are screaming or passing out right now from the pain.”

    It hurt, but she is in pain so often that it wasn’t anything special. At least she was finally able to convince them that her problem with her arm was a real issue and not just the fibromyalgia acting up.

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  • Amy March 4, 2008, 11:01 am

    @Evan: Hmmm. You’ve got me thinking. I don’t know that I concretely understand what the process would be. If you happen to blog (or have blogged) that one, come back and let me know. I’d be very interested!

    @Michelle: Okay now you have me thinking too. 🙂 I am open to the idea that emotional pain manifests physically. If that’s happening with me, it’s pretty deep seated. Forgiveness and working through issues has been a (painfully) large portion of my life for quite some time now. To my knowledge I am at peace with all but one situation, and I am gradually letting go of that one. This makes me lean toward more conventional solutions, like relaxing and strengthening the muscles. Again, though, I’d be very interested in more of your thoughts on the topic.

    @Blaine: Wow. I’ve experienced just a fraction of that, where it hurts so much that additional pressure doesn’t register. But nothing like what your mother and so many others suffer. That adds another point to the list: Pain makes you tougher. Give your mom a gentle hug for me. She’s definitely got my respect.

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  • Angie March 4, 2008, 5:16 pm

    Amy, did you write the last point for me? It hits home for me right now.
    I’m dealing with some difficult and painful issues with my daughter and it’s a challenge daily to say “I’m not giving up.” Sometimes I do feel defeated, but I get up each day and renew my strength in the battle.
    I know she needs me to be strong. She is just a teenage girl who is not fully equipped to deal with these struggles yet and she needs my help. But, you have me thinking about the fact that I am modeling my resolve for her. My motives haven’t been well thought out, but I am hopeful that the outcome will be positive. Thank you for a well thought out and provoking post.

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  • Amy March 4, 2008, 10:43 pm

    Angie, no. I wrote the last point for me. Trying to bridge the gap between the way I deal with pain and the way the boys do is often difficult because I approach it with an extra 25 years of experience and perspective. I need to remember that, and keep in mind what they’re learning when they watch me. Like hawks. Every moment.

    I know that you can be strong, my friend. Stronger than you may realize. Your daughter sees you getting up and starting again every day even when the cost is high. That means something, and will fortify her own will to persevere in difficulty.

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