So I’m going to tell you something. And you will either react by agreeing completely, or thinking I am an idiot.
I never really thought I would experience “pain.”
Now I don’t mean never, ever feel pain. That’s just silly. I obviously will feel pain if I bang into something or cut my hand or have a baby without drugs. All of this has happened, and all involved some degree of pain.
I just never thought I would experience chronic pain. The kind of pain that sets in at a certain point in the day, or blankets your body in your slumber so you wake up, tight and stiff. I’m married to a man who tore his ACL as a teenager. As long as I have known him, he has had pain in his knee. Friends have told similar stories.
I never had this. I just assumed I got lucky. Maybe my body was tougher than theirs. Maybe my diet and exercise regimen has kept me ahead of the curve. But then again, maybe not. Since I was 13 I have had low back pain. While I still have flare ups, as I got older and found different ways to move my body, my flare ups minimized. And roughly a decade ago, I wore fairly non supportive shoes (damn you Chinese slippers!) for a summer walking around Manhattan. This (amongst other things according to my favorite Chiro) resulted in my arthritic toe which, until recently, only reared its painful head occasionally.
Now here comes the idiot part. I just assumed these occasional flare ups wouldn’t become more. That I could keep running, wearing cute but non-supportive shoes and eating inflammatory foods because I had managed to avoid the chronic pain by staying just ahead of it. Clearly, there was something extraordinary about me.
This last year, despite my movement challenge, has shown me that this is not the case. This last year has shown me that I am in fact, quite ordinary. I hurt. Daily. There are aches and stiffness and sometimes swelling. I feel betrayed by my body. Angry at it. I feel it has failed me.
But then I think about all my body has done in the last 3, almost 4! decades. It danced, multiple hours a week for years, it swam thousands of laps in pools, it ran miles, it birthed two children. It would make sense that parts of me would hurt. My favorite Chiro has explained that in order to maintain movement and minimize pain, we need to learn how to move correctly. When we are born, we naturally know how to move and sit. But as the years go on, we develop habits like slouching, and we engage our muscles in repetitive ways. (throwing, swinging a tennis racket), we exert huge force on our bones (gymnastics, dance, wrestling). We forget about functional movement.
My body didn’t fail me. I have failed it. I failed to incorporate the changes necessary to ensure its longevity and vitality. So I have two choices. I can choose to remain ignorant, ignore the pain and assume I will rise above it because I have in the past. Or I can make changes. I can stop working out in ways that add to the injury, I can move to a more anti-inflammatory diet, I can actually do the rehab Dr Craig assigns. I can stop making excuses and accept myself for who I am today and work to ensure strength in who I will be tomorrow.
Do you have chronic pain? How do you deal with it? Are you good about doing rehab or do you just push through to get the best workout you can? Can you give up those cute shoes? (I can’t!) Would love to hear from you about this in the comments section.
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About the Author: Courtney Abrams is a Health Coach and Founder of Roslyn Wellness. Trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she helps clients work within the realities of their day to day lives to find ways to make small and manageable changes to their health that can maintained over time. Her clients include people trying to lose weight, beat sugar, increase their energy, cook simple healthful food and reduce stress to name a few. She also shares a passion for food policy and educating people about the foods they are eating and the governmental role behind much of it. You can learn more about Courtney and Roslyn Wellness at http://RoslynWellness.com.