I had planned to write about the unique charms of my little beach town this week, or maybe something about our animal rescue endeavors. However, something came up that blocked me and held me up. I had a spike in the chronic pain that I have in my neck and spine. I have been living with chronic pain since I was 18, but I’ve never been diagnosed with fibromyalgia or anything like that. Most days I can control my pain so well, sometimes I forget it’s even there. Many of my friends would not even realize that it is something I struggle with. Other days it bothers me so much that it’s hard to get through the day. There are a lot of different factors that affect this.
I’ve gone to many different doctors, chiropractors, and physical therapists to try and solve my individual issues. Chiropractic alignments always seemed to help, but never for long term. It took lots of time, but I realized that it was excessive inflammation in my body that was causing my spine out of alignment. Often times, inflammation is caused by something being misaligned, but this wasn’t the case for me.
In the last few weeks, I’ve had a knot in my neck that has been exacerbating the pain I can usually control. I’ve been slacking off on taking care of my body, and it’s come back and bit me in the ass this week. There were a couple days I couldn’t turn my head. I’ve been exhausted and irritable all week. It got me thinking about all the people in this world who go through the same experience every day. Living with chronic pain is something that many people go through. I wanted to share my experience to relate to those that do, but also to explain to those that don’t understand.
You may never receive an official diagnosis.
Or it may not come for a very long time. In my personal case, I don’t know why I have so much inflammation along my spine and why it causes me so much pain like it does. Once I finally talked to my doctor seriously about it, she ordered multiple x-rays and MRIs that all came back normal. I went to multiple physical therapists that agreed my muscles were always really tight but didn’t know why. Finally I went to a back specialist that said my pain was caused by “being a human being” because our spines were meant to be “horizontal like a four-legged animals’.” That was the last straw for me. I was learning how to control my pain in physical therapy, and didn’t want to waste any more money or time for doctors to tell me that, really, I’m fine.
I’ve known other people that have visited multiple doctors and gotten different tests for years, before finally receiving some sort of diagnosis. They are living with chronic pain for years before getting an answer. Even if you get a diagnosis, it’s never curable. It’s always something you have to learn to manage, there’s never a quick fix. Which brings me to my next point.
You must consciously manage your chronic pain every single day.
For me, this has meant focusing on eating right, exercise, and sleeping enough. All things proven to reduce inflammation in the body. I also have a full length foam roller to massage myself whenever I need it. Walking more also helps. (I started walking before I got my dog because it gave me pain relief. Now that I have her I walk her twice a day and it has been hugely beneficial for both of us.) I’ve recently been receiving amazing benefits from practicing yoga. I talk about my journey with falling in love with yoga in this post.
I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t really think about every little thing I have to do every day to manage my pain. But boy, do I notice it when I’ve been slacking off. If I skip my workouts for just one week, my pain skyrockets. I’ve heard similar stories from my other friends who are living with chronic pain. Whatever their specific regimen is, they have to follow it every day or suffer the consequences. It can be exhausting and frustrating to have to put time into feeling normal every day. But this is just a part of life for those living with chronic pain. While it’s difficult to keep a positive attitude the entire time, it’s healthier than moping about it every day.
You need to open up.
I usually don’t talk about my pain. I don’t necessarily like other people knowing about it. Ever since I was little, I wanted people to think I was strong and invulnerable. But that’s nonsense. All humans have vulnerabilities and it’s one of the things we can all relate on. Any time I’ve shared about my difficulties, I’ve found that all my friends understand. Even my coworkers would give me a break when they could. You’ll also find that many of your friends are also struggling, often in silence.
Connecting with each other this way is important. Whether or not you have chronic pain, understanding the life of others gives you important perspective of your own. It’s not always easy to say, and it’s not always easy to listen to or understand. I hope this post gives understanding to those who don’t live with this kind of pain. And if you do, know that you’re never alone. I’m always here if you want to reach out.
Supporting each other, regardless of capability, is important above all else. Whether you have an illness such as fibromyalgia or a more unexplained issue, your pain is real and valid. If you ever need to talk I am always here.