Lessons Learned from a Month of Chronic Pain
In early February, I woke with a "crick" in my neck that I thought was the result of having "slept funny." That only happens to me a couple of times a year, and the pain and stiffness always abate within a day or two, so I thought little of it.
And, in fact, my neck pain did dissipate in short order. However, a couple of days later, I experienced soreness in my left upper arm and, shortly thereafter, severe numbness in my thumb and some discomfort in my left shoulder and upper back. None of the symptoms caused debilitating "pain," but they were certainly bothersome.
When they persisted for a few days, I called the chiropractor who had successfully helped heal my daughter's concussion last year. But, because I would be a new patient to him, my initial appointment would have to be a long consult - and, because of my schedule, I couldn't get in until nearly a week after my call. Thus, my first adjustment was about two weeks after the initial "injury."
I've since had four adjustments, and I can feel a difference - my thumb is markedly less numb most of the time, and I have less back discomfort. I also have a diagnosis: a pinched nerve between my fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae. And my doctor assures me that my current symptoms - fatigue and some light burning in my left bicep, several rounds of "pins and needles" in my hand and forearm every hour - are signs of healing.
I believe him. And I'm working on the exercises he's given me, as well as getting back to regular workouts at the Y because movement (to strengthen a specific muscle in my mid-back) is what I need to prevent future pinches. But, after nearly a month of dealing with near-constant arm and shoulder discomfort, I am mentally fatigued. I can even do everything I normally do without severe pain - just the tingling and mild discomfort - but it is wearing on me. I just really want it to go away...yesterday. I want to be able to ignore my arm instead of being continuously aware of various sensations in it. I want to feel normal again. But, because I don't feel normal - and am not sure when I will - I am emotionally drained.
That recently got me thinking about folks who deal with chronic pain - deep pain as opposed to mere discomfort, and continual pain, perhaps without the promise of the eventual relief upon which I'm pinning my hopes. How do they do it?
How do they get up every day? How do they muddle through everyday tasks the rest of us take for granted? How do they care for their families and/or manage outside jobs? How do they maintain any semblance of a positive spirit?
I actually know several people in that boat...and the ones who handle it successfully would be the first to acknowledge that they do so in Jesus' strength. But, still...their faith does not make the pain go away. Yet, though they all have "moments," they don't lose heart.
Any trial any of us faces is meant to teach us lessons of one sort or another. My trial is not yet over, and I'm not yet sure of all the lessons I'm supposed to learn from it. But I know one is that my body does much better when I don't take a hiatus from regular exercise - after all, if I hadn't slacked from my regular workouts over the last few months, my nerve would likely not have been pinched in the first place. And the second is that I need to see those in chronic pain with new eyes - compassionate eyes instead of eyes that want to look away. I know now from experience how draining such pain can be...so the least I can do is give some of my time and attention to someone else going through it.
Photo Credit: lilhoppadookie
Labels: Personal Health