Multifaceted Pain

2014-03-08 13.28.58

In a guest-blog post on the International Pelvic Pain Society’s website, Diane Lee PT made this comment:

“A thorough evaluation often reveals many past injuries, thoughts/beliefs, and emotional states that have collectively led to changes in strategies for posture, movement, continence and pelvic organ support.”

This statement mirrors my direct experience with chronic pelvic pain and expands the perspective of the traditional physical therapy evaluation. Awesome.

Victim to Student

2014-03-08 13.31.27A couple of years ago at a dinner party, my friend introduced me to a colleague of hers who was a physician. When this doctor heard that I had a chronic pain condition, she told me her theory about Fibromyalgia:

“Many people probably experience the same pain as someone with Fibromyalgia, but for some reason the people with this condition just take it to a whole new level. I think it’s related to their emotional make up or something in their past.”

“I agree. Many of my past experiences and the way I held my stress set me up for chronic pelvic pain. But I also have some trouble with your explanation.”

“Why? Because it shows weakness?”

“Yes. Many people with chronic pain are like me. I’m not weak; in fact I tried to stay strong for too long. I didn’t get the pain because I was over-emotional; I wasn’t emotional enough.”

When I was driving home that night it occurred to me that there were two different ways to view my pain condition. The pain could be a sign that my body was breaking down because of my suppressed trauma and emotional reactions. But it could also be a signal from my body to look, process and heal. With the first perspective, I am cast as a “broken victim”, but with the second I get to be a “healing student”.

I decided to take the second role.

Being A Duck

DuckMy nephew posted on Facebook, “I am like a duck gliding smoothly on the surface and paddling like mad underneath.” I responded, “Sometimes I also glide smoothly on the surface and paddle like crazy underneath. Sometimes I have my butt up in the air just trying to get my needs met (and this isn’t always flattering), and sometimes I am flying above it all, synchronistically connected to all around me. And being a duck (actually being me) is being all of it, all at once.”

I used to think that I needed to be perfect in order to be loved, but over time I realized that seeing and accepting all parts of me was the most loving thing I could do.

p.s. And for those of you who noticed- this is not a duck. I just liked the attitude of this hawaiian goose.

Shifting Pain Perspectives

I wrote this letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal. They didn’t publish it, so I decided to share it here!

Why Women Are Living in the Discomfort Zone

January 31, 2014

In the essay “Why Women Are Living in the Discomfort Zone,” Judy Foreman presents evidence that women suffer more from chronic pain and receive less attention from the medical community than do men. She confides that when her physician suggested her chronic neck pain may have an emotional component, she was insulted, and that when another doctor focused on her physical condition, she improved.

Similar to Ms. Foreman, I suffered with chronic neck pain for years, and when a physical therapist suggested that my condition may be related to control issues in my life, I was livid. I am also a physical therapist, and that the PT considered my pain to be anything more than physical seemed wrong and condescending.

My perspective shifted, however, when I worked for more than five years to heal from debilitating pelvic pain using a plethora of treatments from Western, Eastern, and alternative sides of medicine. Over the years, I experienced numerous direct connections between my thoughts, emotions, and pain. When I look back at my neck pain, the physical reasons for my pain are clear. However, I now also appreciate that the pain ramped up in situations that were directly related to the emotional issues I eventually uncovered.

During a second bout with chronic pain, I healed at all levels, and my internal and external life transformed in positive ways. I learned that my pain was not only a sign that my body was breaking down, it was also a signal that it was time to look, process, and heal at all levels of my being. This holistic perspective is interesting and worthwhile to consider when investigating why women suffer more chronic pain than men.

Mary Ruth Velicki MS, DPT

Author, Healing Through Chronic Pain

Los Angeles, CA

Unconscious Suffering

I was attending a Myofascial Release seminar last year when a physician in the audience stated, “Some patients want to keep the pain. It is part of their identity, and in some ways it is holding them up.” I felt indignation when several people around me nodded in agreement. Then the course instructor, John Barnes, clarified it perfectly, “No one consciously chooses to be in pain, but they can have subconscious patterns that are keeping them there.”