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