If you have endured some form of physical pain for an extended period, then you know how much it can affect your outlook on life. Physical pain can weaken our resolve and dampen our spirits. However, it does not have to rule our lives. We can master it. It’s all about choices. The following is offered to give you hope and inspire you to not let go of your dreams. One step at a time, you can overcome all things.
For eight years, I suffered severe lower back pain. It started in my early twenties. Over that time, five different diagnoses were given to me. You have sciatica. You have Ankylosing Spondylitis. You have low fluid levels in your spine but these pills will help. They didn’t. Instead, I gained fifteen pounds in one month which only served to further aggravate the problem. You have Rheumatoid Arthritis and will be crippled by the time you are in your mid thirties. Gee thanks! Last but not least, my favorite. Your fine Gil, it’s all in your head.
My pain was real. It was not in my head. It was in my back and it was debilitating. Some days it felt like a hot knife stabbing through my gluteus. Other times it was a constant searing pain from my mid lower back all the way down my left leg. It would cause my hamstrings and lower back to cramp up which caused me to hunch forward. This eventually puts your neck and upper back out and your shoulders end up in knots. There were many days when I could not get out of bed without first turning over on my stomach, then sliding out on to my knees and using my arms to push myself up. Walking was difficult. The only help I had was a good chiropractor and way too much Tylenol.
I think I could have written a book on new yoga poses back then. The positions I had to get into just to put on my socks and shoes were, unique! Getting in and out of my car was at least a thirty second procedure, getting out being the more painful of the two. After a while, I became accustomed to the pain. There were days when I was “ok”. Mostly though, there was pain.
I made a choice. The choice was to not let the pain stop me from doing what I wanted to do. In all those years I may have missed a total of two or three days of work. I sponsored a baseball team and even played on days when I was “ok”.
Eventually, my new GP referred me to a rheumatologist who gave me a bone scan. In layman’s terms, which I really appreciated, he told me there was a fire burning in my lower back and he believed that if he could control that fire or put it out, there would be a huge improvement. The inflammation was causing swelling that pressed on my sciatic nerve. He explained that even if it worked, the many years of trauma would have a lasting effect. Still, he felt there was a good chance he could help me. He prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug called Voltaren which I was to take once a day for a month. After only three days on the pills, eights years of pain evaporated. I stopped taking them on the fifth day and only took them when I would feel it flaring up. To say that I was grateful is a huge understatement.
If you haven’t had back pain like this, it’s hard to relate to it. In my twenties, I owned a computer store. I shared a facility with a video store owned by someone who would become a very good friend. He would see me come in to work hobbled up and he would tease me joking that I was a wimp. Many years later, I hired him to run the service division of a company I was managing. One day, he put his back out. He is not the type of individual that misses a lot of work. It takes a lot to keep him down for too long, but this laid him up for four days. When he returned to work he was still sore. He came into my office, closed the door and said.. “Gil, I am so sorry!” I told him he had nothing to be sorry about. I totally understood how it felt. He said.. “That’s what I mean. I had no idea it hurt so much and what I am sorry about is that I teased you about your pain all those years ago.” I hugged him and thanked him. He is a good man.
At 47, I started karate. I checked with my GP first and he gave me the green light. I began this journey with a body that had gone through two left shoulder separations, a right shoulder dislocation and a back that was prone to injury. I went at it a step at a time. I listened to my body and let it dictate what was doable on any given night. Its four years later now and next week I am up for my brown belt promotion. That’s one shy of black belt. I can do a full front splits and am about 10 degrees away from a full side splits. I attend classes 2-3 times a week for 2 to 2 ½ hours per class. We work hard and do lots of pushups, sit-ups, squats, lunges, stretching, sparring and kata. I am stronger now then I have ever been and probably in the best shape of my life. Along the way, there have been several bumps and bruises, two cracked ribs and a few back tweaks. I worked through them all and am so very happy that I did. I could easily have denied myself of everything I have gained by choosing to believe that my body would never let me achieve this. Yes, it hurt when I started but over time I became stronger and the pain diminished.
If you have physical pain that is preventing you from achieving your goals, consider the following ideas.
Watch your thoughts and feelings.
While your pain is not in your head, your attitude is. Don’t walk around painting stories of what you are missing or blaming the universe for your plight. Say I can. Better yet, say I WILL. Paint a vision in your mind of what you want and never stop moving towards it.
Don’t give up!
Learn what has helped you, educate yourself as best you can and keep seeking out new ways to deal with your pain.
For me, doing an exercise routine that involves heavy weights is just asking for trouble. On the other hand, exercises that increase core strength and flexibility work wonders for me. Find some kind of exercise you can do and do it. Your body will thank you and so will your spirit.
Know your limitations and work within them.
If you have an arm that is permanently disabled by some type of injury, being a pitcher or quarterback is probably out of the question. Golf however may not be. I played eighteen holes with a one armed golfer some years back. He shot a 6 over par! Tennis, Tai Chi, swimming, cycling, power walking and yoga are a few other forms of exercise that come to mind.
Watch your weight.
I lost 20 pounds over the last few years. A few months ago, I was carrying a rock that weighed about 20 pounds from one end of my yard to the other. I thought, wow, that’s actually pretty heavy to carry around. I carried it for another five minutes as an experiment. Try it sometime, it’s very enlightening!
Remember that you are not alone.
There are many who have suffered pain and yet achieved great things. Consider Stephen Hawking. As a youth, he rode horses and coxed a rowing team. He became afflicted with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and at twenty one was told he had two to three years to live. He gradually lost the use of his arms, legs, and voice, and is now almost completely paralyzed. What did he do? He went onto become one the most brilliant theoretical physicists this planet has ever known. He describes himself as “lucky” despite his disease. He is now sixty six years of age. Or think about Nick Vujicic. He was born without limbs. He now travels the world as a motivational speaker and has touched thousands of lives. There is a very powerful video clip of him called “It Matters How You Finish” that has been a source of inspiration for thousands of people.
Don’t give up – Hang in there
One Step At A Time
You Can Overcome All Things!
All photos from the MS Word Clip Art Collection
Originally posted February 27, 2009 at synaptici
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