Pain Sucks

I shamelessly stole the idea for this headline from the guys at uprighthealth. The full line is “Pain Sucks. Life Shouldn’t.” It’s an awesome line guys, thanks. Anyway they’ve got a great site, and I love their newsletter. You should check one out, and sign up for the other. You decide which.

I’ve written a fair bit on the subject of pain. Head pain, back pain, neck pain, but I don’t think I ever talked about how debilitating it can be.

For many years, starting in University, I suffered increasing levels back and neck pain. My classmates used to laugh at me when, as I was taking notes, I’d sit bolt upright as a red hot stabbing pain shot through my back. I guess it looked funnier than it felt.

Later, my career included 10 years as a computer aided design consultant and trainer. So, instead of just hunching over a computer all day, I added travel. Along with lugging around a beast of a laptop, I got to enjoy airport lounges, airplane seats, hotel beds, jet lag and all the other stresses of being away from home.

Along the way I developed cluster headaches and migraines, which got so bad that during times of high stress the only way I could get through the week was heavy use of pain killers. Saturdays became head pain days, and I would spend hours in a quiet, darkened room, waiting for it to pass.

The muscles between my shoulder blades began to atrophy and die, leaving flat spots in my mid spine. The nerve endings in the skin of my back also died, leaving a permanent numb spot just below and inside my right shoulder blade. Some time after that I developed a lumbar problem which would occasionally go “click” and hoo boy, was that fun. The pain was so bad it made me nauseous, and put me on bed rest, pain killers and muscle relaxants for a week.

And in the spirit of “It’s darkest just before things get really black,” the back problems which had already begun to seriously degrade my quality of life took a turn for the worse. Up until this point, the worst effects applied primarily to me, but then…

When that lumbar nerve gets pinched, the most vigorous thing I can do is walk. Slowly. No games, sports, or roughhousing with the kids.

One day my oldest was feeling car sick so I pulled the car over to let him get some air. Then, while reaching in to help him out of his car seat, I almost fell on him. The pain of simply leaning over was unbearable. Like, literally unbearable. As in my knee joints gave out, I collapsed and had to catch myself on the roof of the car.

So, rather than me taking care of him, he took care of me. We had pulled over by a Pharmacy, and my sweet little boy took me by the hand and walked me across the street to buy muscle relaxants. We got home, and I was laid up for about five days. That’s five days of

  • Painkillers to get to work
  • Painkillers to get through work
  • No playing with the boys
  • No exercise
  • No fun

But, the lack of exercise or fun wasn’t the hard part. As I said above, previously my pain only really affected me, but no longer. Being unable to help your sick five year old is an awful feeling. Knowing that it’s your own fault for neglecting your health does NOT make you feel better.

I’ve jabbered on about how inspiration and motivation aren’t enough to make a change. Well, they are the spark that starts the fire.

No, not the fire, once started fire takes on a life of its own. They are the spark that starts the engine. An engine that you control, that you direct, that takes you to your destination.

At any rate, there was the spark, the inspiration, the motivation I needed to make myself better; my boys. It took research, time, patience and no small amount of sweat, but guess what? I made a plan, I showed up and let it come.

What came?

Over time, my back healed. I can do more in my 50s than I could in my 30s because I’m living without the fear of pain. Oh, I’m not pain free, I still get the occasional migraine, I still get headaches when the weather changes, I still get stiff and sore from shovelling the snow, or doing the gardening. But I don’t fear that by Friday, the stresses and strains of the week are going to put me in bed for Saturday.

Even my back, though much improved is still fussy. I can’t do pretty much anything which requires lumbar flexion, and I had that very lumbar “Click” just a couple of months ago (got pinned against the boards in hockey, and pooched my back twisting loose). But…a bit of heat, a bit of ice, a bit of Voltaren and a good night’s sleep later and I was good to go.

It’s amazing, wonderful, empowering, freeing to know that even as you get a little older you can correct much of the damage of a misspent youth. It was only after I went through this that I really began to understand:

You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from scratch once again.

Bikram Choudry

Going through the process, making the plan, showing up, relaxing and letting it come simply…worked. I’m healthier, happier, and doing more now than ever before. I’m living the best years of my life and could not agree more with the guys at upright health. Pain sucks. Life shouldn’t.