Don’t let life become a pain

Experts now reveal chronic pain can be ignored

I MET a former doctor last year through a friend of a friend who was giving me some information on the pain in my shoulder. Mysteriously, some people develop an awful condition called frozen shoulder. It can come at any age and hit anyone: the capsule around the shoulder joint contracts, making it excruciating to move or sleep on. The dreaded frozen shoulder can last one to two years, with no known cure other than surgery — which I elected not to have.

Knowing the man’s history, I didn’t think he’d have much sympathy. He’s an adventurer and a risk-taker. He jumps from planes, abseils down the steepest cliffs, goes trekking in jungles and sailing down remote rivers. It’s hard to whine to a person who you just know would suck snake venom out of their own leg and keep going.

I was right. He was most unsympathetic: ‘‘You’ll be OK. It’s our attitude to pain, not the pain itself that stops us. Just take a painkiller when you need it.’’ Because I was tired from not sleeping, I snapped back. ‘‘I’m not you. I haven’t got an athlete’s body. You’d be back in action in a few months. I can’t stand a year of chronic pain.’’

He laughed. ‘‘Actually, I’ve suffered chronic pain every day since I was a young man. I have a degenerative condition that makes my body ache constantly. I’m supposed to be in a wheelchair. I’m supposed to be on strong painkillers and to avoid doing anything that will exacerbate the condition.

‘‘I know the pain is there. But I ignore it, Ruth. I treat it like a crying child. I talk softly to my body and acknowledge how much pain it’s in, and then I get on with doing what I want to do.’’

I remember a similar story from a woman I met in yoga who’d been in a severe car accident that had crushed her spine. She was made of metal and doomed to a wheelchair. Within 10 years of her major operation she was supposed to be hunched over and paralysed. When I met her at the 20-year mark, she was doing handstands and back-bends and was an advanced practitioner despite the agony of her daily life.

Inspired by these stories, I decided to ignore the pain and get on with my life. I went back to yoga and started lifting movie cameras and shopping bags again despite the nagging pain and limited movement. I focused on unpacking the shopping or getting the camera angle right, and life returned to normal.

We all suffer pain. But the doctor is right. It doesn’t have to be a licence to give up living well.

The Australian Newspaper


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7 Responses to Don’t let life become a pain

  1. Ruth Ostrow 3 May 2012 at 2:56 am #

    Another great suggestion from my wonderful readers which I will explore. Thanks to all for your kind advices.

  2. Ruth Ostrow 3 May 2012 at 2:55 am #

    Thanks so much Ruth

  3. kerrys 30 April 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    I was diagnosed with bursitis (inflammation of the shoulder bursa) last November, after having shoulder pain, bad sleep etc., for months. I had also put the pain down before that, to my previous back surgery, on a disc. I gave in to a cortisone injection, which didn’t work. Everyone told me it wouldn’t. Then in February I had, had enough. I went to see a shoulder specialist who correctly diagnosed it as frozen shoulder. I had a hydrodilation, which is a cortisone and saline injection. I am now virtually recovered, and very happy. Heartily recommend it, and glad I followed up.

  4. Ruth Ostrow 30 April 2012 at 10:11 am #

    A tough one. It’s all attitude. I am doing yoga at the moment and it is AGONY because I force myself (not recommended in yoga :)) to do all sorts of hard almost impossible things with my shoulder and arms. However, yes progress. I have almost regained movement except for backward rotations. The pain has stopped except on cold days. Whenever I feel pain I keep myself so busy it is not allowed to come into consciousness for very long. But that is a very very strong commitment and belief system. If she doesn’t have it I don’t know what will create it. My mother with bad arthritis is the same, continuing as normal and living through the pain and that’s been an inspiration to me. Good luck to you both.

  5. Deborah Manners 30 April 2012 at 9:58 am #

    Hello Ruth – re Frozen shoulder – have you asked your doctor about the possibility of food intolerance? It is notorious for causing inflammatory disorders which can develop into disease.
    Many doctors are across this now.
    But find your food sensitivity and substitute problem foods – and your inflammatory disorder will likely resolve itself quickly and without drugs. Journal references on the website.

  6. f sweeney 29 April 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    Is frozen pain largely frozen ignorance? I had a 30% frozen left shoulder for 25 years then 50% right one for 17 years while working in SE Asia. Chinese needling and Physios (of which very few in Asia) did not cure.
    Serendipitously 9 weeks ago I saw Denise, an Occupational Therapist in South Brisbane work on my wife’s shoulder after a cancerous lymph-node op and was surprised to see her method work in cracking up freezing scar tissue rapidly and asked if it was worthwhile a 77 year old cemented in ignorance try it. She said of course and sent me to a member of her “bruise” of bone creaking Oc.Therapists my near suburb. I did and 8 weeks later I am near freed-up again @ some minor pain.
    Go talk to an/your Occupational Therapist, or suffer in learnt silence and ignorance.
    regards f

  7. Tony Alexander 29 April 2012 at 7:35 am #

    Chronic pain is something my wife deals with every day. It affects her life by limiting her movement and therefore her ability to do things, consequently the ability to live a normal life. Her condition affects me as well. There are activities we cannot do together such as going for a walk. Many doctors tell her that her pain is out of all proportion to the physical symptoms that probably cause the pain. I agree that to a certain degree we can ignore pain and just get on with our lives. A course in pain management at Caulfield hospital proved pointless because my wife refuses to accept that there is nothing that can be done cure the cause of the pain.

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