Dealing with pain is difficult. Seeking help for pain can be equally as difficult. I have heard too many stories in my years of practice about people who have sought help for their pain, and have ended up having difficult or frustrating experiences that run the range from not helpful, at best, to downright hurtful.
If you’ve had this experience, here are some tips that may help:
1. First and foremost, be realistic about your expectations. Pain is often multi-faceted, with several contributing factors, and the “cure” may take time and come from several different places. Healing from pain can be a real exercise in patience, and a difficult dance with hope. Remember that each thing you do is one piece of a potentially complex puzzle.
It seems that our natural human tendency is to expect that there is a specific cause for our pain, and that someone out there can find that cause and fix it. But the reality is often not so straightforward. If you go into your appointment with a practitioner with the expectation they s/he will be able to tell you exactly what is “wrong” and be able to fix the problem, you may be setting yourself up for frustration.
2. Second, be willing to be the center of your own healing team. If you recognize that pain is often multi-faceted, then you need to become the “quarterback” of your healing team. Each resource that you encounter, whether it’s a practitioner or a blog or a TV show or anything else, is part of that team.
Try to be open to exploring the multitude of possibilities that might be contributing to your pain. Perhaps there’s some unresolved emotional issue that is expressing itself through pain in your body that could be helped by working with a therapist. Perhaps there’s some chemical or hormonal imbalance in your body that is manifesting as pain that could be helped by herbs or supplements or medication. Perhaps there’s a work or recreational activity that is chronically stressful to your body that a physical therapist or other movement specialist could help you modify. Perhaps there’s a lifestyle modification that needs to occur, such as a change in diet or the addition of an exercise program. There are a lot of possibilities, and it is likely that no one thing or practitioner will be the one thing that fixes the problem. It’s up to you to explore and pull the different pieces together.
3. Third, trust yourself. Healing from pain can be a long, circuitous, confusing journey, which is especially challenging when you’re in pain to begin with. All we want is to know what is wrong and to know what to do to fix the problem, but it’s not uncommon to receive different and often conflicting information from different practitioners.
It’s important that, as you wind your way along this journey, you trust yourself and the reality of your experience. Don’t ever believe it when a practitioner says “there’s nothing wrong with you”. This just diminishes and negates your experience. In fact, that statement is more a reflection on them than on you, and means that they don’t know what is causing your pain. Do not take this on! Trust yourself, and your experience, and keep looking for help.
Healing from pain, on any level, can be a journey, and one that is often longer and less direct than we would like. Going from one practitioner to another can be draining, frustrating and exhausting. It takes great courage to keep the faith that help is available.
I wish you as much peace as you can find as you travel this journey.