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  • Writer's pictureKyrby Brown

The Point of Pain

Pain - a rather messy subject on which there are many opinions. Here are some things I have learned...

Pain management is key to a happy and healthy life, however pain signals should not be ignored or smothered. In my life I have found that recognising pain in its various forms has been vital to my health and my ability to live life to the full.

I would like to first clarify that this blog is about my personal experience of pain. Different conditions and illnesses should be treated with individuality and I understand that, for some, medicinal painkillers are absolutely necessary.

Pictured: My back shown on my running frame wearing a hoodie that says "THIS GIRL RUNS ON MUSICAL THEATRE AND TEA"

Due to the nature of my condition, my body wears at a faster rate than the next person. This can result in pain and inflammation of my joints and muscles. In addition to this my muscles often have to work harder to perform basic tasks, as in many areas they are significantly smaller or missing all-together. Most days I experience soreness and stiffness of varying severity, as I have aged this has got worse.

This pain is chronic and that is why I will not use painkilling medication to alleviate it. For me drugs are useless, they upset my body’s equilibrium and stop me from truly feeling what’s going on. I rely on knowing my body well to determine how I will approach the day, some days I will mobilise carefully as I feel my joints are holding inflammation and prone to damage. Painkillers interfere with my ability to feel these subtle changes, and that really scares me. I am in a constant dialogue with my muscles and joints, they tell me I need to shift position or take a break or sometimes even stretch. They tell me when I need to wear my orthotics or use my wheelchair. Painkillers are like a middle man in this conversation, diluting the details and confusing the communication like static on the airways. I worry that, as a result, I might miss some signal and end up causing more damage, this is not something I can easily recover from.

Just to clarify I will use painkillers in instances of unusual illness or injury, what I’m referring to here is normal circumstances, the day-to-day.

So what do I do instead?

I have 4 key rules that keep everything under control.

1. Massage

Massage has always played a vital role in my pain management, I think it’s due to the fact that a lot of my pain comes from undue stress in my soft tissue. I now have weekly massage sessions with an excellent therapist which make a huge difference to my life. If it’s something you’re thinking about I would definitely recommend it, doing some research on therapy methods and finding a therapist you can work with is key. For example, I went for a reflexology session once and it didn’t have the slightest effect on me. However, Myofacial Release, Sports Massage and Trigger Point Therapy are all extremely effective.

2. Planning

When I was an athlete I was taught visualisation techniques that I continue to use today. When I’m thinking of doing something, even going to the shops or rolling to the pool, I visualise it first. Not only does this put my ‘control freak’ brain at ease but it also helps my decide what approach I will take to the activity. Some days (less and less) I will walk if the place is very close and I won’t be required to stand for any period of time. This is not just for day to day but also in advance, if I know I have a busy weekend or a lot of travel I will envisage what that will look like. Often the reality does look different that it did in my head but I will do my best to stick to the plan as far as possible. I even prepare what I am wearing so that I am as comfortable as possible, destructive clothing can tire me more as it requires more muscle power to move. In the same vein I have to ensure I stay as warm as possible as nothing tires me out faster than being cold.

3. Sleep

There’s been much written about the healing power of a good nights sleep. With the amount of travelling I have done, I have gotten quite used to sleeping anywhere (as long as I’m warm and horizontal, I can’t for the life of me sleep in the car!). This is a fantastic skill for sleep is my key to a working body (and brain) and is an excellent painkiller. I take a long time to recover from a late night, therefore I save up energy for them and use it sparingly. I love music concerts and the theatre but both can be tiring and physically taxing. On a normal working day I am often found in bed by 9:30pm and asleep by 10:30pm. Mornings are my favourite time of day and I am physically and mentally at my best at 8am. This is often my productive time.

4. Mental Toughness

This is a hard one, I have never been someone to wallow, and I suppose I put this down to having a personality that it highly driven and resilient. I’m not sure this is something that can be taught or gained but I know that this, above all else, keeps me moving forwards. I always look to the next thing, I keep a full diary and never like to run out of things to look forward to. If I’m not working, I’m out, of I’m not working or out I’m planning work or my next outing. This is my lifeblood, my go-go juice, so long as I have goals, plans and aspirations I will never truly stand still. Believe it or not this keeps me on my feet, I don’t like to wallow, on my worst days I always have things I can turn to. It’s amusing that standing still physically and standing still metaphorically are both the most damaging things I can do. This is not always a positive thing, I know it’s important to pause on occasion and I really struggle with that. However, I really do believe that physical pain can fade away when you are working towards or participating in the things I love.

Pictured: My first run in the snow (ever!) on my frame. Wrapped up to the Nines as it was rather chilly!

This is a blog intended to be thought provoking, it is not an instruction manual. We all have pain in our lives in various ways and sometimes it can seem overwhelming and never ending. I just wanted to share the things that continue to help me push past the pain. There’s a lot of fun to be had in this world and sometimes a bit of reflection can help us keep pushing for better.

I want to hear how you push yourself through those physical and mental barriers. Everyone’s story matters and we can all help one another.

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