Living with Pain is a Hard Thing to Do
Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun, doo-doo, doo-doo, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right
– The Beatles
“Sam, hold on, I can’t move” I desperately called out.
“I cannot move!!”
I was frozen in the parking lot of a supermarket and I needed some time.
That’s my first real memory of living with back pain, although I know that there were some other times before that. I had been visiting one of my best friends in Carrollton more than 20 years ago and my back locking up was rare, but not an uncommon thing. The pain left me, but then it would come back with revenge.
In 2014, a few months before my wedding, I was working out with a personal trainer when my back gave out as I was performing some deadlifts. The pain was excruciating. It felt as if thunderbolts were constantly striking my back and leaving a burning forest behind. From then on, my back would not be the same for years. The back pain would happen at any second, “whenever, wherever, we’re meant to be together” as a famous artist would sing.
In early 2017, I finally made my way to a chiropractor next door to my office. Dr. Will performed x-rays and told me that my L5 lumbar and sacrum were almost fused since I was born. He has helped relieve some of my pain since. I did not feel my pain as constantly as before, but when I did, I wasn’t able to move or continue with my life as I wanted.
An orthopedic surgeon in Juarez told me that in addition to the fused L5 and S1, I also have a herniated disc. He mentioned that he could perform an operation, but that there was a 50/50 chance that it might get worse. I rapidly declined. I knew there were other options which I will share as we go along.
During my practice as a licensed professional counselor and hypnotherapist, I have been seeing countless of clients for many issues: anxiety, depression, relationship issues, weight management, grief, PTSD, etc. I love working with a combination of CBT, EMDR, and hypnotherapy because my clients have experienced a quicker recovery than other modalities that I have worked with in the past.
But the clients with whom I have worked with that suffer from pain, have shown signs of stagnation along the therapy. I did not understand exactly how. That is until I went to a workshop on pain control by Gary Brothers, LCSW. He explained how every area of our brain dedicates 5% of the brain to acute pain. However, when we suffer from chronic pain, it took almost 25% of our brain!
This was mind-blowing. Not only did I have an excuse as to why I may have been rude once or twice toward my wife while I suffered through pain, but it also explained why some of my clients were either stuck or moving at a crawl speed through the therapy.
You see, our brain oversees everything in our lives. It is our supercomputer that is in charge of our mood, our attention, our temperature regulation, our speech, our empathy, our decision making, our fear control, the fight or flight system, our problem-solving, etc., etc. If the brain forgets to breathe, we’re in major trouble.
So, imagine that, with pain, only 75% of the brain is doing the job of what 95% of the brain should be doing. This would be like driving a race car with the motor of a Ford Fusion. Our brain just cannot keep up with everyday life.
When people live through chronic pain, they are unable to complete everyday tasks altogether or, if they do, they will not be able to do so in a timely manner. Things that they enjoyed doing before will be bothersome or unattractive. People that suffer from chronic pain are more prone to living with depression and anxiety. There’s a probability that they are having relationship issues. They might be pessimistic, unmotivated, and hopeless. They might be unable to perform their job or school duties. 20.4% of people in the U.S. live with chronic pain. That’s about 50 million people that suffer daily!
During the therapy, my clients and I work together to decrease the pain. It is very interesting how their life does a 180 after that. Dr. Jareiro, an eminence in EMDR, talks about how some traumas are like blood clots in our lives and once removed, all the other traumas and situations in our lives are easier to deal with. Pain is a blood clot.
In my blog, I will be talking about many of the issues that I work with in therapy, but I will be writing more about everything chronic pain. I will be writing more in depth about how pain affects our brain, I will also share about how pain impacts our daily life. I will write about how we can decrease our pain not only through therapy, but through nutrition, lifestyle changes, and exercise. I will also write about what is helpful and what might not be and the risks that some treatments might have.
So, come along with me on a journey to discover how you could live a sweeter life without the constant cloud of pain trying to ruin it. There is hope. Here comes the sun.
See you soon!
Guillermo Castañeda, MEd, LPC-S, CHt.
- Living with Pain is a Hard Thing to Do - February 26, 2020