Thoughts on Pain Management

Like many, my health care people are telling me to manage the pain that I’ve got. I’ll take a step back. First they let a comment dangle like, “I assume you’re including *that* in your pain management plan.” The flat way they have of putting the onus elsewhere is not really the beginning of a good conversation for me. Even though I may kind of love this person, I’m annoyed. And deflated as I walk away from the appointment.


Such a big deal, this self-care, this 24-7 self-pampering. Most people I know don’t own they’re important enough to get under that kind of magnifying glass, that’s the first thing. Then, there’s too much information: conflicting, unproven, unknowable. Old-timey home remedies, juxtaposed with Ayurvedic, and with scientific. Whole systems of knowledge that had nothing to do with your life before, are now presenting themselves for immediate absorption. For musculoskeletal distress I’ve got to think about bone broth now; inflammatory science; a multitude of daily activities must be cleverly adjusted; as well as what modalities I must decide to now practice with commitment. And pay for! And whose efficacy I must assess on an ongoing, analytical and self-absorptive basis.

I would so, so, so, so pay someone to figure all this out for me. I am humble before my pain. I surrender to the First Noble Truth of suffering! But once I am done whimpering I know I must move on to a more functional place. I must adjust my attitudes and the emotional color of what’s going on. I must practice deep compassion for myself, not just for the fact of the physical pain but also for the suffering bound up in my helplessness and confusion.

To the extent that I’ve been trying to figure this out for a while, and that I’m in the business of recommending self-care, I am prepared to share one grain of wisdom — that magnifying glass. Toward pain management planning we’ve got to put the biggest, most badass metaphorical magnifying glass over our lives, our bodies, our patterns, and our list of potential remedies.

It is worth it. The closer the scrutiny of how we are responding to that litany of recommendations the more effective the results. And it’s not a metaphor – it’s a job. Tracking the improvements and tracking the setbacks with 1) neutrality and 2) self-compassion is our first most important tool. So get that big glass in your hand and behind your eyes. Not only ARE you important enough to warrant this very close look, but also, your learning can be a gift to others.

May you have peace as you go about this new endeavor. May you embrace all states of mind as you learn. May you be free from pain.