Right before Christmas my good friend Lyn gave me three gift certificates to a local chiropractor. She bid on them at her kid’s school auction because no one else was bidding on them and she’s been hearing me lament about my back for the past three years. Although extremely thankful at her thoughtful gesture, I was skeptical. I’ve been in pain for three years and short of major surgery have tried just about everything (including chiropractic very early on), so wasn’t exactly positive walking into the chiropractor’s office. When I arrived, she asked me a few questions, but seemed to wave off my claim that although I believe my injury to be cumulative, it must primarily stem from my long career in photography. She didn’t seem to listen to the part about my already knowing it was a cumulative thing and focused on telling me I was wrong for thinking it was about body stress from photography and that “rolling over in bed did not cause my injury”. Well, duh. I had already said that, but she asked how it happened and I told her. She didn’t listen to the part that I understood it wasn’t just from one thing.
LISTENING is so important. We know our own bodies and I think most of us are pretty intuitive. Those who throw their backs out know that it wasn’t really from lifting that feather-light box or stepping up that curb. We know it’s a lifetime of improper care. We don’t really need to have a practitioner ask us about our “injury”, not listen and then proceed to repeat what we kind of already know. Back pain and some other chronic pains are mysterious. As advanced as modern medicine is, there are so many things in the body that are still a mystery. Especially with back pain, it might not be one thing that caused your pain to begin with and it’s most likely (at least in my case) not one thing that is keeping it from healing either.
Back to the chiropractor. I know she cares and I am actually still seeing her for my pain, but let me get back to that first appointment. She put me on a traction table and stretched me out for about twenty minutes. Then she did some deep muscle and tissue massage and then some general chiropractic stuff (all that cracking and pushing and bending). The pain raging out of my tailbone area (although that’s not where my real pain is) was on fire and then slowly it released. She told me to get up and when I did, I realized I was gloriously pain-free. One of the only times in three years I was pain-free. I couldn’t help it. I started crying. Balling. Right there in her office. Of course I was so excited, I signed on for ten sessions which is why I’m still seeing her.
She warned me that the process would be like the edge of a jigsaw (I think was the analogy). That she truly believed that although there was and still might be an injury, I’ve been protecting it so long that my muscles are in constant spasm and that most likely with walking around, the pain would come back and we just have to keep working at it until eventually the muscles are re-trained to not instinctively protect the area that’s been in pain.
I went home and took a bath as she instructed and when I got out I was still pain-free! It was a breakthrough. Glorious and inspiring. My husband was out that night and I was alone to luxuriate in being pain-free. It was a release. It was a physical release, a mental release and a creative release. It was the few hours that inspired me to do what I’m doing now. It was a humbling moment too to know how repressive chronic pain can be. It’s horrendous to be in chronic pain. It’s always there. It’s exhausting. It’s depressing, it feels hopeless. It effects your body and mind equally. I’ve gained weight not just because I eat when I’m sad or stressed, but also because exercise hurt me. I used to run. I used to do yoga, I used to hike. I stopped doing anything that would worsen my pain (except sex). Suddenly I was pain free and I was reeling in ideas and hope.
The next day I was back in pain. I was also hit with the reality that I’m self-employed, it’s my slow season (not a lot of money coming in) and I’m in pain. I was NOT inspired to start a blog. I also had a good week’s worth left of work to do before I could even think about taking time off. One week turned into two weeks of work. The “jigsaw” of pain was hopeful sometimes, but also discouraging. Could I really be inspired?