Yes and no. When I’ve told people with chronic pain about the processes I use to control chronic pain I often get asked. “So you’re saying just push through the pain”? They say it with that expression that says.. “Do you know what happens after you do too much”?
Yes, I do. And I understand what happens when I do too little. Neither option is good for a person with Fibromyalgia. But there is some truth to the idea of pushing through the pain. But it starts with a baseline of appropriate activity and a plan.
The baseline of appropriate activity needs to start with your doctor or a physical therapist. They need to determine appropriate exercises and activities based on your age, physical status and body type. Once you have found a good starting point they can help you come up with a plan. An important part of the plan is that it should be a plan for increasing your activity level from where you are base lined to a point where you can have productive days.
So now you have a plan. Let’s say that it consists of walking, climbing stairs and riding the bicycle. Each with a duration that was set by your doctor or physical therapist. This is where the “Push through the pain” idea starts to come in.
You’ll find that even at the low level you are starting at, that it may be more than you normally have done. Or that you do it for three days fine and the fourth day you’re in lots of pain. That is the point where you want to push through the pain.
You have determined with your doctor that you aren’t going to cause damage. But each time you stop doing an activity your training your central nervous system. Your teaching a pattern of pain awareness equals a cessation of activity and that is wrong. That is allowing the pain to control your activity. What we need to do is to be in control of our activity and let the brain know that the pain that it is feeling is inappropriate.
So let’s say you’re supposed to walk for 16 minutes but at 8 minutes your legs are hurting and your back is hurting and your…. This is the time when you want to continue. Every day you want to always meet your scheduled level of activity to start creating new patterns in your brain. It will start to understand that there is a new pattern in your life and it is no longer in control. You are.
At the end of the activity you will take actions to let your muscles and nerve endings know that the pain is inappropriate. I say it this way so you get the understanding that you are training the brain. Just like a child you are letting them know when they are doing wrong. Ice is a great way to do this retraining. Using a half a pound of chipped ice in a wet towel for 15 minutes numbs the area in such a way as to disconnect the nerve endings from the central nervous system to allow it to reset. You can also try relaxation techniques to allow the brain to rest and disconnect from the environment around you.
So you’ve create your plan. You have stretching, exercise, relaxation, work and play all well balanced throughout the day. And you stick to it. You push through on your plan. You push through the pain and you push through the relaxation. Yes, you heard me right. Push through the relaxation. It can at times be as hard to do as the exercise or other activities. We don’t know how to disconnect. It’s a hard thing to learn and then process of pushing through it is also a part of the training you are doing for your brain. Letting it know that you are in control. You will decide when you are active and when you relax.
So be purposeful in your life. Give your body the activity and relaxation that it needs. Fight for it. Make it happen.
Do you know how horses are taught patience? You tie them to a post and leave them there for a long time. They’ll get used to waiting. Doing nothing but waiting. Being patient for their time to be active. Sometimes they will stomp their feet but they’ll realize that it’s not productive so after a while they’ll just stand there. That’s what we need to do with our relaxation. Just take it. Accept it.
Don’t worry about what you’ll fix for dinner. or what you could be doing. This is the time you need to push through the activity no matter what it is. Exercise, work, fun, relaxation we need them all and you have to push through each one of them