Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mindfulness and Dealing with Physical Pain

Last Saturday, Diana and I were out and about for most of the day. That is the kind of day when my body tends to ache the most. On long days with lots of car riding, visiting, sitting around, and time on my feet both standing still and walking, I deal with general muscle pain and fatigue from FMS, rib cage pain from costochondritis, weird pains in my stomach area from a hiatal hernia, and of course foot pain. That makes me sound pretty sick and miserable, but it really isn't like that at all! I actually consider myself pretty healthy. I don't tend to acknowledge pain and except for the ribcage pain which is really annoying most of the others I can continually plow through.

The hardest time for me is when I am sitting somewhere with nothing to distract me. That happened to me once on Saturday, and I was thinking I would have to excuse myself and go for a walk and stretch a bit to be OK, but then I decided to become mindful instead. I payed attention first to my body and then worked outside being in the moment with everything that was going on around me. A surprising thing happened. The pain went away. (The particular pain at the moment was the hiatal hernia. It has bothered me since high school when I am sitting still for a long time especially if I am wearing certain clothing and my stomach is empty.)

I have been trying this technique on a regular basis now. When I am dealing with physical pain, I become extra mindful of my body. This is the exact opposite of what I have done in the past. In the past, I have always tried to distract myself. I have found that by becoming mindful, I can always reduce my pain levels. This is a wonderful discovery.

I have since thought a lot about why this works. In my mind, if I am paying close attention to something that hurts, it should hurt worse. The simple truth is that when I am mindful I relax. Always. Relaxation is a result of mindfulness. Stress, anxiety, and tension are results of a lack of mindfulness. When you relax your body, usually you hurt less. Give it a try. If you suffer from a chronic pain disorder or if you are healing from an injury, give mindfulness a try, and you just might be happy with the results!


Ann said...

I have scoliosis which equals a lot of back pain. I'll have to keep this in mind. Thanks for sharing

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Grampy said...

I also have a stomach hernia. I take prilosec otc for mine. You have to take it continuously. I notice if I go off of it for anytime at all the pain is back.
Sounds like you are doing a good job of dealing with it. Good Luck.

Vicki of RaVena Relics said...

Very good post!
I am 5'9" and 220 at the moment, (with hammer toes and walk about 75 miles a month), and have recently developed knee problems. I know exactly what you mean; I'm not as sickly as it sounds, but sometimes the pain can be pretty bad and prevent me from being the ridiculously exuberant person I am :) I am going to try your mental "trick" ... I will let you know how it goes. I'm about to do a 5+ miles walk today... I'll be sending you positive energies!! BIG hugs to you and yours....
Vicki, (you can see my recent walks and workouts on the app on the right side of my blog, fun stuff!!)