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How to have Less Pain in a World of Hurt

My mother used to describe extreme pain as “a world of hurt.” As in, “You’re going to be in a world of hurt if you ever do that again.”

Today it seems to me that the world we’re living in is a world of hurt.

As a self-described “global nomad” who happened to be back in the United States when the latest “world of hurt” came down the line it’s painful just to know that I can’t leave this country, which, as much as I love the land of my birth, isn’t where I’d choose to be right now.

But I still have my clients and connections all over the world, and what I hear over and over is, “I just have to do something for the pain!”

Physical pain, whether from recent or old injuries, from chronic illnesses, from misuse or disuse of the body, is always magnified by emotional pain. And the world is in a lot of emotional pain. So the physical pain that was negligible or at least bearable before is now disrupting their lives, creating a cycle of pain that only worsens as the physical pain adds to the emotional distress and vice versa.

On top of that, a lot of our “new normal” habits are contributing to stress and stress-related pain. Staring fixedly at a computer screen for hours not only causes eye strain, but a fixed short-range gaze also communicates to the nervous system that we believe there is a proximal threat to our physical existence. Sitting for long periods is not only hard on low-back and joints, but constriction of movement drains our energy. And the “fight or flight” hormones that the body stockpiles when threat is perceived continue to accumulate if we do not simulate “fight or flight” through physical activity, resulting in chronic pain and fatigue.

So, what do we have the power to do for ourselves to get out of this “world of hurt” while, of course, staying vital and healthy in this physical world?

Massage Doesn’t Require a Therapist

I love a great massage. When I’m “nomading” around it’s one indulgence I give myself in any new city. But I’m also prone to going long periods of time without being in a city or even a town where professional massage is available. For my lifestyle, if my phone is connected that’s connected enough for me. So I’ve gotten really good at self-massage to release stress and pain. It doesn’t have to be intense, time consuming, or a spa-worthy experience to do a lot of good. One of my favorites these days is a simple eye-massage technique that interrupts the stress-pain loop and relieves eye strain all at the same time.

Meditation Plus Exercise

I mentioned that the hormones that accumulate in the body are released by simulating the “fight or flight” activities that they were created to support. So yes, punching and running (try kettlebells or kickboxing) but also cycling, tennis, swimming, or weight training will help you not only burn calories but also use up the reserves of cortisol and adrenaline, both of which contribute to pain levels if allowed to build up.

However, it doesn’t do much good to release stress hormones if you’re just playing the “use all you want, I’ll make more” game. I combine physically taxing exercise with calming and centering practices like yoga and walking or seated meditation to reduce the production while eliminating the excess hormones.

Awaken the Body’s Natural Mechanisms

Most of us (yeah, I’ll be honest, me too) sometimes just want something that helps pain that doesn’t require a lifestyle change or even any significant action on our part. It’s why prescription and over-the-counter pain meds are so popular, and so tempting. But they pretty much work by blocking the communication between the locale of the pain and the pain receptors in the brain that create the experience of pain.

I’ve never had a lot of luck with “traditional” pain meds, they don’t always work and they often upset my stomach which is a whole new kind of pain. I choose instead to activate and leverage my body’s natural pain repellent. I was first introduced to the use of CBD oil for pain after a climbing injury in Spain at the insistence of my climbing partner. He told me that it worked by targeting and igniting receptors in the central nervous system rather than temporarily blocking the sensations. (If you’re wondering, the products I use do NOT contain THC so there is no “high” associated with using it.)

Since then I’ve turned to various forms of CBD oil for everything from nerve and joint pain, to reducing inflammation and pain from being stung by a wasp. (For such small things, wasps can inflict a lot of damage when they get you right below your ear lobe!) I primarily use tinctures and creams, but I’ve tried transdermal patches for ease of use and extended effects and, while they take a while to have an effect they have some advantages of convenience. BioMDplus has a good breakdown of different delivery systems for CBD oil and how they are best utilized.

All in all, in spite of having had some amazing adventures that resulted in injuries I might not have gotten if I’d stayed placidly at home, in spite of being presently “grounded” and not giving myself the freedom to explore and the self-care I recommend for everyone (yes, even a teacher can not walk the talk sometimes,) and in spite of reaching an age (or level of life experience) where pain is a more frequent visitor than I remember it being even 10 years ago, I’m feeling pretty good. When I notice discomfort popping up in my body I reach for my CBD immediately, take time for a bit of self-massage as soon as possible, and partly because my body is pain-free I still get my exercise and centering practices in even if I can’t do them in quaint villages and exotic out-of-the-way beaches or jungles. My body may be “stuck” at home, but it’s feeling pretty good and I’m grateful!


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