When you have pain, it is difficult to know what to do. Do you rest completely? Do you push through it? Ignore it?
In this post, you will learn:
The 3 different responses people have when they have pain and which one is the best.
How to change your relationship with your pain
How to find the “sweet spot” for optimal recovery
Getting pain at some point in your life is inevitable. This is one thing that everyone has in common. When you think of your friends and family- I am sure you can picture at least one time they expressed that they had some pain of some sort.
Despite the universal experience of pain- it is incredibly personal. Everyone reacts or responds differently to pain when it arises. Some people worry about what is causing it, whist others couldn’t care less. Some people are fearful of pain, whilst others seem to embrace it.
You can tell a lot about the “relationship” someone has with their pain by their actions when they have it. Some people do not want to “poke the bear” so they have very rigid movements and want to protect themselves. Whilst others will be pushing through the pain and enduring it.
Are you avoiding or persisting?
You can create a spectrum with avoidance of pain at one end and persistence through pain at the other. Everyone sits somewhere along this spectrum.
Where do you sit on this spectrum?
Do you avoid pain at all costs? Do you stiffen up and proactively stop things that hurt?
Or do you ignore it? Push it down out of your attention and grind through it?
Like most things, sitting at the extremes is never usually good. There is a middle ground to be had. There is a sweet spot in the middle which can be aimed for which is proven to improve your recovery times.
The sweet spot in the middle
If you are not avoiding movement or activities when you have pain, or you are not simply just pushing through it to get the job done- then what other options are there?
Lets put this into context.
Lets say you have lower back pain. You have 2 kids and work at tesco. It hurts when you bend forward.
Approach #1- avoidance
You call in sick for work. You are terrified of bending forward because you think you are going to do more damage so you keep yourself completely rigid and get your partner to look after the kids whilst you lay on your back on the sofa.
Approach #2- persistence
You feel the pain but despite the fact that bending hurts- you do all the jobs you normally would at work and push through it. You pick the kids up and tell yourself to grind through it until the kids are in bed and you can rest.
Approach #3- “the sweet spot”
You have recognised that bending forward is painful. You arrive at work and work out a strategy to minimise bending for the time being. You ask your partner or family to help with the kids this evening and ensure that you have a good night rest.
When you are in the sweet spot- you are continuing with life but in an adapted way. You are not reacting to the pain negatively and you are not ignoring it. You are acknowledging your limitations for the time being and putting measures in place to ensure you can still function.
How you know when you are in the “sweet spot”
1. You have a willingness to move forward- A lot of people stop things completely when they have pain. They stop a sport or they take weeks off work until they are completely better. To reach the sweet spot- you have to have a willingness to continue with your normal activities.
2. You are using pain as a guide- When you use pain as a guide, you are not fearful of it. You are using it as feedback to guide your decision as to what to do.
3. You are being adaptable.- If the pain is intense or continuous- then you keep adapting what you are doing to reach a point of comfort whilst still completing whatever it is you want to achieve.
Exercising the skill of being adaptable- whilst keeping your emotional reaction to pain in check, is difficult but doable. Once you find the sweet spot- you can carry on with life until your pain dissipates, which is likely to be much quicker than when you use the reactions of avoiding or persisting.
It is worth noting where your reaction to pain sits between the avoidance and persistence spectrum. Continue life as best as you can whilst being adaptable, so you can still enjoy life and make a speedy recovery.
Thanks for reading.