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Your Approach to Chronic Pain is Like Investing

One thing that can often hold us back from making progress with chronic pain is the desire for things to be back to the way they used to be. We want our kids to have no pain. So we look for treatments that will do just that. It’s the all or nothing approach.

But when our goal is for things to be completely resolved, we can miss out on a lot.. We need to be willing to start where we are.

Greta shouldn’t have pain. And I want her to be pain free. But during the years that I was determined to find the answer to resolve her pain we lost a lot of school days, work days, family outings, visits with friends, vacations, meals around the dinner table, and so many other things. While we were waiting for the cure, she continued to decline.

If I could go back in time I would have told myself that it actually is worth doing the little things that seem insignificant but that will add up, over time.

It’s kind of like low risk and high risk investments. One will make you slow but steady money and the other might make you a wad of cash but also might put you in debt. You can put your money in high risk investments (why not ~ they might really pay off!) but it is worth having a low risk, guaranteed back up plan. We need a diversified financial portfolio.

In the case of chronic pain, pain rehabilitation is your low risk investment. It includes small steps to increase your child’s function, pacing their activity so they don’t overdo it and cause a pain flare, and easing the nervous system out of fight or flight mode. It is the plan that will help you to make slow, steady, weekly progress regardless of whether other treatments work or not. I wish I had started it sooner. But I didn’t. Because taking those steps seemed useless and I wanted Greta to be better NOW!!!

It wasn’t until we started a slow consistent routine to retrain the brain and calm the nervous system that we stopped the decline and started to make progress. Slow progress. With many obstacles along the way. But progress, nonetheless. Our trajectory has not been linear. And we haven’t won the jackpot. But if you could draw a line through our investment graph you would see it trending upward.

That is the goal. A line through the graph that trends upward despite all the ups and downs. And maybe you’ll find a practitioner here or a treatment there that gives your child a boost. Or resolves their pain completely. And that is a real gift. But you can’t just wait for that. Because you don’t know when that will happen. And in the meantime your child is missing out on a lot. .

It can be super hard to take this slow steady road with our child with chronic pain because: #1 – we just want them to be better #2 – we don’t want to hold them back on their good days when they have energy to do more (even though it usually ends up in a pain flare) #3 – we know how much they are missing out on and we yearn for them to be carefree #4 – we get impatient with slow #5 – we won’t settle for anything less than the best for our kids. And we are desperate for them to have a pain free life.

Me too. I feel all of those things. A LOT!!! But while I was lost in all those thoughts and feelings, we weren’t making any progress. I wanted perfection – a pain free life for my child. And I wouldn’t settle for anything less. I was a determined mama bear with a lot of adrenaline for a long time and then I wore myself out. And Greta wasn’t any better for it. I am not saying not to try all these things. Something might pay off! But I am saying start your low risk investment at the same time.

If you take the slow sure steps to increase your child’s capacity to function… If you help them to pace their energy expenditure to minimize pain flares If you are able to switch the focus to the slow progress they are making rather than all the things they are not able to do If you are able to focus more on life and less on pain...

Then subtle but powerful shifts begin to happen.

You start to feel hopeful because you see progress. Your child starts to feel proud that they can do more than they thought they could. Pain starts to have less of an influence on what your child is able to do. Pain becomes more predictable and manageable and no longer sabotages your plans. Pain starts to fade into the background and life comes into the foreground.

This is effective pain management. It is systematic, and predictable. Which is what a frazzled nervous system needs. Calm, predictable structure.

It’s a difficult shift to make. Support is available. Join our weekly parent support group to start building that slow, consistent investment in your child’s life. Build that routine that will eventually get your child back to attending school, hanging out with friends, and enjoying life again. Learning the skills of effective pain management has put our family at ease knowing that we will continue to make progress regardless of whether other medications or treatments work.

~ Carla Friesen

Licensed Psychotherapist, Pain Coach

© 2022

The general contents of this website are provided solely for educational and informational purposes and are not meant to provide professional medical or psychiatric advice, counselling or therapeutic services.

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