Excerpt from my very own Pain Profile:
Screenshot of my own pain profile graph. The real one is interactive.
Pain ain't a badge of honor!!
This finally got through my thick skull when I was chatting with my Uncle Ray (an interventional radiologist--haha, ray-diologist--at Kaiser in Long Beach, and has been working in hospitals for 30+ yrs). He told me, basically: "You know, all this bravado about natural childbirth that's been bullied on to "good mothers" for quite some time now? Out of all the nurses I've ever known, not one had a single hesitation when choosing the epidural for their own childbirth experience."
And then I thought, what about men??! Tough it out. Nothing I can't handle. MAN-UP, DUDE! etc., etc.
Anyway, this is not for me. I read an article in the nytimes about how chronic pain, after a year or so of constant suffering from a specific source of pain, can cause actual structural changes within the brain. Then, thus--double-whammy!--you got the Pain Itself as its own problem in addition to your original injury/physical-mechanical problem. The article's stern statement that got to me was: "Chronic pain becomes its own disease." (Thank God though, for neuroplasticity!)
I think this article, that scared me straight (into reality), and left me determined to right-away adopt a more assertive, more pro-active (this word sucks, but too lazy to think of synonym) approach, was called Giving Chronic Pain a Medical Platform of Its Own, a post from Tara Parker-Pope's very helpful Well Blog.
After reading this, immediately I made doctors' appointments and set about my plan based around this two-pronged strategy to release me from pain: dealing with the cause of the pain, as well as the Pain itself (steroid injections, nerve decompression, more aggressive tactics). Side-note about Manning-Up: I know a lot of people (boys and girls) and musicians who live with pain, and much of the attitude is like---so what? like it's a fact. There are even teachers at schools who say they have been playing with pain their whole lives and inform their students that is just [yet another] sacrifice you must give to art....Their official stance: PAIN? ... ja, und?
Well, call me a wuss. But the chronic neck pain (actually now right trapezius is where the referred pain is) I've had since March 2011 (yes, it's been a year, a critical point for ACTION) has not made me happier, more productive, a better person, "tougher", or strengthened any aspects of my character.... So, I say, take it upon yourself: If one can learn stuff--new research and studies on chronic pain and the body/mind come out virtually everyday and are accessible to everyone online--and pore through it yourself, come up with thoughtful questions for your doctors and practitioners, seek and listen to doctors you trust, get second opinions (ask them, "What would you do if you were in my situation? And when would be the optimal time?") and one or two who can oversee all the fine points of your case is also critical (counterindications; clearing up confusions that arise when dealing with complex cases)... There is no excuse not to do anything, to settle for pain. Don't do it! And pill-popping is only a short-term solution. (What a thing to be beholden to! aim higher!)
For me it all started with a Sunday appointment at Profile Massage. I was in a phase of strict no-expectations (i'd been let down too much) and just hoped I wasn't blowing too much money on just a medium-type no-effects treatment. The depression/downheartedness and passivity from being in pain so long really seems to cause one to see the world as this place with all these false promises and yet more disappointments--people (practitioners mostly, but hey even friends!) who are enthusiastic about helping you, give you passionate advice, yet often lack real knowledge or real concern for your (your) specific needs (not just repeatedly telling you about their amazing journey of recovery, which makes you feel hopeful, for sure, but hardly is it replicable, as many promises they might provide to you).
So, back to my story. Simply: Profile Massage (in Jackson, WY) got me back on track. At first it was carefully tracked massage therapy, then incorporated some referrals to a skilled acupuncturist in town, and then a truly excellent, committed restorative yoga teacher. After some progress, and some disappointing lapses (and one scary incident), I was knowledgeably referred to a wonderful nurse practitioner, Lori Bowdler, and a very progressive and smart doctor, Dr. Mark Menolascino--the two best health practitioners to be found, anywhere. (From them, I was further referred to various extremely helpful, more specialized people--MD specialists, other NP's, PT's...) Everything during this time was tracked, charted (by me, by my therapist) and after awhile, as my symptoms and pain morphed in different directions (add: tingling, numbness, pain in compensatory muscles, etc) these too were tracked...And though I was skeptical of the (1-10) pain chart system to begin with (Is my "5" same as your "5"? I feel really really bad today, if I mark "9" though, am I being melodramatic?)-- eventually I found the numbers to correspond to real sensible levels within myself; as in, I know what my "4" is, what my "7" is...and that's all that matters: the numbers' meanings within your relative scale. It comes quicker than I had thought.
Anyway, after many months, patterns became not only visible, but clear and repeated--unignorable. Landon pointed out that at least three separate times, right before a major pain spike, the day previous I had a spike in left hand tingliness...So it was reasonable to assess that the left hand tinglies were predictor of the pain spike, therefore we could get in there interventionally, and try to ward it off--prevent it, or lessen it in some way. Or, at minimum, this can be reported to a doctor who could make some medical assessments, I am sure.
From the very first appointment, I was in shock, like I had entered a new world in which it was natural to permit myself to be optimistic. The massage itself wasted no time at all, I felt like things were getting dealt with, right that minute. I was going to get better because I was in the care of a capable, knowledgable, thoughtful expert. Also, it soon became clear that massage therapy was not the sole path, that virtually ALL areas (including Western medicine) were open to me, were consulted with--- I felt I had the sincere support of people (all of a sudden, support of all these smart, caring people!) who were set on not just lessening my pain, or dulling it, or distracting me from it, but actually alleviating my pain. for good.
I thought this graph could demonstrate, help me describe through a single image, how detailed and precise my road to recover is. We are not relying on the Sun God here. We're not all the way over to the only meds and surgery side either. I'd say Profile Massage sets you on a path that is seriously the Middle Way (Buddha won't mind). They recognize that your body is not vacuum-existing, there is no single approach---that we are all these porous nature-nurture individual human beings, complex and unique, all trying every day to make sense of it all...and that our emotional and psychological states play as big roles sometimes as the physiological (mechanical/technical) bleeps on the MRI.
If you are done with medicating blindly and desperately, returning to routines that don't help you with your pain (blind faith), and want a real quantitative as well qualititative plan to end your pain, please go to the website, call them, write them, whatever...There is help, the real kind. There are plans that will suit your very needs and get you results, if not through massage, then through an integrative approach of many talented and concerned health practitioners. (The first decision might be to accept that Manning-Up is not really working for you.) I'm there too. And I wish you the best of luck.