5 Steps to Preventing Pain, Find the Cause
I'm sure you've wondered this yourself. Maybe even spent many sleepless nights wondering...
It's the biggest question that I get from my clients at Skin to Soul who are coming in for myofascial sessions:
what caused my pain?
Sometimes based on the story they tell me I can point out obvious possibilities but other times I just have to flat out say:
"I don't know."
At the end of the day, YOU are the only person who can track and identify the cause of your pain. Unless I were to follow you around 24 hours a day and document your life ;)
We all want to know WHY.
We all want to prevent our pain.
With some patience, awareness, and investigation you can start to regain control over your body.
There are 5 specific steps that I know can help identify the cause of your pain and help you also prevent it from happening again.
In today's video I share my recent process in preventing a pain flare. Keep scrolling to read the 5 steps :)
Remember my blog post Surviving a Chronic Pain Flare?
I didn't just survive, I felt deeply and took note of what was happening. That enabled me to prevent that exact same pain from coming back with a vengeance.
BEST of all, I realized what the trigger was.
Oftentimes, we have so many possibilities going on in our life at once that it is hard to determine what caused our pain. And it can be a toxic mix of events that cause our muscles to tighten up.
But usually there is one big thing that we need to focus on.
You might go through a few cycles before you start to connect the dots but it's worth starting to take these steps so that you can start to CHANGE your life for the better.
Here is what you need to pay attention to to prevent a chronic pain flare:
1. Learn mindfulness for body awareness. Absolutely #1 it is imperative that you start to pay attention to how your body feels throughout the day. For some this might come naturally and for others you might have to learn how. A lot of us spend a lot of time in our heads ignoring our bodies. Stop ignoring your body. Take responsibility. Stop being a victim and take action. Here is a body awareness meditation that can help you get started now:
2. Keep a daily log of physical activities, feelings of stress and anxiety and sensations in your body. This way after the second or third time a symptom or area flares up, you can look back and see if there is a trend. If this feels too tedious you can back track and write down everything that you remembered happened in the days before your symptoms occurred. But to truly be a good detective starting a little daily journal will be more effective. Especially if your pain is debilitating, it's worth it to take the 5 minutes each day to do this.
A sample log might look like this:
Monday: woke up feeling stressed about my mother being in the hospital, spent the day very busy, was sitting working on the computer for 3 hours, didn't have time to work out, did 15 minutes of yoga before dinner, moved all of my potted plants outside, raked the yard, my low back shoulders felt tight
3. Remember the initial smaller sensations before the pain takes over. Usually before things get really painful there are more subtle, more benign sensations that we typically would ignore. Definitely write down what you were feeling before the pain started. This is where steps 1 and 2 come into play. Without them, you can't do step 3. And without step 3 you can't know when it is about to happen! Now, sometimes the pain comes on really fast out of nowhere and we just don't know what happened. We don't always have the answers. But it's worth doing these steps because often the case is that it really didn't come out of nowhere, we just didn't know the trigger. Keeping a log and practicing mindfulness will help you determine what the trigger is.
4. Remember what gave you relief to prevent the symptoms from escalating. This step also requires that you go back and look at your log, or remember what happened the last time. Was there a specific stretch that relieved the pain last time? A certain modality you tried? Maybe it's time to quickly get into see that acupuncturist again. Maybe once you finally got back into doing yoga again the pain got better. Do that now. Don't wait. In the video I describe how I remembered to stretch the front of my neck and chest instead of my upper back where the pain actually was. I actually stopped the acute pain in it's tracks. I still had some soreness but nothing out of the ordinary and continued my stretches for a few days. All of the pain was gone days later.
5. Take note of any triggers. Again, this is where you want to go back and notice what happened last time that also happened this time? For me I realized it was that I had been lifting weights at the gym and then the second time a very heavy potted plant. No surprise that my chest and front of my neck got tight. So from here on out I will be mindful of this area. I'm stretching these areas more regularly and avoiding lifting anything too heavy. I sort of knew the plants were too heavy but did it anyway and at the gym I was feeling weak from a bad cold. So next time I will be listening to my body.
Finally if you are currently in the midst of a pain flare my heart goes out to you. It's not pretty. I've been there many times before and I know how you feel.
If you've already checked out my blog on surviving a chronic pain flare and want more, I highly suggest this amazing talk with Tara Brach.
I've been sending it to everyone!
We hope you are well. Let us know in the comments if you have successfully used some of these steps to prevent a pain flare or if you have any questions :)