Weight of the world on my shoulders

The worst of my pain lives in my neck and shoulders. At times, the muscles seize up so badly that I cannot move them. We always joke that it’s the weight of the world on my shoulders, but that has a truth to it.

When this happens, the first thing I do is lift my shoulders up – like I’m asking a question. Or more likely that I am trying to hide from the answer. This move counteracts the weight that I feel and breaks the block on movement. Yes, it hurts, but as I work them up and down a few times, I feel like blood and energy is flowing again.

Next, I push my shoulders back and my chest out and think of Dolly Parton. Yes, this move is easier in a secluded or private place, but pain is pain and I have gotten a pile of strange looks for this. Push your shoulders back and down and hold for 10 – 30 seconds or whatever feels good.

After some stretching, I break out the Thera Cane. A Thera Cane is a long, sturdy plastic stick with a curve on top. It looks a bit like a walking cane, but it’s probably too short to walk with. (Way too short for my 5’6″.) It has a host of knobs sticking off of it from a number of places. It looks, more than anything, like the frame for some plastic toy parts after all the toy parts have been punched out.

Thera Cane in use on the neck.

Find whatever knob allows you to reach the sore part and use the other parts of the cane to apply pressure to the sore part. Yes, this hurts – but it relieves much more pain in the long run. It is like getting a massage (only cheaper and you have to do the work yourself.)

I lift and replace the cane on my neck again and again until all the lumps are worked out. I’ll then use the Thera Cane to get my feet a little bit or any other body part that feels tense or painful.

When this is done, I’m exhausted and ready to flop back into my nest on the sofa and be quiet for a while. At least for a little bit, the weight of the world is no longer on my shoulders. The next trick is to figure out how not to put the weight back on. I’ll report back once I have that down.

P.S. I’ve linked to Amazon in order to cover some of my expenses (hopefully). So I think that the link to the Thera Cane is part of their Affiliate program. If I did it right.

Focused meditation – vacuum cleaner breathing

Pain can hit suddenly – any time or place. Of all the things that work during a pain flare – vacuum cleaner breathing comes in the fastest and the strongest to get me through emergency times.

This is a meditation exercise, but you don’t have to call it meditation for it to work. It is basically a combination of intentional breathing with a very basic mental image. You will want to practice this during times that you are feeling in control – such as a minor pain at home. Once you’ve done it a few times, you can pull it out even under times of stress to dampen the pain.

First, get yourself comfortable. Sitting in a place where people won’t bother me or think I am strange for closing my eyes is a start. It might be easier for you to lie down. It might also be easiest to find a place that has a nice light in front of you.

Next, find a spot upon which to concentrate outside of your body. Most people choose a “third eye” that sits just off your forehead or above the top of your head. Mine is about a foot above my forehead and six inches forwards. Yours might be three feet forward from your heart. Location doesn’t matter, just find a place that you can feel comfortable locating again and again.

Then, close your eyes and breathe regularly. Pay attention to the breath coming in and out of your body. Imagine a loop that starts outside your body and travels in toward your pain, then leaving your body again. You are going to be breathing around this loop.

  1. Start with a spot outside your body that has light or clean air.
  2. Breathe in pulling that light into your third eye.
  3. Keep breathing in (this is a fast set of steps) and pull that light and clean to the part of you that hurts.
  4. Breathe out, grabbing a little bit of the pain (I imagine it as dirt) and pull it away from the pained area.
  5. Pull that pain travels outside your body. I breathe it straight out from the spot. If you prefer a closed-loop, you can follow where it came in and send it out the same way.
  6. Feel the pain leave your body and disperse.
  7. Repeat until the pain is gone or at least reduced to manageable levels. This happens when all the bad stuff around the pain is out of your body and it’s place is taken by good energy that can help you.

I pull out this tool and use it daily. Sometimes this is to bide time until something else happens (e.g. pain meds kick in) and sometimes this is enough pain control in itself. Do not expect to rise out of your chair pain free and a new person. But, this is one of many things I do that work together so I can get through the day.

I learned a version of this in yoga class and adapted it to my needs with chronic pain. If you like this, you might want to look into yoga. Not the twist both legs behind your neck yoga, but gentle, restorative, and therapeutic yoga all work with breathing and the body.

Questions? Ask below. I am eager to fine tune this writing so it is understandable to everyone.

Possum Power!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Virginia opossum is my animal guide. Yes, the possum. I know other people have stags, horses, and wolves, large impressive and imposing animals. Well I’m not impressive or imposing and I take strength from knowing there is an animal out there who is like me: quiet, avoidant, and underestimated.

Here are some lessons I have learned from the possum:

  1. Come out at night or when you feel safe. I don’t have to leave my house at rush hour or shop at the busiest time of the day. I can go at 6 am if I like. I set my own schedule and do not have to live according to the times that are most popular.
  2. Eat ticks. Yes, ticks. My experiences living with pain have taught me to deal with far worse things than ticks. Heck, I can take on any number of icky things and make them work for me. Favorite TV show cancelled? I’ve been through far worse. Dentist’s visit? Bring it on! I can eat ticks with the best of them.
  3. Play dead. Oh, I am so good at this one. When a possum is frightened it stiffens and falls over, so predators won’t bother it anymore. Pain gets high – I’m on the couch or in bed not moving. And that’s ok. I can do that until the predator, or the worst of the pain has passed.
  4. Scream if you want to. It’s a great way to get out both annoyance and aggression. And when it’s done, I feel a little bit better.
  5. Be resistant to rabies. Okay, I am not actually resistant to rabies. But I am resistant to a lot of stuff. When I got my tattoo, it didn’t hurt. I was used to much more pain. Massive bruises down my leg, I don’t even feel them. Having a baseline of pain is a shield. Most additional experiences cannot top it, so they are subsumed inside my pain and I can’t feel worse.
  6. Eat trash. Perhaps not every day, but sometimes Cheetos or ice cream are necessary.

A possum may not be your guide. How about an armadillo with tough armor and a soft underbelly? A starling, running around with its group of friends and family? An eel able to slip and slide through all difficulties? We are, perhaps, the strange and ugly animals in the world. But these animals can teach us to know ourselves better and use what we have.

On chronic pain

Hi. I’m Heni and I’ve been living with chronic pain for a very long time. And I’ve just about reached the end of my rope more times than I can count. At my last doctor’s visit, and yet another, “We can’t do anything about it except give you more pain pills.” I thought I was going to choke. Then I decided I could write about it – and share everything with you. I have fibromyalgia and arthritis – but I want to be inclusive – looking at all types of chronic pain.

I am on a journey to find out what works, even a little bit. I am going to write about it here. Send in your things that work, even a little bit, and we may build a resource here.

Things that work (even a little bit) so far

  • not moving
  • heating pads
  • pills
  • CBD
  • massage
  • popsicles
  • herbal teas
  • aromatherapy
  • meditation
  • screaming
  • aqua-therapy
  • bio-feedback
  • cats
  • sunshine
  • The Great British Baking Show
  • sock filled with rice
  • humidifier
  • yoga – only sometimes

I’ll talk about these as we move forward. I’ll also talk about my continuing effort to find relief and other issues around living with pain. Send in your stories or suggestions and I can blog on that, too.

Also, I find strength in my animal friend the Virginia Opossum. Expect them to pop up regularly.