A Personal Story about Pain

What is pain? Some say that pain is just a mental sign of weakness. Some say it’s the physical aspect of the growth and regeneration of your body. Do you remember when you were a kid and you got hurt or were sick and your parents or guardian told you that it was all in your mind? Well that may have actually been true in many cases. With patients dealing with chronic pain, studies have shown that certain chemicals are sent to the brain causing neuronal-­glial signaling to form what is known as pain memory. This pain memory allows a person to feel all the effects of being in pain without actually being in pain.

Tests and studies have shown that treatment of chronic pain should also deal with mental fatigue. If you are mentally weighed down, that could be one of the major factors in why you feel pain. Just being able to get away mentally every once in a while would help so many be free of the pain that they “feel.” Mental fatigue may cause chemicals to be released in the brain, which can cause a real pain crisis.

This brings truth to the saying you are what you think. If you think you are hurt, then you will be hurt. This does not mean that everyone that is in pain is only in pain mentally. Yet when a person is in pain so often the mind may actually adapt and accept pain even when there is none. Many people that deal with pain on a chronic basis tend to take medication even when not needed. Because of this so many people tend to get addicted to these medications and find it hard to accept that they have a problem and be strong enough to seek out the help that they need.

Pain is not only a condition of mind but may actually be the acceptance of the body breaking down due to fatigue. This is why it is so vital to do what it takes to take care of yourself. Change your eating habits if need be and have a healthier diet. Exercise but don’t overdo it. Make sure you get enough sleep. Don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion. So many Sickle Cell patients feel that they have to do everything on their own and have to be better than others and do more just to try to fit in. You have to realize that no one is made to fit in; you are to stand out and be the best you can possibly be. But really what is pain? Many think it’s a weakness, but at certain times it can be all that helps you. Pain can cause your body to regenerate by making you sit down and rest. Before being in pain your body and mind tell you that it’s getting weak. Pay attention to those signals and do what you can that you may avoid pain at all costs.

It’s not always clear what is real pain and what is mental pain. That is why it is very important to talk with your health care provider about talking with a pain management specialist. The pain management specialist should go over with you things to when you feel or think that a crisis is coming on before taking any medication. Some methods may include using a heating pad or taking a hot shower. The heat will allow your veins and blood vessels to open up more and allow your blood to flow better. Other methods include distraction. When we are in pain our minds tend to concentrate on that pain and try to rationalize it or find ways to get out of it. Yet when you allow your mind to drift away through something like music, reading, watching a movie or whatever, your mind begins to relax and stop focusing on that pain. This allows you to momentarily forget that you are in pain until it either fades or grows until the point where you need to find other ways to get out of pain. Medication should not always be the first option. When medication becomes our first option then one of two things happen: (1) Either your body will build up a tolerance to it and sooner or later you will need to start taking stronger doses or mixing your medications, or (2) you will get addicted and it will be hard to break away from it, making you think that medication is always needed for every little thing causing you to justify your actions.

Published in February 2013 newsletter. Written by Alexander McClean