I found that getting more and more familiar with pain patterns creates a greater sense of management; the pain becomes less and less an insidious force waiting to strike and will to more of a necessary ache that goes with readjusting the body into a correct and healthy alignment.
Remaining positive is much easier said than done, especially when you have been out of the workforce for a lengthy time! Try not to become the injury; don’t let it dominate thoughts and feelings. My best recovery periods occurred during times that I kept very mentally and physically busy.
I stuck to my physical reconditioning program diligently and made a conscious effort not to ‘overdo’ it. Not overdoing it can be sometimes a very difficult thing, especially for people who develop an overuse/RSI type of injury, as it normally takes a ‘push push push’ mentality to get the condition in the first place.
There are tonnes of ways to curb and eliminate anxiety, but generally speaking and from first-hand experience here is ten points to help those who suffer anxiety that accompanies chronic-pain:
1. Don’t be shy about speaking about your pain and fears to others. Don’t feel embarrassed if you feel like a broken record. If finances permit, talking therapies (psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapies and so on) can also be of enormous benefit.
2. Make some kind of journal to note improvements in pain, also make notes on how you were feeling the same day – sooner or later some form of pattern will emerge and this can give you greater clarity going forward (but note – don’t get obsessed with the journal or analyse it constantly. Note the links between anxiety and pain).
3. Setbacks are often very disconcerting and frustrating. It is very easy to think you are back at evil old square one again. Rest assured that setbacks are very common when recovering from a chronic injury, it may be the case that you are slightly being too aggressive or that something you may have modified is not working yet. Review your exercise program/journal and remember – talk!
4. Start meditation. It can be very hard at first but meditation was of enormous benefit to me. I practice yoga nidra, which is deep relaxation into a deep-sleep state of consciousness, on a daily basis. There are so many benefits in doing meditation; it enabled me to get my body (that is, getting more in touch with it) and was also a beneficial tool to perform after stretching or exercise as the bodies repairing mechanisms goes to work. Meditation greatly assists in muscle relaxing which is what you need as your body will tighten muscles against pain.
5. Search for self-support groups. There are many support groups for chronic pain conditions. Getting in touch with people who share similar stories, frustrations and experiences is of HUGE benefit to your anxiety levels as, unconsciously, you will begin to shrink the focus off your condition.
6. Gear your diet around recovery to ensure that you are giving your body the necessary fuel for proper re-growth. Investigate vitamins and herbs that are beneficial for tissue and nerve re-growth eg. Vitamin e, various fatty oils etc and lots and lots of protein. A suitable diet can help anxiety and aid re-growth enormously.
7. Don’t put too much hope and faith on third-party treatments, such as acupuncture and massage, to alleviate pain and restore health. They all have a good part to play in restoring and maintaining good health but ultimately cannot be leaned on too heavily or unfairly. Always bear in mind that the objective of all good medical practice is to phase itself out.
8. Investigate the concept of ‘anxiety’ a bit more. I found it very helpful reading books on it – I could always relate to stories from sufferers. Getting more scientifically aligned with the physiological symptoms of stress and anxiety will not necessarily help, but some grounded understanding can enlighten past behaviour and reinforce the idea that unwarranted flight/fight responses can be defeated.
9. Your mind will be very paranoid about performing certain activities again, especially activities that led to the injury. Again be gentle with yourself, allow gradual exposure, frequent breaks and stretching. Confidence will build. Slow and steady.
10. Enjoy the experience! Pulling yourself out of a chronic pain condition is always a great feeling. I’m sure all people who have done so would agree that it gives you a new outlook on life, a better appreciation of health and a more balanced and considered mind.