It flares up almost every morning, but only for a few minutes, similar to a furtive burning sensation in your stomach after you accidentally swallowed a fresh slice of jalepeño pepper while eating chips and salsa. Most of the time, the pain subsides after a few minutes of moving around the house — brushing my teeth, making coffee, and doing laundry — before I log onto the wonderful world of Facebook and Twitter. I don’t notice the low back pain as much as earlier this year. I think I am gradually getting used to the constant numbing pain as if it is normal sensation, like breathing and scratching an itch.
This chronicity rarely disables me in the past five years. It all started back in December 2011 after I attended a business networking event in UTC, San Diego. As I walking toward my car in the parking lot, which was a quarter-mile away (why did I park that far?), the numbing and burning sensation gradually crept up from my right leg toward my right hip, very close to where the sciatic nerve runs. I limped toward my car for what felt like hours. “Is this what a gunshot wound to the butt might felt like?” I had mused.
I had sought help from a variety of healthcare practitioners, from physicians to chiropractors and massage therapists. They all provided temporary relief for a few days. I even had acupuncture for a few sessions, but that only made the pain worse. It seemed to me that the pain worsens when I was under stress — a lot of stress. I wasn’t satisfied with the work I was doing at the time, and there were times when I wasn’t sure if wanted to continue with personal training or not.
This year, however, how I perceive and deal with pain gradually changed. A lot of these changes came from interacting with other manual therapy colleagues on social media and learning about pain science and philosophy — specifically the philosophy of the sciences. I understood more about the biopsychosocial model of pain, about the acceptance of pain, and how to communicate better with clients, family, and friends about pain with a low risk of eliciting a nocebo effect. I even wrote about the history of pain theories and how all that evolved to the pain science that we know today, which helped me understand pain better.
All of these events — cognition, emotion, sensory, memories, experiences — all contributed to my own pain perception. The more I understand about pain, the more I have control of how I deal with it. With that control and understanding, the less pain I perceive.
I rarely sought pain relief anymore. I still get an occasional massage from a few great therapists who listen to me, which alleviates the pain for many days and even months sometimes. Salsa dancing, kung fu, and hiking all help manage my back pain as well as getting a good night sleep and eating a healthier diet.
I don’t go doctor or therapist shopping anymore. I don’t look for quick fixes. And I certainly try not to fall for the latest fad or rehab hype that promise a “cure.”
I found my own way to manage and accept pain. It’s quite liberating.