Written By: Brian Trzaskos PT LMT CSCS CMP MI-C
As the holiday season approaches, I am reminded of the many challenges faced by individuals who suffer from chronic pain. As someone who has personally experienced the struggles of managing chronic pain, I understand the toll it can take on a person’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being. As rehabilitation therapists, we play a vital role in helping our clients navigate their symptoms during the potentially stressful holiday season.
For many people the pressure to participate in holiday activities and the constant reminders of how things used to be before the onset of chronic pain can add to the already existing burden. It is crucial for them to have a plan in place to effectively manage their pain and ensure that the holidays are still enjoyable and meaningful for them.
In this article, we will discuss some practical strategies and tips to navigate chronic pain during the holidays. Whether you are dealing with chronic pain yourself or know someone who is, I hope this article will provide valuable insights and tools to navigate the holiday season with grace and resilience. By taking a proactive approach and making necessary adjustments, it is possible to find joy and relief amidst the challenges of chronic pain during this special time of year.
Understanding Your Clients’ Chronic Pain
Firstly, it’s crucial to understand the chronic pain your clients experience is always influenced by a combination of physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual factors. In many ways, the holidays may become the perfect storm. The physical demands of holiday travel, the common emotional stress of loss and regret, the social pressure of trying to meet everyone else’s needs, the psychological stress of planning for perfection, and at times the spiritual turmoil created when chronic pain derails the dreams and aspirations we had for our lives. We must always remember that to help relieve chronic pain, addressing all its facets is important. The good news is that there are simple ways to positively impact multiple contributors to chronic pain simultaneously.
Moving Towards Greater Ease
Very often chronic pain is associated with movement. Movement is vital for a person’s life and daily functioning however chronic pain can make movement stiff, uncoordinated, out of balance, and cautious. Compensatory movement associated with chronic pain often increases stress on other parts of the body causing pain to spread and become overwhelming to a person’s nervous system. A simple practice that I share with my clients is “moving into ease”, where someone focuses on exercises that rewire the nervous system for safety rather than a threat. This video will guide you through the process.
Using Simple Breath and Meditation for Healing
At times practicing gentle movement may not be possible for a person either because their symptoms are too intense, or they are someplace where movement seems less easy. Here we employ fewer active methods like breath and meditation. The first step is to find a comfortable and safe position and place to practice; sitting, standing, and lying down can all work well. The next step is to take three easy breaths to get centered. The third step is to “name the pain”; does it feel like tightness, stinging, or something else?
Once we know the uncomfortable sensation it becomes easier to work with and let go of. The next step is to observe the natural rhythm of the breath and invite the uncomfortable sensation to ride out of the body on each exhalation while inviting “medicine” to ride back in with the inhalation. The “medicine” will look and feel different for each of us. If you could breathe medicine into your body, what would it look like and feel like? This video will guide you through the process.
There is Always Time
The holiday season can feel hurried and overwhelming at times. The question is, “Is that how we really want it to be?” Chronic pain worsens under the pressure of stress and expectations and improves with social connections and self-acceptance. What if this year became less about things and more about being present? There is always time to take a deep breath and share a kind thought with someone else, but perhaps even more importantly with yourself. Together, we can make this holiday season one to remember—for all the right reasons.
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