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Boy, Can I Relate!


Photo courtesy of tunaboat


Many people come to see me because of back pain.  And many wonder if I can relate to their pain.  Boy can I!  Though I come from a long line of back pain sufferers because of the care I’ve taken with my spine, I’ve been relatively trouble free in spite of my heritage.  The ravages of modern life caught up with me a short while ago though.  As is typical, my pain began innocently enough as I bent over and twisted slightly.  I felt the disc tear and said out loud that this is going to be trouble.  It was.


The next morning and especially the week to follow was a real struggle.  I was in as bad a shape as ever I’d ever seen almost anybody, only it was worse, because it was me!  I did learn and remember a few lessons that, I think, help me to relate better to those that come to see me and to be a more effective doctor.


  1. Pain hurts! – Could I be more obvious?  Pain is jealous, it doesn’t like you to think about anything else.  With pain, it’s difficult to focus, to plan and even to make rational decisions.  It can even make a person a little bit grumpy.  People in serious pain need to be cut a little slack and given a little grace.  Patience and gentleness are good.
  2. It’s scary – Am I going to be like this forever?  How long will it take to go away?  It would be easy to let your mind settle on those fears and to give your imagination permission to follow the “what if’s”.  That’s not a helpful thing to do.  Stay in the present and focus on getting well.
  3. It’s highly inconvenient – Life goes on.  Though it seems that life can’t go on without you, it can.  You may have to skip a few things in the interest of getting well.  Let them go.  It’s better to miss a few things in the short term than to prolong your recovery.
  4. Say thanks – When I couldn’t do it, people around me picked up the slack.  My wife was especially nice to me, a friend came out and adjusted me, my kids only teased me a little, a few patients inquired about how I was doing.  Thanks, I appreciate it.
  5. Take full advantage – My brain was still able to think though my back was mis-behaving.  That gave me time to read, to write, to study, to evaluate, to talk.  Sometimes what can seem like a set back is really an opportunity to pause and reflect.  That’s a good thing once in a while.


You may be interested to know that I was happy to follow my own advice to not sit, to stay active, and to exercise as best I could.  I also trusted that my body is smart enough to heal itself.  In all of that, I was pleased to discover that my back responded as I hoped and there were no incongruities between what I wanted for myself and what I offer you.


What’s been your most difficult experience in dealing with pain and how did you handle it?


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