To Cope With Flares, I Mentally Block the Pain

Karen Del Vecchio avatar

by Karen Del Vecchio |

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As I wrote in last week’s column, I’m dealing with a pain flare. The pain, while better, is still not where it should be. The sensation is difficult to explain. The best way to describe it is numb — I can feel it, but the pain is beneath the surface.

I tend to block out the pain once my shoulder has bothered me for a while. It’s a coping mechanism. I acknowledge it in the back of my mind, but I don’t fully embrace the idea that it hurts. I prevent the pain from becoming my main thought, which is helpful from a day-to-day standpoint. However, it also can be difficult to determine if I’m feeling better or if I’m simply blocking out the pain. The longer it hurts, the more effective I become at ignoring it. It’s a lifelong, honed skill, albeit a rather macabre one.

My usual triad of bodywork and therapeutic massage, heat, and activity helps, but sometimes my pain flares persist for no apparent reason. It’s frustrating that while my solutions are effective, sometimes I have to wait until my shoulder decides to calm down, let go, and loosen its iron grip on the right side of my body.

But in the meantime, I do my best to ignore it. Resting doesn’t seem to help, and my usual daily activities don’t seem to make it worse, so I typically continue with my normal routine and pretend I don’t notice the pain. Compensating is my second nature, so no one would recognize signs of a flare if they didn’t know me well. If something bothers my shoulder, I don’t even think about using my left arm instead. I’m pretty adept at doing anything other than writing with my nondominant hand.

Despite my pain flare, life keeps rolling. Good things happen, too. I’ve had some great horse rides and positive meetings with students (I’m a college counselor at a local private high school). I even tried out some tasty new recipes. One of the best ways to deal with the frustration of a pain flare is to keep a normal schedule and routine and focus on the positives.


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