The Gift of Knowing How to Manage Your Own Pain

For the holidays we gave our eight-year-old daughter a set of indoor monkey bars. That meant I spent a day with my arms above my head, screwing eye bolts into her bedroom ceiling. She can now get from the doorway to her bed without setting foot on the floor, which is useful because she tells me it’s made out of molten lava. 

At bedtime I reached out to turn on a faucet and suddenly my mid-back locked up. It was incredibly painful and I felt unable to move without worsening it. I made the mistake of bending down to touch my toes, thinking it would help, but was then frozen in that position.

I’ve treated this same condition in countless patients. Often this type of back spasm is crippling for at least a few days – meaning missed work or travel – followed by a lingering stiffness and pain for a week or more. Frequently the locked area, even as it begins to release, is prone to getting retriggered if we move or sleep the wrong way.

Luckily, I knew what to do. I started locating and massaging effective acupuncture points on my hands and arms that began to release the locked up muscles. Meanwhile, I used certain visualizations and breathing techniques that facilitated the loosening of my back. Eventually I could move enough to lie on a small ball to put pressure on the muscle spasm while continuing with the breathing, visualization, and self-acupressure. I went to bed about an hour later than I intended, but with my back feeling 80% better. The next day I released the rest of the tension. 

Several times throughout the process I thought, “This would be so much worse if I didn’t know how to do this.” I would have to find a practitioner and wait for an appointment. But what kind of practitioner, and which one? What if they weren’t available during the holidays? Would I have to be immobile during our holiday party? Would I be reliant on pharmaceutical painkillers? Would I be in a daze? Would I find it hard to get off them?

This conundrum is why I created an online course called Live Pain Free. It started with the advice I found myself giving hundreds of pain patients in my office over the years – and the realization that I didn’t have time to explain everything I wanted to teach them. Little by little, the course grew to include virtually all of the techniques and lifestyle modifications I have found useful for self-treatment of pain. It’s more comprehensive than anything else I’ve found. 

Are there other things like it? Yes, of course. There are plenty of books and courses that teach pain relief techniques, some of them very useful. But most feature a single approach to pain, and I’ve never found a single method that works for all – or even most – pain. Even for a given individual, some things work one day and not the next. This is because there are many “ingredients” in pain, especially long-term pain – our history, psychology, lifestyle, body mechanics, etc. – so we need a blend of multiple approaches.

During the years I spent crafting this course, I discovered that beyond helping people to make their pain go away, much of what I wish to share deals with releasing ways of thinking that are restrictive and keep us trapped in discomfort. Although pain management is the issue that often leads people to look deeper, the ultimate resolution may be something so much more than mere physical relief: liberation from our resistance to life, the opportunity to accept and live in the present moment, the recognition of patterns that have held us back, and more. 

The feeling of gratitude I had the other night – I want that for everyone. If you deal with frequent pain, if you would like to help a loved one with their pain, or you just like the idea of being prepared and knowing a wide range of strategies – some based in modern science others in Eastern medicine – check out Live Pain Free

Be well,

Dr. Peter Borten

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