If you’ve ever dealt with back or neck pain, you already know it affects everything you do. When pain goes on for a while, it can cause problems emotionally as well as physically. When it goes on longer than that, the challenge is to prevent pain from becoming part of your identity- who you are.
In my practice, I explain to patients the distinction between a person who is sick and a sick person. This sounds like a subtle difference, but it really isn’t.
Imagine two people with the same low back pain: The person who is sick wakes up in the morning and says ‘It is sure going to be tough to do the things I need to do because I don’t feel well.’ Conversely, the sick person says ‘I won’t be able to do the things I need to do because I don’t feel well.’ Now I know everybody has a different pain tolerance- but this goes beyond the notion of tolerance.
How do you avoid the trap of becoming a sick person? The best way is by enjoying those things that make you feel ‘normal’ as well as the things which can remind you of the positive things in your life.
How to Avoid the Sickness Trap
Savor your sleep. This is your time to recharge, and hopefully get a break from your pain.
Get outside and move. Even if it’s only a little, you will lubricate your joints and get some fresh air in your lungs.
Eat well. Good nutrition helps you refuel, and feel good about how you are treating your body (even when it isn’t treating you particularly well at the moment!)
Write it down. A wellness journal helps you take note of things that are going well and things that are improving, as well as giving an accounting of what you’ve done to make that improvement happen.
Look at every day as an opportunity to improve, and pay attention to your progress. By focusing on the good and enjoying what you can, you won’t allow yourself to become a sick person.
Andrew Kirschner, D.O., is a board-certified physician with a private practice in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, and a consultancy in Miami, Florida. He specializes in treating individuals and couples with musculoskeletal and back pain. To learn more about his practice, please visit BackTogether.org.