It’s a question that comes up on a fairly regular basis and can sound very different depending on who is asking?
It can be - why me? Why is this happening to me now? What’s wrong with me?
Or - what am I supposed to learn from this? What is my back pain telling me?
Or even - is there a gift in this? Will I look back and be grateful for this pain?
In honesty, all questions are totally viable and the answers can vary hugely.
For some people, pain is a wake up to start looking after their body properly. To listen to the subtle signals, to stop ignoring the small calls of irriation from your low back that have actually been there for years, but have been ignored on the assumption that they will just go away on their own. That was very much my experience. After over a decade of low grade back pain, I injured my back properly playing hockey. It would be easy to blame the hockey, but the reality is that my back had been playing up for a long time, the small injury I got on the hockey pitch just tipped me over, going from chronic niggling pain to OMG how do I get out of the car it hurts so much.
For others pain is wake up call in a time of emotional or mental stress. Life may have become too fast, to full, to intense for your body to handle. There may be stress at work, someone important maybe sick, one of your children may need more of your time than you feel you can give, a whole host of reasons, and consequently you are not looking after yourself enough. And pain may be the thing that calls you back to your body and reminds you that you also need to be cared for.
And sometimes there is a huge gift in the pain. When you look back, you may see it as a turning point in your life. You may realize that it was the call you needed to change careers, to end a traumatic relationship, to honour who you are and your needs. The list is endless. It’s a bit like people who say “oh the illness was the best thing that ever happened to me”.
But I’m in Pain now, what do I do Are you seriously telling me I shoudl be grateful?
From my experience, when we are in the pain it can be very difficult to see any benefit and most people don’t ask or enquire. They just deal wit the pain. But if you are in the middle of it, coming out of pain or well beyond pain there are some questions that can be worth asking….
What does/did the pain stop me from doing?
What does / did the pain allow me to do that I wasn’t doing before?
How do / did I feel about this pain?
What feelings do / did I have to experience that I otherwise would not have?
How has my life changed in the short / long term?
If I reflect on these questions myself, my first big episode of back pain got me to my first chiropractor. I felt so helpless and fearful that it would stop me doing the things I loved. However, it opened the door for me to a whole new world - alternative health, chiropractic and ultimately to the healing work I do now. I’m so phenomenally grateful. Did I reach that state quickly - no way! It has been a journey.
So if you are asking - why me? Try to look at it from a different angle? See if there are any benefits however small. It’s happening whether you like it or not. It will probably change you, and only you have the choice as to how you respond, what you learn and how you grow…. or not.