I try to use story’s, either personal or patient experiences to help patients navigate rehab. Knowing that other people have gone through it and recovered can be quite reassuring.
Following a few consecutive golf days which was a rarity for me I noticed a little ache in the upper back – definitely caused by the uptick in swings. It was fine for a few days but after a few shorter sleeps, more wine, and a different weekly rhythm (we were on holiday) my neck pain got much worse. The pain spread to my shoulders and upper neck. It was hard for me to life my arms overhead, bend my neck to look down and very irritating to sleep.
I like to use Greg Lehman’s cup analogy to show how stresses can impact our pain. I wasn’t doing anything to make my cup bigger and I was definitely creating a higher stress environment. The pain was limiting in certain ways but I tried to follow the advice I would give to clients:)
I knew I hadn’t done anything sinister so it was safe to move even if some movements were uncomfortable. Running and tennis felt ok so I continued with them. I avoided the movements that were most aggravating as it was early days so I assumed the pain was probably protective and I tried to refocus my attention on good recovery. From its peak of spreading pain and clearly limited movement it quickly subsided. Even as a physio when you are in the throws of pain it can be hard to imagine improving but low and behold it did as it almost always does:)
The lessons I would want a patient to take form this story are the following:
- The simple mixture of good sleep and time can do wonder for pain.
- Keep moving within in reason. This doesn’t always solve the problem but I think it has big psychological benefits and it obviously keeps the rest of the body happy and healthy
- It is normal for pain to be weird, to spread and to not always make perfect sense. It is important to remember many factors impact our pain experience, it is rarely a linear experience of damage = pain.