We are interconnected Beings – is it therefore surprising that one condition can lead to another? Say for instance young Simon takes a fall and had hurts his leg. He is in pain, not only in the leg but all over because his entire body has been shaken. He gets checked out by the medics, told he has a bad sprain, his leg put in a cast, he is given some pain medication and told to rest it. Getting home, Simon has to deal with his mum’s and other family members’ concerns about the fall, which causes him embarrassment, stress and anxiety. When finally he does get to sit down and everyone leaves, he is left with ‘what ifs’ spinning in his head…’what if Sam hadn’t caught me…?’…’what if I had broken my arm/ hands…?’ (Simon is a carpenter) …’what if I had broken my leg…?’…’what if I can’t get back to work…?’…what if my pain gets worse…?…’what if….?!?!?! You get my drift….
Bed time approaches – Simon is beginning to stiffen up (a natural reaction to a fall) and parts that didn’t hurt before, now do. So he takes a few more pills and gets into bed. He keeps woken by pain in the leg (and elsewhere) so sleeps fitfully. The next day, he feels more stiff and the pain is worse (again a natural healing process). Simon is in more pain, sleep deprived, irritable and anxious. He can do nothing more than sit about and watch daytime TV – even getting up to make a cuppa proves difficult. Yet again the ‘what ifs’ start spinning in Simon’s head.
The more anxious he gets the more acutely aware he becomes of the pain and the more pain he feels, the more anxious Simon gets….and this slows the healing process.
So what might help is for Simon to attend to his thoughts Mindfully – become aware of what is going on: rejoice that he had a narrow escape, accept that it is going to take a couple of weeks for him to heal; he won’t be able to go to work but that’s ok because he has some savings – here’s a chance for Simon to catch up on all his reading; and sleep is going to be a luxury for a while. So short spells of dozing will help; keeping other parts of his body mobile through stretching will help, keeping a handle on reality instead of trekking off to the land of fatalism will also help and generally keeping cheerful, will manage the pain and anxiety.
Simon’s mental framework will aid his recovery, which in turn will help him feel more cheerful and so on…..
If this reads like a sorry tale, I assure you it is very common: some of my patients get so trapped in their pain/stress cycle even when the broken bones have healed that it takes several sessions of a multi faceted approach to get them sorted.