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  • Writer's pictureKris Barling

Pain messes with your head

The worst thing about an injury like this is the level of pain you are in and at the same time, still trying to function as a sane and reasonable person. Pain does so many negative things to you and really affects your mental state. It is exhausting, upsetting and reduces your ability to be positive about anything, even if you are normally an extremely positive person. It is very difficult to put on a happy face when you are in constant and extreme pain. It is also difficult to concentrate on anything because you are continually distracted by the pain.

I am so used to being a positive and happy person so people don’t really know quite how to behave around me. It’s been difficult when people have asked if I am feeling better or asking how I am. On a normal day, even if I wasn’t having the greatest day I would still be able to put on a smile and tell them I was doing great. At the moment, as much as I know that some people are only asking because they care, I am struggling to answer their questions. The reality is, no, I am not getting any better, in fact I probably won’t have any improvements on my pain levels for weeks or maybe even months and no, I am not doing good. My whole life as I know it has come crashing down on me. Aside from the fact that I cannot do things that I love to do like exercise and teach Group Fitness and that this may be a permanent thing, my capacity to function is also diminished. At this stage in time I can’t even do up my own shoelaces and I struggle to stand up for any longer than 3-5 minutes. This level of pain and inability to function is both exhausting and depressing. Things that you take for granted, like something as simple as ducking into the shop to get a few things are also out of the question because I can’t walk that far or stand in line. If you have never felt like this, it is almost impossible to understand what someone suffering this level of pain is going through.

So what do I do to get through this and maintain some form of sanity? At the moment, I’m not really sure. I am trying to distract my mind from the pain by learning about plant based diets, researching about ways to deal with this injury and then also reading and watching things that have absolutely nothing to do with the injury itself.

So now it’s time to change the subject and try to focus on other things. Like my new nutrition focus. If you had have asked me weeks ago if I thought I would be able to easily transition over to a Plant Based Diet I would have said HELL NO! Interestingly, after watching that documentary What the Health, I haven’t even given it a second thought. At the moment I don’t have a wide variety of foods to choose from as it’s difficult for me to go to the shops and I am also unable to stand up and cook at the moment. But I do have access to Plant Based Protein powder, rice cakes, fruits and vegetables. With my decreased energy expenditure at the moment, that is a suitable amount of food. I think it is important that I also try to cease taking pain medication too. I know that anti-inflammatories at times can actually slow down the healing process. I also want to be very aware of my body and if I am experiencing any improvement at all. I don’t expect fast miracles and I need to remember that I won’t be experiencing a reduction in pain in a week, maybe not even two. That being said, the first thing I am looking forward to is getting my pain levels under control and actually being able to function!!

With the research I am doing, although a disc extrustion is far more serious than a bulged disc, there is also a greater chance that the body will be able to heal a disc extrusion. It sounds crazy, but here is what I have been able to put it down to. A disc bulge or herniated disc occurs when the outside of the disc is protruding outwards as the disc fluid is pressing against the disc wall. The disc wall can also press against nerves, causing nerve pain. In this scenario, the body is focussed on one thing, PAIN. As a result, it will send signals to your brain to cease activity and will cause surrounding muscles to tighten and protect the area. When the disc bulge worsens and becomes an extrustion, a tear occurs in the wall of the disc and the fluid leaks out into the space that is filled by the spinal nerves. This causes even more pressure and impingement on the nerves and extreme pain. The body still becomes focussed on the pain, however, the existence of the fluid outside of the disc will cause the body to activate the immune system to begin to break down and reabsorb the fluid. As a result, the body can sometimes heal itself from an extrusion rather than needing to resort to surgery. The time that it takes for the body to do this is dependent on many factors such as genetics and lifestyle. For some people, this might be 6-12 months or more, which is why so many choose to resort to surgery instead.

For me, surgery is the last resort, if none of this works. I will not decide on anything like that until I have reached the point where I know that this hasn’t worked. As much as I am feeling pressured to be better, as much as I am hating being in so much pain, my focus is on healing an avoiding surgery. Surgery is not an option.

I will now visualise healing. I will feed my body with nutritious foods that promote healing and will avoid foods and drinks that will cause damage to my body.

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