Inspired by Elizabeth's upcoming radio show on pain and a difficult day yesterday, here's a pain control technique I wish doctors would try.
In Pam England's Birthing from Within book and childbirth classes, she has patients practice pain control by holding or putting their hands in ice. If it doesn't sound painful, try it. The first few seconds, it's just cold, but as you hold the ice longer (not enough to cause frost damage!), the cold intensifies and turns into pain. You want to put it down, but you can't because it's not time yet. So your mind tries to adjust itself, looking for an out. When it realizes there is no out, that your hand's going to stubbornly hold that ice, you quickly develop coping techniques for it. If you hold that the length of a contraction, a minute or even up to a minute and a half, your hand just hurts. After you put that ice down, the pain gradually begins to fade away but doesn't disappear immediately. You begin to look forward to putting the ice down, for those breaks between "contractions" and with a Zen mind begin to realize the temporary nature of the pain and to either sink into it or focus on other senses.
Imagine picking up that ice yourself for a minute. Or better yet, do so, unless you have circulation/skin problems. It feels good to put the ice down.
But with most intense acute or chronic pain, you can't put the "ice" down. As pain patients, we'd like to put the ice down at any time and relax into that blissful fading of pain. You have to hold the ice longer--try 3 minutes even. The longer you hold the ice, the more difficult it is to control the pain with mental power, though you begin to adjust. But you don't have that break between contractions and there is no baby to look forward to at the end, and you don't know if the pain will end or how long it will take to diminish. If you've had acute pain frequently, you develop some trust that it will fade, that eventually you'll feel better. In the meantime, though, your life goes on hold.
If you do too much one day, or perhaps without doing anything out of the ordinary at all, you can't brush your teeth, get dressed, compel your body to move. So you postpone going to the bathroom because you're going to have to carry a 20-pound bag of ice with you. It's strapped to your neck and back and settles in your low spine and hip. Some of it melts and shifts, migrating down your back, down one leg. It's in your shoulder and knee, and impedes movement as well as creates pain. You have your wheels, but getting to them or transferring is painful too. You can't sit down on the toilet, so though female, you stand to pee. You can't make it out of the house. People wonder where you are. They think you have problems. You do have problems. But they've never carried more than a 5-pound bag of ice with them. They think they understand since they've carried around 5-pounds of pain packed in their lower back or around their knee or on their head for a while, but they can't.
Update: in-laws have had a lot of rain from the outer bands of Hanna in Jamaica but are doing well. And going on a cruise later today.
Update to update: Tell me the in-laws aren't on a boat in the middle of the hurricane. Somehow I know that they are unless the boat company cancelled because they're just that optimistic. Someone's got to worry around here.