06 Oct The Case of the Vibrating, Growling, Bleeding Bush: On Smart Pain Management
Picture yourself as a caveman.
Every day, you walk by a bush on your way to the watering hole to drink up on some crisp, not-taken-for-granted, H20.
To your surprise, on some days, you see the bush vibrating. You even hear the bush growling ever so gently.
That’s weird, you think to yourself.
Your subconscious mind can’t stop peering at the bush. Like a dog distracted by noticing squirrels.
But for days, you glance away, consciously ignoring the vibrating, growling bush.
On some of those days, you recall being out on the savannah when you observe a sabre-toothed tiger munching on some prey in the distance.
After the tiger makes of handful of appearances out in your environment, your mind goes into pattern-recognition mode.
Am I seeing that tiger eat on the same days when I notice the vibrating, growling bush?
After you ask the question, you think nothing more of it and go on with your caveman ways, drinking water, bashing rocks with your stick, and doing other caveman things.
On one occasion, you walk by the bush and notice that the bush is bleeding!
How could this be? Bushes don’t bleed!
Finally, a few more days go by when you inevitably see the vibrating, growling, bleeding bush. Before you can blink an eye, your mind finally recognizes:
Oh. That wasn’t a bush. It was a tiger inside of the bush. The tiger had caught prey and brought it back to the bush where it was eating its food. Hence, the bleeding.
And now, I’m tiger food.
Here’s the thing. You ignore the vibrating, growling, bleeding bush on a daily basis when it comes to the pain you experience. Risking being eaten by the pain tiger.
Paying attention to that bush and connecting the dots is smart pain management for your body that will prevent your eventual physical downfall.
Martin A.’s Advice on Observing the Bush
Martin A. is a wonderful, 52 year-old man who came to see us with low back pain and sciatica, since 2005! He was discharged with 90% improvement after 13 treatments.
A few weeks ago, he sent us a follow-up email, connecting the dots on “the vibrating, growling, bleeding bush” that is his low back pain.
The bolded, annotated parts are mine. After his email, I’ll dive into the enormous lessons Martin A. is teaching us and how you can set yourself up to never get eaten by the pain-tiger.
I write you this email to let you know that I appreciate the way you keep communicating with me [through our Barefoot Rehab email blasts] even after the treatment and it has been a while.
I was thinking about dropping you note few weeks ago and then I simply did not remember to do that. So, you email served also as a good way of reminding me.
I wanted to let you know that you helped me tremendously and that now if I feel any lower back pain I know exactly why that happened (1). It is usually after I go really hard on myself in the gym (2) especially the days that are “the first after a while” (3). This spring-summer and early fall season I was cheating a lot as far as my regular gym sessions are concerned (4). I was favoring golf as much as I could because this is simply what I love to do (5). There is almost no pain in my back after a round of golf and I did not experience anything like this for a loooong time (6). I also managed to keep my weight down and that helps a lot as well (7). But this all couldn’t happen without your help (8) and I em extremely grateful (9) for everything you gave me.
I was considering also those massages that you guys started and I was there for the first one to try it out. It felt really good after that one but unfortunately I am now commuting to the City for my new job and as I usually leave around 6 AM and come back home around 7 or more often 8 PM I simply do not have time to drag myself somewhere to make it for an appointment. Speaking about commute – i was afraid how my body will react to those bus rides back and forth – I have to tell that it is all more then OK (10). I am watching my posture even when sitting on the bus and there are no signs of any stiffness or any pain like I experienced it before when commuting several years ago (11).
Say hello to Sarah, Curtis and everyone else in the office as well as Tomas. I will try to do my best to find time before the end of this year to stop by and see you all.
Have fun tomorrow!
I’ll see you hopefully sometimes soon.
Getting emails like this us reason for waking up every morning!
Your Body is Always Giving You Signs
One of the most common denominators of people who have pain over the long-term we see in our office at Barefoot Rehab is ignorance of the body’s signs.
Maria had a new injury at the start of tennis season every year, for 3 years, before she finally realized that she used to do yoga prior to the injuries starting. Doing yoga year-round kept her body fit enough to be able to handle the increased activity of the tennis season. Becoming aware of this pattern, she started doing yoga again (wink wink Maria) and didn’t have an injury again at the start of tennis season.
Spence is a CrossFitter in his 40’s who has never had an injury that has lasted more than a month or two. More recently, he’s had two injuries lasting over three months that didn’t get better on their own. With ongoing treatment by us at Barefoot Rehab and understanding of the body’s wear-and-tear over time, Spence has finally accepted that he needs to lower the intensity of his workouts in order to be able to CrossFit into his 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.
Both Maria and Spence only took a few years to connect the dots of what’s going on in the vibrating, growling, bleeding bush.
If have you are tight here or there, or if you change your activity levels like you’re riding a rollercoaster, there’s a tiger in there. One day, the tiger is going to get you when you do high risk activities and ignore the signs.
Some people go a lifetime ignoring the signs.
What does getting eaten look like when it comes to your health and pain?
It looks like this:
- The 25 year-old CrossFitting male who was fit enough to go to the CrossFit Games with his team gets surgery on both shoulders for labrum tears, only to never be able to do a CrossFit workout again by the time he’s 30 years old.
- The yogi who pushed through forward folds, not realizing the hamstring stretch she was feeling was actually a sciatic nerve stretch that looks like a “hamstring stretch,” ends up with low back pain, unresolvable with the yoga she used to love to do.
- The ex-cop in his 50’s who loves to run and play softball ends up needing a hip replacement after he ignored the hip pain for years, disrespecting the weakness, adhesion, and degeneration in his joint. His exercise instructions post-surgery? No more running or softball.
Just like we human beings evolved in a certain environment, in nature, our bodies evolve signalling systems tell us when there was a danger. That danger sign attempting to get us to not stress something that is damaged. Only in respecting that sign can we avoid being eaten.
Kind of life when the fire alarm goes off when there’s a fire.
Lessons from Martin
Back to Martin.
Martin was treated 13 times to have adhesion in his low back and hip flexors removed. As he was treated, he was educated on his body’s vibrating, growling, and bleeding.
(1) “if I feel any lower back pain I know exactly why that happened” – You need to know what your diagnosis is and the why behind it. Empowered, you can behave in ways that love and respect your body instead of abusing it.
Martin’s diagnosis was:
- Low back disc/spine degeneration pushing on the nerve roots.
- Adhesion in the low back and hip flexors.
- Overuse through exercise and non-exercise activity.
If you want to be diagnosed in this way, find yourself an ID provider.
(2) “usually after I go really hard on myself in the gym” – All pain occurs by doing too much (or load (like water in your bucket) exceeding capacity). The question of why your body can’t handle any more is a deeper question.
(3) the days that are “the first after a while” – Your body is amazing at adapting, but it needs time to adapt. No one plants a seed on Monday, and stands over the plant, cursing it to grow on Tuesday. Do you do this when it comes to your weight loss, fitness gains, or pain relief? Yes, you do (tongue in cheek). Martin recognized that when he interspersed long periods of inactivity with the same intensity of workouts from his prior days, he overloaded his low back that wasn’t adapted to handle it.
(4) I was cheating a lot as far as my regular gym sessions are concerned – Variation is good, but not without mind-body connection.
(5) favoring golf as much as I could because this is simply what I love to do – I’m all about people doing what they love to do. But not at the expense of the body. Your body houses your “life”, literally. Abuse of the body leads to suffering in life. The rotation of a golf swing puts enormous stress on low back discs. Martin is acknowledging that his favorite activity came at a cost.
(6) almost no pain in my back after a round of golf and I did not experience anything like this for a loooong time – Martin is sharing his success from our treatment together. Despite the very high low back disc stresses, he’s had “almost no pain”. This was Martin trying to make my day : )
(7) managed to keep my weight down and that helps a lot as well – Increased weight, usually due to high body fat, often plays a small part on the list of someone’s pain. Martin noticed for him, weight makes a difference.
(8) this all couldn’t happen without your help and I em extremely grateful (9) for everything you gave me – In the Positive Psychology world, gratitude and savoring are among the top interventions for living a happy life. By including me in his success, he’s helping himself savor, or bring awareness to, the goodness in his life. Being grateful allows him to see the cup half-full instead of vice-versa.
(10) Speaking about commute – i was afraid how my body will react to those bus rides back and forth – I have to tell that it is all more then OK (10) – Sitting, like the golf swing, puts high stresses on low back discs. Due to the treatment, Martin is doing well.
(11) watching my posture even when sitting on the bus and there are no signs of any stiffness or any pain like I experienced it before when commuting several years ago – I love to hear when people “watch their posture”. This is Martin bringing mindfulness to “the vibrating, growling, bleeding bush”. When the vibrating becomes more shaky, the growling grows louder, the blood grows in volume, and the pain increases, Martin will address his pain accordingly.
A Short Summary
Paying attention means less pain over a lifetime.
- Be mindful – observe the body and ask why.
- Be respectful – don’t do things that make your pain worse. You’ll regret it later.
- Be grateful – the more you are awed by your body’s abilities, the more you’ll express gratitude for what it can do. Then, you’ll do whatever you have to do to cherish your body.
If you have a doctor to help you understand the signs your body is giving you, say “thank you.” It’s rare to find doctors, fitness coaches, and other service providers you can trust. If you want a guiding hand connecting the dots of the pain in your body, reach out to the doctors at Barefoot Rehab by calling us at 862-205-4847 . Ask to schedule a consultation (for FREE) with one of our doctors. If you aren’t a candidate to come into our office, we’ll help steer you in the right direction. We want to be of service to you in any way possible.
Do you ignore the vibrating, growling, bleeding bush that is your body? How’s that going for you? If you’re mindful and connected with your body, what has that looked like in your life? Are you working out with more nurturing, less intensity, more self-compassion, less abuse? Feel free to share your thoughts below.