On top of all of the changes that go on in your pregnancy, physical pain is one of the most difficult for many women to navigate. And many women who are pregnant want to avoid taking medication if they can avoid it.
I frequently get asked by women who are in pain what else they can do to find some relief besides take pills.
You might be in pain because your round ligament is stretching.
Or maybe you stood a little too long at your job and your feet are swollen and achy.
Maybe you have more debilitating pain like a pinched sciatic nerve or symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) - which hurts like a MOFO from what I've been told!
It can be incredibly difficult to get through your day when you're in pain. You can't think straight, you get irritable with everyone around you, you can't find a comfortable position to sit or sleep. And you're exhausted.
Pain is a significant source of stress on the body and it makes sense that you'd be exhausted. It causes (additional) inflammation and takes a toll on your body's resources.
The important part now is making sure this stress from the pain doesn't cause more problems in the rest of your pregnancy.
Know where your pain comes from
This biggest misconception we have about pain is that it originates where we think we feel pain. But that's not actually where pain comes from!
For example, if you cut your hand, the pain that you feel isn't coming from your hand. It's coming from your brain's interpretation of the message from the nerves in your hand.
That's why topical analgesics, like Orajel (for tooth pain), work. They stop the nerves in your mouth from sending messages to your brain to interpret as pain.
Same thing for meds like Tyelnol - which is also an analgesic. It just stops the messages from being sent....simply put.
This is really good news for women in pain!
It means that even if you cannot stop the message from being sent (because you do not want to take medication) you CAN change the interpretation of those messages.
It's the power of the mind-body connection. What happens in your brain is something that is in your control if you have the right tools to help you do it.
Does this mean pain is in my head?
Yes and no.
No, in that, I know you're not making it up. Your pain is very real and is not a figment of your imagination. It's not something you're coming up with out of thin air or a way to get attention or whatever it is that you might be thinking this means about you.
It doesn't mean that you can just "think" it away or..."be positive" and it will disappear.
No, your pain is totally real.
The fact is, pain....for ALL of us...comes from our heads. Which means that medications aren't always necessary and that we have far more control over our pain than we realize.
Pain relief starts in your head
Your path to relieving pain begins in your head. Meaning, you have to be in the right mindset to start feeling relief.
To be really honest....
If you constantly think about your pain, tell yourself that you'll always be in pain, start being hypervigilant about the part of your body that's hurting....it will be very difficult for you to find pain relief, no matter how many pain relief strategies you try.
Acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy, deep breathing, massage....they are all limited in their scope of how much they can help until you change your mindset about your pain.
In fact, there's tons of research that shows the more we dwell on pain or anticipate it to be bad or debilitating, the more the pain hurts us. It's like we put a magnifying glass to the pain and it just gets worse, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy!
I know, having lived with chronic pain, just how true that is.
So start with changing your thoughts about pain. Make sure that the thoughts are empowering, encouraging and focused on how much control you do have over your pain and how much it impacts you.
Creating affirmations or mantras that you use daily or when the pain picks up is a great way to turn this into a regular habit that you rely on when you're in pain.
Does that mean all pain can be managed without medications?
If you ask the most traditional pain specialists and pain psychologists, many would say yes.
However, I believe, as with all physical and mental health conditions, most times you can manage it on your own with lifestyle changes. But for some, it can become so severe that medication PLUS lifestyle changes are required to see improvement.
There is nothing wrong with you if you need medication and if your doctor advises it, take it into consideration as they have already weighed the pros and cons for you and baby.
Your Takeaway: pain relief starts in the brain
If there's just one message you take away from this, I want it to be this:
You are have more control than you realize over your pain. It's not in your head or made up, but you are not helpless against it either. The way you think about your pain and how it affects you has a huge impact on how you feel pain and how well the strategies you try will work to help you find relief.
Taking charge of your pain can do wonders for how you experience the rest of your pregnancy.
Once your mindset is in place, check out this powerful pain-managing strategy that works amazingly to help you find relief.
Take it one day, one step at a time. You can do this.