My "pain story" likely looks different than the one you'd expect. In fact, I wouldn't call myself someone who struggles with chronic pain at all. Sure, I've got the typical low back pain and occasional sciatic pain, the working mom's neck pain and frequent stress headaches... So why is this what I choose to put my energy into? And how can I possibly relate to the warriors I work with?
My pain story began during my third year of physical therapy school. I was working at a clinical rotation under an instructor named Ted. I called him a wizard.
The second week into the 12 week experience, I watched from the window of the PT clinic, a lady struggling to get out of a cab parked out front. She shuffled her way into a wheelchair, and rolled herself into the clinic. She told us that she didn't know why she was there. She talked about her constant pain, her atrophied muscles, and the fact that she hadn't walked in years. She felt alone and unsupported. She made it very clear that she didn't think we'd be able to do anything for her, as nothing she's ever tried has helped in the past.
I watched, as Ted listened. He was calm, understanding, validating, and supportive. He gained her trust pretty quickly. That in itself was an achievement in my eyes. He began asking her questions about her pain, her past, her goals, and then asked maybe the most important one... "Would it be ok with you if I taught you a bit about pain science?" She agreed, though was hesitant. I was intrigued. Ted spoke with her for an hour about how the brain works, how we perceive danger, how the body responds, etc. I was amazed. This was information I had never heard before. Closing out a $180,000 doctorate degree, and this was all new to me. It was astounding. How? Why?
As her scheduled time was ending, Ted asked the lady to lift her leg off the bed where she was sitting. Up went the leg. Her eyes swelled and tears ran down her cheeks. A smile lit up her face. This was a movement she hadn't been able to do in years. Not to mention, she did it pain free. The lady eagerly asked for homework and stated her willingness to do whatever needed to be done to continue care. Ted gave her some materials to read, along with a few very simple exercises, and told her to come back in a week with questions. She sat back in the wheelchair, made her next appointment, and headed to the cab.
One week later, I stood at the window as the cab pulled to the curb. I watched the lady climb out of the car and WALK to the door. She made a B-line for Ted, and gave him the most gracious hug I've ever seen. I could not believe my eyes. I could not believe that ONE treatment (that consisted of talking), with a weeks worth of studying and practicing, was able to change this person's life SO significantly.
From that moment, my life had changed too. This is the type of person that I want to have an impact on. And this is how I want to do it.