Thriving with Chronic Pain by Sean Meshorer - Read Online
Thriving with Chronic Pain
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Life-Changing Solutions for Chronic Pain

Chronic pain threatens the well-being of 100 million Americans and 1.5 billion people worldwide. It affects us at all levels: our physical, mental, and spiritual health and happiness, our work productivity and financial livelihoods, our relationships, and overall life quality.

This book shows you how you can flourish despite your pain, even when medical cures aren’t available or come at too high of a cost. Learn how to manage and improve your chronic pain using ideas, strategies, and techniques proven by over a hundred scientific studies and the experience of countless chronic pain patients, including the author.

You will learn how to:

• Better understand your pain
• Work more effectively with your doctors and healthcare providers
• Regain your functionality
• Understand the difference between pain and suffering
• Accept and transcend your pain and negative emotions
• Implement a wide range of specific tips, tricks, practices for regaining your life
• Discover the positive opportunities in your pain
• Work with and improve your relationships with family, partners, and friends
• Prosper physically, mentally, and spiritually


For ten years, Meshorer has traveled the world seeking ideas and practices that successfully alleviate chronic pain. This books focuses only on those ideas and practices that have been proven effective, both personally and scientifically. 

You can do more than merely suffer through your pain. You can regain your life despite chronic pain, making it richer, happier, and more successful than ever. Thriving with Chronic Pain reveals the secrets.

Sean Meshorer is a spiritual teacher based in Los Angeles. He is the author of The Bliss Experiment: 28 Days to Personal Transformation. He graduated from Stanford with a degree in philosophy and religious studies. He spent fifteen years meditating, practicing, and living in a spiritual community in Northern California. Visit seanmeshorer.com for more about Sean.

Published: Sean Meshorer on
ISBN: 9780986203015
List price: $4.95
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Author

Introduction

I’m not a doctor and this is not a medical book. This book is for those living with chronic pain for whom complete medical cures aren’t available or come at too high of a cost—financially, psychologically, or physically.

If there is an easy medical cure for whatever is ailing you, go ahead and take it! It would be foolish not to. Alas, for millions of us, it’s not that simple. There is no easy cure for the pain.

The numbers are startling. According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, upward of one hundred million Americans struggle with chronic pain. This compares to twenty-six million Americans who have diabetes, twenty-four million with heart disease and/or stroke, and twelve million with cancer. For those not doing the addition, this means that more Americans suffer from chronic pain than diabetes, heart problems, and cancer combined. The magnitude of the challenge is breathtaking.

These numbers are only for the United States. At least one analyst estimates that as many as 1.5 billion people suffer from chronic pain worldwide. Yes, that’s billion. The problem is only growing worse: at least sixty million souls are newly diagnosed with chronic pain every year.

Chronic pain profoundly affects lives and well-being at all levels. Seventy-seven percent of those in pain report that it noticeably affects their happiness, leading to at least occasional bouts of depression. Concentration levels, sleep patterns, and overall energy levels are severely harmed.

It comes with a tremendous economic cost as well. Data from the American Productivity Audit found that the economic cost of chronic pain—health-care expenses, time off work, lost wages, and decreased productivity—is a staggering $650 billion per year in the United States.

When a full-scale medical cure isn’t possible—and it often isn’t—then we must find ways to fix, or at least manage, our chronic pain using ideas, strategies, and techniques that transcend mainstream medicine.

That is the purpose of this book: to give alternative solutions to those suffering from pain, so that we can not only cope with our pain but thrive with it.

My Story

I’ve lived with chronic pain for nine years now—and counting. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year, I’ve been in excruciating pain—the kind of pain that only a select group of people understand. No matter what I do, or not do, the pain is with me. Even at 4:00 a.m. while I am sleeping, a part of my mind is aware of the pain coursing through my joints, muscles, spine, and brain.

Like everyone with severe chronic pain, it affects every aspect of my life: work, relationships, physical health, mental well-being, and overall life quality. I had to quit my job. My relationship with my fiancée was strained almost to the breaking point. Myriad side effects and secondary challenges cascaded through my body, creating systemic ill health that spread far beyond the original pain source and into virtually every cell.

Perhaps worst of all was the mental suffering: not only was life over as I knew it, but my future seemed bleaker still. I was certain I was on an inexorable downward trajectory that would prevent me from achieving (or even attempting to achieve) my hopes and dreams, and I even came to wonder if life itself was worth living.

My own chronic pain journey began on a Monday, a day that I’ll never forget. I was an intensely active and athletic person. To that point, I’d never suffered a serious injury—not a broken bone, torn ligament, or surgery of any kind. I was in my early thirties and didn’t think about injury or pain at all. In hindsight, I realize I was pushing my body too hard. But it didn’t seem that way at the time.

The day that will live in infamy started with an hour of weight training at 7:00 a.m. That morning, I bench-pressed 225 pounds repeatedly, despite weighing only 147. I vividly recall doing one rep too many, straining and arching to push up that last rep. At lunch, I joined a pickup soccer game taking place on a field near my workplace. After work, I went for a grueling five-mile run, outdoors, on trails and gravel roads, up and down steep hills. As I crossed the finish line of my run, there happened to be a game of volleyball that included some of my friends. Still drenched in sweat from the run, I jumped into the game, twisting, leaping, spiking, and diving until sundown. That night, before bed, I did thirty minutes of yoga postures—far too aggressively. To cap it off, I was sleeping at a friend’s house on a mattress that was old and saggy.

The next morning, I awoke in excruciating pain. That began my long journey into the medical system and the depths of despair. It took two years to find a doctor who correctly diagnosed me. Most of that time I spent curled up in a ball in my bed, barely able to function between endless doctor appointments and medical tests. Eventually, it was determined that I had a rare injury: I’d stretched and torn multiple ligaments in my right sacroiliac joint. Alas, there was no treatment, surgery, or cure for this particular injury.

Secrets of Thriving with Pain

Seven years later, my formerly bleak outlook is decidedly different. Although the physical pain persists, I’ve reclaimed my life. My work is exactly what I want it to be, our relationship has never been better, and my body—while hardly a bastion of perfect health—has at least stabilized at an acceptable level. Most importantly, I’m wiser, happier, and in the best mental and spiritual health of my life.

The best news: no miracle drug, treatment, or surgery has found its way to me. Instead, I’ve regained my functionality and joy through a series of simple, integrated steps that together have synergistically allowed me to thrive as never before.

How can this possibly be good news? Because no magical, silver-bullet cure is required to reclaim our lives, anyone can do what I’ve done. Nor is most of what we’ll discuss particularly expensive. The majority of this program is either free or involves redirecting the same (mostly medical) expenses we’re already incurring into more productive directions. No matter what ails you or how much pain you’re in, your road to a flourishing life is wide open.

The secret to thriving with chronic pain is to simultaneously engage it physically, mentally, and spiritually. Each small, achievable decision and practice works together and reinforces the others. The end result is success on all levels of your being.

Which brings me to perhaps the key to making this program work: we must abandon magic-bullet thinking, usually detrimental to our long-term well-being. Magic-bullet thinking is the belief and obsessive pursuit of a single medical, emotional, or even religious cure for our pain. Our hope is that this one thing, whether it be a medication, procedure, bodywork, cathartic psychological realization, or religious experience, will easily or instantly cure our pain. This seldom happens.

Some might feel this is a disappointing, even pessimistic, view. Far from it. Optimism is a critical aspect of the program. Authentic optimism is grounded in reality and then guides us toward making positive decisions at every fork in the road. I’ll explain more about the nature, benefits, and practice of optimism later in this book.

Abandoning magic-bullet thinking frees us for real, lasting solutions to come into our lives. Instead of constantly chasing—and then being disappointed by—every new fix that comes our way, we exit this emotional roller coaster, taking the positive aspects of many different approaches to pain management. I’ve found that with magic-bullet thinking, we are often too quick to dismiss, or allow to lapse, ideas and practices that offer some benefit because we’re disheartened that they didn’t completely remove our pain. This way, we build an overlapping arsenal of positive tools that allow us to do more than cope with the pain; instead, we thrive.

In a way, the result is magic—just not in the way we expected.

The Structure of This Book

This book has three main sections. Together, they constitute a journey that we will take together. We start by understanding where we are now, hone in on where we must go and why, and then focus intensively on getting there.

In part 1, we begin by understanding the physiology of our pain and the practical aspects of working with the mainstream medical community. We acknowledge the nature of the problem, its scope, and where we are currently.

Next, in part 2, we explore the crossroads of pain, where we are confronted with our first major decision. We are given the opportunity to reimagine our relationship to pain. We accept our situation and embrace the life path we’ve been given.

Finally, in part 3, we learn specific ideas and practices that will help us lessen and thrive with our pain. We employ our newfound wisdom as an assistant. We learn to manage our pain at all levels of our being.

How to Use This Book

I urge you to read this book in the order presented. Even though most of the concrete life-shifting practices are in part 3, it’s imperative not to jump ahead to that section. You will get far more out these practices, boosting their efficacy, if you first have the necessary physiological and philosophical background. Some important decisions need to be made before employing the concrete practices.

That said, once we get to part 3, the best way to use this book is to integrate as many of the practices as you can into your life. You may have a good deal of success with just one of them—even so, don’t fall into the trap of concentrating on only that to the exclusion of others. Perhaps for a while you can do just one or two with the intention of focusing on them to learn and go deep into them. There may be days, weeks, or months during which it’s appropriate to be very focused. Over time, however, think more in terms of layering practices onto each other.

This might sound exhausting or time-consuming. It won’t be. What happens is that as you understand—even master—a given approach, it gets easier. Some of them even hum along in the background doing their thing or only need to be dusted off occasionally as a refresher. Some of the most useful things we’ll discover are shifts in attitude and perspective. Once internalized, it takes no more time to think and feel this new way than did your current way.

Finally, let me say that I’m intentionally keeping this book as short as possible. That’s for three reasons. If your pain is anything like mine was at its worst, you don’t have the mental and emotional bandwidth for me to prattle on endlessly. Even reading a single chapter—or paragraph, for that matter—can feel a chore. I’m as hyperaware of that as anyone, so I promise to try hard not to drag things out. I’ll get into the heart of each concept as quickly and succinctly as possible.

Second, you probably want to just get going. You don’t need a lot of endless detail. You’re fed up with your pain, and you want improvement now. I’m doing my best to shape this book to help you feel results quickly.

Third, after nine years of chronic pain, I’ve tried so many approaches that I honestly can’t remember them all. I’ve traveled the world looking for ideas, practices, and leads. The majority of things I’ve tried have failed. I’m not going to waste your time with ideas or practices that I know aren’t effective—or work only marginally. This book is the good stuff—and only the good stuff.

That doesn’t mean that if it’s not in this book, it’s useless. I’m not so arrogant as to assume I know every great idea on this great big planet of ours. If you are doing something not mentioned in this book and it’s working for you, by all means, keep doing it. You might even drop me a line and let me know about it so I can explore it myself and perhaps include it in future editions of this book.

Now let’s get to it.

part one

The Facts of Pain

We must begin by knowing the facts of our bodies, of how pain works, and of how the medical community understands and treats pain. To put it succinctly, we start by first knowing where we are so that we may understand where we are going.

These first chapters constituting part 1 examine this issue from two different but overlapping perspectives: what we know about how pain functions in our body and how the mainstream medical community responds to this knowledge.

Why start here? It’s simple. As the philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote, Knowledge is power.

Comprehending the facts of pain and how modern medicine functions lays the groundwork on which we can grow in wisdom, skillfulness, and ultimately the personal power necessary