Dr. Nate--My Personal Pain Journey

While I have been blessed to not have experience with debilitating chronic pain, I have experienced an increase in discomfort and musculoskeletal problems over the last several years.  As a physical therapist, I "know" what I need to do to work on these areas, but, like many of my patients, I struggle with time and discipline in implementing those strategies.  In my case, my left shoulder and neck seem to be my nemesis.  I have identified that stress (not really my circumstances, but more how I deal with them), diet, and posture play a huge role in my experience of pain.  I can say from first-hand experience that pain is not only physical, but emotional as well.  A few years ago I suffered a panic attack that led to months of struggle with anxiety and some levels of depression.  It was during that time that this pain also increased and became more of a daily problem.  Over the last 3-4 years I have fought the battle with physical pain, anxiety, weakness, fear, and a host of related issues.  On the physical level, I have given more attention to posture and to areas where my body does not move well.  I was fortunate earlier this year to spend time with my good friend Jonathan Zecher, owner of Focus Physiotherapy in Huntsville, Alabama.  He not only provided me with some excellent hands-on treatment, but taught me about several new areas of research that are showing some interesting and powerful correlations between our physical and emotional experiences with pain and how it behaves and progresses.  I'll plan to discuss this in more detail in upcoming posts.  I am also learning how my diet impacts my pain, and how limiting my carbohydrate and refined sugar intake can have a profound effect on how I feel physically and mentally.

On the emotional side of the pain process, I have learned a lot about how my thinking and processing impacts my physical pain.  As a follower of Jesus Christ, I know that I should be able to leave my stresses with Him, and not allow anxiety to rule my life.  That is easier said than done on many days, however, and the physical experience of pain often exacerbates the emotional/spiritual aspect of the problem, and vice versa.  I am learning that I need to be every bit as disciplined in my thinking and my spiritual life as I do in attending to my posture and other physical aspects in order to have good control of this area.

As I write this today, I am feeling the best I have felt in several months.  I thank the Lord for a return of joy and gladness in my heart, and a decrease in pain.  I am thankful for what I am learning on this journey.  I know that it is not over, and I believe that at some level I will be engaged in this battle for the rest of my life, but I am thankful for what I am learning in the process.  It is making me a better person, a better Christian, and gives me a more empathetic connection with the patients I am privileged to serve.

For some additional information on the connections between the physical and emotional aspects of pain, and how physical therapy can impact both, please click here.  Stay tuned for further posts on this and other topics!



Nathanael Gay