Chronic Pain · Dr. John E. Sarno · Fibromyalgia · MBS · MindBodySyndrome

Bad or weak and the stories we tell

I made the mistake about mentioning, after a weight lifting class, that I was babying my shoulder. In times past, movement overhead with my arm would trigger muscle spasms followed by a headache of many days. During the height of severe MindBody Syndrome (MBS), even the back and forth motion of vacuuming would leave me whimpering in pain.

“Sleeping wrong” on my shoulder was another trigger. The tightness and spasms in my trapezoid muscles made it hard to think straight, so intense was the pain.

I want to be clear on something. MBS pain is very real. Dr. Sarno says it’s some of the most severe pain a person can have. Fibromyalgia is considered a severe form of MindBody Syndrome – that’s what I was diagnosed with.

But back to my shoulder and the after class chitchat.

I’ve seen it many other times as well. You mention your bad knee or your shitty back and like a magnet, you’ve drawn others eager to share their aches and their woundology. I’ve got a bad knee. Doc says I need surgery. I got whiplash 10 years ago and haven’t been right since.

For years, my story went something like this – I was nearly killed in a car accident when I was 17 and my back hasn’t been the same since. I blew out a few cervical discs about 10 years ago too. Blah, blah, blah. I have a BAD SHOULDER.

Because I have since learned that my shoulder is fine and that wear and tear is normal on an aging body – I must do something very challenging. And that is RECONDITION myself.

How do I do this? I challenge the story I’ve been saying about my shoulder. When I am exercising, I remind myself that there is nothing wrong with it. That some pain is absolutely normal and is a sign that I am strengthening my shoulder.

I tell myself my shoulder isn’t BAD, it is WEAK. I tell myself that my body is nothing short of miraculous in its ability to heal.

I also practice gentleness with myself. This too is challenging since I tend to be a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” sort of gal.

So I’m taking baby steps with the shoulder. I challenge the range of motion. I add a little weight. Pause to massage. Repeat. Maybe laugh. Laughter always helps.

It’s taken me over a year to be able to incorporate most of the overhead arm movements in Zumba so you can see this isn’t an over night recovery. Moving into upper body weight training is new territory.

But I think compared to the years of the “Bad shoulder” narrative, it’s a pretty impressive recovery. I am taking back my life and it feels frick’n AWESOME.

If you’re looking to heal – really heal – from chronic pain, you must start with changing your story.


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