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Chronic Pain, Touch Starvation & The Nervous System

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Isolation that comes from Chronic pain can come in different forms such as isolation from others, disconnectedness from ourselves and touch starvation. In this episode I sit down with Kat Anna to talk about the biological, psychological and social implications of touch starvation, chronic pain and it’s impact on the nervous system. More importantly we discuss the important work to help you move through it all.

Touch releases oxytocin which helps to ease us into more of a relaxed state which ultimately helps to bring us out of fight/flight or freeze, block the pain signals thereby helping you to manage the pain.

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Grow Your Confidence Despite Pain

Ecology concept. Rising sprout on dry ground.

In today’s episode we are talking about restoring confidence for a life well lived despite the relentless grip of chronic pain.

This pain extends beyond the physical, shaping an enduring emotional battle. It gradually wears away at your self-esteem, causing you to question your value and your capacity to lead a gratifying life.

We’ll explore how restoring your confidence can be one of the keys to unlocking a life of purpose, connection, and joy. We’ll address the common obstacles and challenges faced by those who live with pain, and we’ll challenge the beliefs that hold you back from embracing a life well lived, despite the pain.

Today I am joined by a friend and former colleague, Ann Deluca, author and a Women’s Confidence Coach with a coaching certification through the Co-ActiveTraining Institute (CTI), a Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) Master Practitioner and Certified Resilience Coach with The Leadership Wellness Group.

If you would like more information about what we do at Pain 2 Possibilities and The Change Pain Academy, you can learn more HERE.

If you’d like a copy of our FREE Chronic pain warrior’s guide to better doctor appointments click HERE.

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Reframing The Pain Narrative

Pain is a universal human experience, whether it’s physical, emotional, or social. It can be all-encompassing, overwhelming, and at times, seem insurmountable often leading to a narrative of suffering. But what if we could change the narrative on how we perceive pain? Pain Research and countless stories from individuals who have faced extraordinary challenges, battled pain in its many forms, and emerged on the other side is showing us that perspective matters.

In this episode, I’m joined by Fraser Brown, a chronic pain warrior, podcaster, and advocate. Together, we’ll explore Fraser’s journey through pain and how he maintains a resilient and positive outlook as a part of his pain management strategy.

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Pain And Grief – Warrior Wisdom

Join Anne Schober and myself as we discuss her latest book she co-authored called ‘Invincible – Finding the Light Beyond the Darkness of Chronic Illness.‘ We explore Anne’s experience with pain and living with an invisible illness along with her inspiration in writing the book.

If you are curious to learn more about chronic pain and how to find your way back to living well despite the pain, check out how we can support you at www.pain2possibilities.com

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Cwtch? What Is It And Why Does Every Chronic Pain Warrior Need To Find Theirs?

“CWTCH” (pronounced kutch, rhymes with butch). Is that even a word? What does CWTCH have to do with Chronic Pain Warriors?

I assure you it is not just a word; it is a special word with a unique meaning. It is what Chronic Pain Warriors search for. It is what Chronic Pain Warriors want and need, but it is elusive. You will soon love this strange little word.

The word CWTCH is of Welsh origin. It has several meanings all of which are warm, cozy, accepting and full of love. It is unique in that there is no English word that has the same meaning. It takes several English words to express the same sentiment and I have yet to put together a sentence that conveys the meaning accurately.

The seed I now call CWTCH was planted a long time ago. My chronic pain journey began over 20 years ago and although I could not name it, I have searched for my CWTCH ever since. I am certain that whether you realize it consciously or not, if you are a Chronic Pain Warrior, you are searching for your CWTCH to.

The first time I saw this funny little word, I was surfing the internet with no particular purpose. I stumbled across a blog written by a woman who identified herself only as “Female blogger who resides in the Welsh countryside”. I have tried to reach out to her. I would love for her to know the impact her blog post had on my life, and I would love to be able to credit the writer. Her post was written August 28, 2008, but it is truly timeless.

“What is a CWTCH?

A CWTCH is a small cozy place, a snug: in my nana’s house, a miner’s cottage in the South Wales valleys, the CWTCH is a long kind of cupboard which fills the space under the stairs. It is her larder with shelves floor to ceiling, which was, in my young eyes, full of marvelous treasures … mysterious tins and the best treasure of all – the button box. I would be allowed to bring the button box out and tip the contents on the carpeted floor in the lounge, the next hour or so would be spent sorting by size, by shade, by preference. The box was a myriad of treasures – pearl buttons, wooden buttons, pretty buttons from dolls clothes, large buttons from coats … wonderful. The CWTCH also contained a number of items which had belonged to my Grampy, whom I never met. These items – an old camera, his binoculars and a money box with combination lock were particularly revered. I remember spending days and days trying to work out the combination for the box, I eventually managed it and was so pleased to have established a link with my long passed Grampy.”Cwtch” also has another meaning. It is another kind of small place; it is the act of creating a small space between you and another. It is like a hug … but much-much better! There are degrees of CWTCH-ing. To “CWTCH-up” is to snuggle up with someone, particularly lovely on a cold Welsh winter’s night. There is just a plain old “CWTCH” much like a hug (but better), and then there’s “a-big-CWTCH”, now “a-big-CWTCH” is something special, it is a “CWTCH” but with extra gusto, it’s the kind of CWTCH you give when you haven’t seen a loved one in years, it’s the kind of CWTCH where you squeeze with all your might. What’s wonderful about CWTCH-es is they reach out, and they engage with feeling.”

I have never forgotten this word or this story. I have read this blog post 1000 times over the years and it still brings up new thoughts and emotions. It still takes me to my own carefully constructed CWTCH in my mind. It brings me comfort.

When Deana described her dream, her vision for the chronic pain community, this funny little word sprung out of me before I even realized I said it. It fits. It works. It is what she sees for Chronic Pain Warriors everywhere. It is what every Chronic Pain Warrior searches for. Let’s find your CWTCH together.

Wishing you a “CWTCH” kind of day
Barb Thornton
CWTCH Community Ambassador & Co-Creator

Becoming A Chronic Pain Warrior

In 2004, when pain first invaded my body and my life, I was a patient.

Then came the merry-go-round of tests, referrals, waiting, worry, more tests, and more referrals.
During this time, I was a very impatient and frustrated patient. When it became clear that pain was a permanent fixture in my life, I wasn’t sure what I was. I was still a patient. I was still a very impatient and frustrated patient. I was now a very impatient, frustrated, unsure and frightened chronic pain patient.

But those labels just didn’t feel right.

As I stumbled through trying to figure out life with pain and reading everything that I could get my hands on, I came across the term “Chronic Pain Warrior”. That felt right. That felt better. That is what I decided I was going to be.

Looking back, I realize it was premature to give myself such a title. A warrior is not created by a single sentence uttered by a doctor – “your pain is chronic”. But that single sentence starts you on a path and gives you the choice whether to remain a very impatient, frustrated, unsure and frightened chronic pain patient or work toward becoming a warrior.

The Oxford dictionary defines a warrior as “a brave or experienced soldier or fighter”. Wikipedia describes a warrior as “a person specializing in combat or warfare, especially within the context of a tribal or clan-based warrior culture society that recognizes a separate warrior aristocracy, class, or caste”. Merium-Webster defines a warrior as “a person engaged or experienced in warfare broadly: a person engaged in some struggle or conflict.

So how do these definitions apply to me? A frustrated, unsure, and frightened chronic pain patient?

And was I suddenly and automatically a warrior? No.

By dissecting these meanings, I could put a check beside brave and fighter. I could see the parallel between a tribal or clan-based group as I looked around waiting rooms at countless doctors’ offices, physiotherapy offices and online chronic pain support groups. It was clear we were all engaged in our own warfare against our own pain.

There is no question chronic pain patients are engaged in struggle and conflict. But certain parts of the
definitions didn’t quite fit. Not yet.

Experienced? Specialized? Part of a separate warrior aristocracy, class, or caste? These words made me think. They still make me think.

I was an experienced very impatient and frustrated patient, but the chronic label was new. I had no experience yet with the chronic part. I wasn’t sure how specialized applied to my chronic pain, and I knew I needed to figure that out. I realized I was now part of a separate class of patients, some who were in the early stages of their journey and some that were veterans. I was a newbie to the community of chronic pain. I realized I was in boot camp and had a lot of work to do to be able to call myself a warrior.

I did a lot of soul searching. I was determined to be able to call myself a Chronic Pain Warrior authentically and proudly. It is a process. It is earned. It is hard work. It is dedication to continually learn. It is my turn to help others on their journey.

In every area where warriors and masters exist, past and present, there are very clear steps to reach that goal.
Karate requires 7 belts to be earned to be the equivalent of a warrior – a black belt. There are 13 ranks and many more special ranks to reach the top in the US Army. Indigenous cultures follow the hierarchy of children, regular tribe people, handicapped, Chief’s family, hunters/warriors, tribal elders, Shaman, Chief. In every case, to reach the top it is a journey, a process of continual learning and personal growth. In every case it takes hard work and dedication.

I believe this principal applies equally to becoming a chronic pain warrior.

I do not believe an acknowledgement that your pain is now chronic makes you a warrior. Your choices make you a warrior.

Everyone’s path will be different.

It takes continual learning and personal growth. It takes curiosity and
flexibility. It takes hard work and dedication. It is an emotional and physical roller coaster. It is full of losses and wins. It is carving out your best life despite the obstacles. It is learning to adjust your sails in the wind so as not to alter your course. It takes finding and accepting your village of support. It is listening and learning from those who are farther along their journey with an open mind and open heart.

In each of my next few articles I will discuss each of the steps that I believe have led me to a place in my
journey where I am fulfilled in my life, accepting of my limitations, creative in my approach to manage my pain and ready to help others achieve their best life.

I will leave you to ponder what I believe these steps are, recognizing that your path will not be the same as mine. As you think about these steps, consider how these may apply to your journey.

1) One day at a time.
2) Focus on what you can control.
3) Do not compare your journey to others.
4) Allow yourself to grieve and feel the feelings but don’t get stuck there.
5) Make time to rest and self reflect. Prioritize self care – physically and mentally.
6) Concentrate on what you CAN do and what you DO enjoy. Seek joy every day.
7) Accept that challenges and setbacks will happen.
8) Embrace fear. Be prepared. Be YOU.
9) Determine your “Why” and “For Who”.
10) Open your mind and learn. Seek reliable experienced sources of learning.
11) Practice and work hard on your strategies – practice with dedication like a warrior.
12) Live your life as a warrior from the crack of dawn to midnight.
13) Never forget there is more to you than pain.
14) Find your village, your safe place, “your CWTCH”

Wishing you a “CWTCH” kind of day
Barb Thornton
CWTCH Community Ambassador & Co-Creator

What is Fibromyalgia?

What is Fibromyalgia?  

Welcome to the first of our series of 6 articles about Fibromyalgia. in this 'episode' we dive into the fundamentals of Fibro.

The name was derived from the Latin word 'Fibro' or fibrous tissue and the Greek terms for 'Myo' or muscle and 'Algia' or pain, which describes the symptoms but not necessarily the cause. Fibromyalgia is currently classified under Rheumatology. And if we were to define what Rheumatology is, as described by the Mayo clinic, as an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that causes your immune system to attack your joints, muscles, bones and organs.

But Fibromyalgia is not technically considered an autoimmune or an inflammatory disease, at least not with primary Fibromyalgia. So what is it? The pain is not a result of the stimuli felt from the body being harmed. In other words, it's not an issue with the tissues. So how do we best describe Fibromyalgia? 

Fibromyalgia, as we are learning may have two different types. As stated by Jill Mueller, MD, 'the latest research is now suggesting the possibility of two types of Fibromyalgia - primary (what we are discussing in this post) and secondary. Secondary Fibro occurs when there is an underlying inflammatory condition within the body eg. Rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, etc that sets up the process for the development of FM symptoms. This just emphasizes the need for a thorough investigation to rule out underlying conditions.'

In simple terms, we can describe Primary Fibro as a hyper vigilance disorder, which is more or less an issue of the processing of pain by the brain. Essentially our brain learns pain overtime and many of the pain behaviours that happen as a result of prolonged pain, only strengthens the pain response making the nervous system even more sensitive or hypervigilant. 

What are the precursors to Primary Fibromyalgia?  From what we know so far, there may be a slight tie in to our genetics. There may be some who have more of a propensity towards Fibro due to their genetic blueprint. But by and large,  Primary Fibromyalgia's antecedant is prolonged exposure to stress or trauma in early life which over time, can lead to Fibromyalgia.

We also know that infection can often lead to Fibromyalgia as well. The Epstein-Barr virus, and the viruses that cause influenza, and hepatitis B and C have all been linked to the development of Fibromyalgia.

When the neurological system is learning pain early on, and over time, it can become locked in this sympathetic dominant loop. In other words, your nervous system is always feeling there is a threat...which over time leads to physical consequences and a nervous system that is over worked and under payed! When living with chronic pain, over time, the brain actually learns pain and pain behaviours (focusing on the pain, wincing, talking about the pain, fear of movement, avoidance, frustration, muscle tension, tears, withdrawing from favourite activities) all add up and become stronger over time.

If pain is coming from a hypervigilant nervous system (primary Fibromyalgia), is there anything we can do to help mitigate the pain beyond the medication? The good news is...yes! We may never cure Fibro or get rid of the pain completely but it is possible to turn that pain into something more manageable. Our brains are incredibly resilient and plastic (neuroplasticity)....which means that given the right tools, a change of thinking, understanding the underlying issues, and getting the appropriate help, the brain can begin to heal and the nervous system calmed.  

Stay tuned for more articles on Fibromyalgia and self care techniques!

Fibromyalgia Perspectives (1)

In this first episode of a two part series we are taking a broad based perspective of Fibromyalgia, what it is, what it isn’t and everything in between.

For more information visit our website at www.pain2possibilities.com or to continue the discussion join us on our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/couragetochangechronicpain/

Magnesium & Chronic Pain (007)

In this episode of the 15 Minute Chronic Pain Experience Linda Ljucovic and I talk about the role Magnesium plays in chronic pain management. Linda Ljucovic is a Holistic Nutritionist and Co-owner of Balance Point Health Centre. To connect with Linda visit www.Balancepointhc.com

For more information on Pain 2 Possibilities, visit www.pain2possibilities.com. Or you can connect with us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/group/couragetochangechronicpain/

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