Broken-hearted Knees and What To Do About Them

"IBS, Fibromyalgia, back pain, neck pain, knee pain and more are due, in large part, to our thoughts and emotions. " -Dr. Steve Rosman

I was disrobed and lying under a sheet in immense amounts of disorienting pain.  "Uggggghh," I moaned into the face rest as Jason, massage therapist extraordinaire, dug into my quad, "I seriously think I'm gonna throw up."  I didn't.  But, as the hour ticked on, Jason brought up the concept of emotions/traumatic events being trapped or stored in the body.  It was the second time in two days that someone had told this to me after working on my legs.

I thought back to the Sunday night before my week-long Case of the Mondays and big break down.  Jason had aggressively worked on the knots and ropes that live in my legs these days.  During the week following that massage, I had felt increasingly worn out and distraught by work and (although not mentioned before) suddenly ever-present thoughts of an ex.  Ok...let's be real...THE ex.  I was surprised by the persistent haunting of our past relationship in my brainspace as I had thought I'd come to terms with it and moved on.  For me, there was a lot of anxiety and emotional pain during our on-again-off-again, three-year relationship that ended last December (around the time my knee pain began with a vengeance).  During the week-long haunting of relationships past, I cried more than I had in the previous six months, for no apparent reason.  Following my most recent massage, I was inundated by thoughts of another, more ambiguous, loss from the last six months that continues to be a large source of confusion and sadness for me. Was this all a strange coincidence or something more?

With this new query, I struck out to learn a bit more and found there is significant research that links chronic pain (especially back, knee, and foot pain) to emotional trauma and stress, especially self-induced stress experienced by perfectionist types: hard-working, driven, conscientious, goal-oriented....sound familiar?  There are conventional, physical ways to treat the pain: physical therapy, heat, ice, deep massage, exercise, all of which I've done pretty regularly for ten months with little or no results.

Baby Weight
So what's been missing?  I'm coming to think it's the understanding that we are complex and interconnected beings.  Body, mind, heart, and spirit are intricately enmeshed, and I'm beginning to believe that to get to the root of my knee pain, I will have to address more than just the body.  I'm going to have to face the broken-heartedness and stress that continues to reside in my legs, I'm going to have to walk through the yucky of it all, process it completely, and really let go of it.  But that's not all.  It seems as though I'm going to have to examine and begin to reshape some of the ways I process and work in this world.  Although I feel like I have a healthy self-esteem and am confident and comfortable in my skin, the idea that "I'm not good enough" still echoes in my head in every area of my life: work, relationships, improv, CrossFit, even chores.  Example: after getting a 7# P.R. (personal record) on my snatch this week, I degraded my success, calling 110# a "baby weight".  No matter how much I do, it's never enough to satisfy that nagging voice inside my head.  It is time to stop being my own worst critic and become my own best ally and cheerleader.

An article on the ProHealth website recommended "consistent application" of the following to decrease the "bad stress response" in the body:

  • various relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, progressive relaxation, meditation, yoga and hypnosis 
  • positive thinking and recognition of the harmful effects of negative thinking (cognitive behavioral techniques) 
  • endurance (aerobic) exercise and stretching 
  • healthy eating (it is usually more important to focus upon overall healthy eating than upon avoidance of suspected food and dietary triggers) 
  • achieving and maintaining a healthy weight 
  • obtaining adequate and restorative sleep 
  • avoiding unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, high demand/low control stressors, and social isolation 

Leave it on the mat.
So, I did something about it.  I started doing "healthy knees" yoga to incorporate some more quiet time and stretching into my day.  Unintentionally, this time quickly morphed into a meditative period.  As I moved through poses on my mat, I began to formulate an affirmation-type mantra.  I breathed deeply and spoke the words, sometimes in my mind and sometimes out loud.  I release the pain.  I live in the now.  My body lets go of stress and hurt.  I release fear.  I am fearless.  My body lets go of stress and hurt.  I am not responsible to fix others or the world.  I am responsible to fix myself.  My body lets go of stress and hurt.  I do my best in each moment.  I accept and value what I am able to do.  I am enough.  I allowed moments of discomfort and intense emotion to wash over me.  A few tears were shed for some reason...I'm not even sure why.  There was no miraculous relief of knee pain.  But I did experience a cleaner, lighter, slightly more solid sense of being.  I found a slightly greater sense of comfort in myself...just being and not thinking...(as much).

The 25 year old me would have read this post and pish-poshed it, thinking it silly, abstract, and ultimately a waste of time.  Luckily, I am no longer 25 and am ready to investigate these strange, new, and unexplored areas of myself.  I hope to get in a little yoga every morning, a chance to meditate, breathe, and accept myself as I am and let go of all the crud that I can.  Maybe one day, when my knees have expunged my past and present pain and stress, I will again walk through life with the jaunty strut of the carefree.

What do you do to walk carefree?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had it confirmed that sheer pent up unreleased tension, persisting for days on end will manifest it self in all sorts of dissociated pain. Not letting go of neck and across the back tension, the clamping down of teeth without release, closed hands, not breathing, or gripping unrelaxed positions in posture or in sleep all contributed to a larger problem.
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Deep leg pain occurred at night leading to interruptions in sleep. This lead to frequent overall disruptions in my sleep and things got worse and worse. It was the physical pain manifestation to long term pain of mental anguish, stress in life, work, and relationship issues.
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Unfortunately it was a long protracted series of life events that brought on the deep leg pain at night. The status of my pain created swelling and soon after I was unable to close my hands, my over all temperament was awful. Exasperated by caffeine and other unhealthy daily rituals sent me down a long and slippery slope that took a great deal of time and effort to alleviate.
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For me the totally inadequate health care system in the US in its present state of disrepair prevented me from being able to seek proper attention. However having said that, upon seeing one many months later I was given relaxants that masked the symptoms but never solved any of the underlying route of the problem. Sure this sounds like the wrong path to take, overall however and multiple pronged approach with only very temporary short term relief was helpful even though the promise (self promise) of long term relief was way off in the distance.
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Counseling, life coaching and just plain old psychotherapy over a long term period with the help of breathing techniques, some yoga and what the councilor suggested as "stopping to smell the roses" really helped my situation and slowly I recovered. At the same time, a serious regime of vitamin and mineral supplementation helped contribute to give my body some of the extra things it needed that were being deleted over the normal course of time in my body.
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It took a while but slowly I recovered and I no longer have this deep pain. That has led to longer and better sleep patterns and I can not over emphasize real rest and the relationship of better social interaction a key to pain relief.