I’m sipping my coffee, a bit pre-occupied with this headache. It’s not “the usual headache”… new treatment seems to be providing some relief, which is so excessively awesome I hesitate to mention it, since that treatment is primarily to do with physical therapy, fitness, and… decompression. Traction. Newest round of doctors, images, and all that fuss and bother, and it apparently comes down to arthritis. Again. Fucking hell. So… I hurt, because it fucking well does hurt, and it’s going to. Huh. Okay, well, I can get my head around that (lol)… now what?

Verbs. An ever-loving fuck-ton of verbs.

I have to do the work, myself. It’s not actually about pills, or cures, or permanent fixes, at all. Effort. Routine. Practices. Skillful self-care. Observation. Awareness. Hey, wait… this is starting to sound like mindfulness may weigh in at some point… 😉 It’s probably fairly obvious that I can’t just stroll into the local gym and start aggressive strength training… I do, however, have to start somewhere, with something, and I need to persist at it, because it’s those incremental improvements over time that are going to be my best shot at relief. I’m fortunate to be able to “know that” confidently; I’ve been here before, with the osteo-arthritis lower down, in my thoracic spine. Holy hell, though, y’all… having arthritis in my neck?? Fuuuuuck…. The pain, the time taken getting to a diagnosis. The number of doctors puzzled why what looks fairly un-noteworthy in an X-ray could possible cause this much pain…? I sat down with the Physical Therapist and won the PT lottery that morning; she has direct subjective experience with a similar injury and condition, and ticked off the experiences I was having, confirming each are entirely within expectations for this condition. Empirical experience for the win. One more specialist to see, but it’s nice to feel like there is progress.

Steps in a journey; maybe every single appointment, and every doctor, and every image, were all entirely necessary to get to this place?

…About those verbs? Here’s the thing; knowing isn’t enough. If I want to feel better – any better – there’s also some doing to do. Practice isn’t going to make anything “perfect” (that’s just not actually a thing), but a lot of stuff does take practice. Including exercise. Including meditation.

Before I mislead anyone about the efficiency or efficacy of mindfulness for pain management, I’ll just point you in the direction of “the guy who wrote the book” about it, and the book, itself, and a famous place.  There are other great books, and authors, on my reading list.

Mindfulness for pain management isn’t like taking a strong Rx pain reliever. Let’s start there. It’s just different than that. Is it effective? Yes. If you practice effective mindfulness practices, and practice regularly, it does help quite a lot. Don’t attempt to force mindfulness to “be an opiate” – because it isn’t, and that’s not the way it works. Does it make 100% of all pain entirely go away? Nope. (And if you live with chronic pain, and you are honest with yourself, neither do the Rx pain relievers, including opiates.) The effectiveness of mindfulness practices for pain relief, though, actually improves over time, and mindfulness doesn’t make trade-offs with my health in other ways. Have I ever give up all other pain relief medication in favor of mindfulness? I sure have, for various periods of time, occasionally still returning to needing additional pain relief – because sometimes life fucking just hurts that god damned much. That’s just real.

…Mindfulness remains in my pain relief arsenal for all the same reasons I keep it handy for fighting my personal demons, or for maintaining great emotional resilience, or for managing my anxiety… it works, and doesn’t wreck my health in other ways getting that job done – and all I have to do is practice! 🙂 Are you good at something? Don’t you practice it? Martial arts? Hiking? Ice skating? Mountain climbing? Racing cars? Building models? Practice gets us to places we would never reach on aptitude alone, does it not? 😀

I sip my coffee chuckling a bit. I’ve gone on and on about using mindfulness for pain relief because this headache this morning is fairly horrible, and largely to due with the changes in physical therapy practices I’m now using; muscle pain, rather annoyingly at the base of my skull, and in my neck, and shoulders. Ouch. Meditation for the win, this morning. Maybe that won’t always be enough to manage every headache, every morning – but it’s a great start on any headache, any day. 🙂

…If it doesn’t work? I can always begin again. 🙂