As a physical therapist, I began incorporating pain management and fatigue management with many of my clients, especially those with a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. In our culture of doing, doing, doing people often feel compelled to be busy, and even healthy people try to accomplish more than is physically possible on any given day. That’s why I had so many patients report feeling exhausted and needing long rests after a busy day.
So I encouraged my patients with Multiple Sclerosis to schedule brief rest periods into each day. Many of the people I would with learned to take advantage of “waiting time” — on hold on the phone, or in line at the store, or even waiting for the computer to boot up as guidance to experience rest. Many of my patients reported less fatigue and more energy, and some said they had more energy at the end of the day than they had experienced in years! I was surprised to find that some of my clients were forgetting to take a medication called Provigil, one that helped keep them awake during the day. I wondered … hmmm, why would these people forget to take the medication, unless they didn’t need it?
That’s when I realized the relaxation techniques that I was guiding people to use were having a more profound impact on my clients than I could ever imagine!
Diana experienced pain that felt like a tightening band around her body, something people with Multiple Sclerosis commonly report. She had tried pain medications in the past, but chose not to use them because she found the side effects outweighed the benefits. During our work together, Diana learned to use relaxation regularly. After a few months she reported that her “banding” pain had greatly diminished. I was astonished! How could the pain that so many people with Multiple Sclerosis experience, pain that keeps them from living a more fulfilled life, reduce significantly without medication? At the time, Diana’s experience seemed nothing less than a miracle.
Many years after our work together, Diana told me, “You taught me some incredibly helpful things to do for myself physically, mentally and emotionally. To this day, when I tell people that I don’t take painkillers, I add that I do what my physical therapist Ellen taught me: breathe, do yoga, and exercise daily.”
“Ellen”, she said, “you taught me a lot and you gave me inspiration.”