With Veronica, I learned how powerful the skills that I learned for pain management were for someone with a 20-year history of pain levels between 5/10 to 9/10. Veronica was referred to me for physical therapy as she was having difficulty walking as a result of her Parkinson’s disease. At the time, she wasn’t receiving benefit from any of the pain medications she was taking, and had stopped taking most of them, again because of the side effects.
However, many days the pain impeded her ability to walk more than the Parkinson’s did. I felt a bit over my head with this one. After all, if all the doctors she saw at Mayo Clinic and other prestigious institutions couldn’t help with her pain, what could I do? I just hoped our working together would allow her to walk a bit more easily, and enjoy her life that much more.
So I taught her breathing exercises and relaxation techniques for pain management. Her pain levels reduced, although she still had some high-level pain days, particularly when she spent time with her family. That gave me a clue. With her permission, I taught her to use her pain level as a barometer of stress to her mind / body. I also helped her recognize how she was relating to situations in her life that precipitated the onset of pain. I further helped guided her cultivate helpful self-care practices by doing more things to support her wellbeing — rather than merely looking to stave off pain. Perhaps most importantly, I gently helped her shift her focus from blame and judgment to cultivating her own inner spiritual resources.
With her regular practice of breathing exercises and relaxation techniques in addition to my coaching, Veronica began to enjoy more days with less pain. When her pain levels elevated, she learned to recognize that as an indicator of fatigue and stress. I supported her in creating rest periods and setting boundaries that supported her health. Within a few months of our work together, she was frequently experiencing pain < 3/10 and often 0/10 for the first time in 20 years! The last time that I checked with her, it had been more than 6 years since we had worked together, and she continued to manage her pain without my assistance. Most of all her quality of life improved dramatically. She was more engaged in her family gatherings and other activities and needed far less medication. She even spent time in the kitchen supervising her grandchildren as they made her special holiday bread recipe that she hadn’t been able to make for years. What a gift she shared with her family!