you one of the 100 million Americans affected by chronic pain? Living with chronic pain is not “sexy”. Chronic pain sufferers don’t have well known foundations to bring world-wide attention to our suffering or walks for our cause or celebrity spokespeople.  We don’t get the attention that say MS patients or cancer patients get. And I understand, chronic pain is usually not a life threatening problem and I am in no way understating the seriousness of these illnesses. Chronic pain it is just something you might have to deal with the rest of your life day in and day out. Something that affects every single aspect of your life from work to your relationships, being a parent being a partner or spouse not to mention the emotional roller coaster, self-doubt, self-blame and self-pity.

Many get stigmatized as drug seekers, hypochondriacs, lazy or weak minded. This often leads to many  living in the shadows not wanting to speak up about our pain. We begin to blame ourselves  for not being able to “positive think” our way out of pain.  Friends and family members say “it could be worse” or “at lease you don’t have “fill in the blank” disease.

Then there is the well-meaning friend that says “have you tried … “fill in the blank: .. it worked great for me.” You go to another chiropractor, acupuncturist, nutritionist and plunk more money down hoping to find some relief. We get our hopes up and think this might be it! Sometimes temporary relief is found. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing practitioners out there. You may be one who has benefited from such a practitioner which is wonderful!

Rather than searching outside of yourself, sometimes changing our way of thinking about our situation can be extremely powerful. We don’t have control over how others are going to react to us but we do have control over how we can look at our situation. If you are constantly thinking in the past or in the future you can get consumed by fear. If you can bring yourself to the present by focusing on your breath, doing a mind-body scan or taking a momentary inventory of what you are grateful for you can shift our focus to a more positive state. This is not forcing yourself to positive-think your way out of a situation. It is a way shift away from a fear-based focus to a positive state where you can practice self-care and self-compassion.

We need to look inside ourselves.  We need to ask the right questions and listen to our body. We need to take a non-judgmental, realistic approach to self-care. It is through self-care and self-compassion you will find strength, energy, resilience and even relief.  What is going on with my body? I may never find the answer but what I can do is ask different questions like what am I grateful for? What can I do for myself today? What can I do for someone else today? I can do the best I can in that very moment whether it is doing my best at 40% capacity or 100% capacity. The Fourth Agreement from The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is so fitting for anyone dealing with chronic pain or illness. “Always Do Your Best – your best is going to change from moment to moment, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under and given circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret”.


Elizabeth Schenk is a medical exercise specialist and health coach with years of experience working with the chronically ill and disabled.