Person mowing a lawn and their shadow looks exhausted.

Coping with Physical Pain

From what I’ve read and the people I’ve spoken with on the topic, IBS pain comes in a variety of forms and is experienced differently by most everyone. I would like to share how I cope with the various discomforts and yes, sometimes pain, that accompanies IBS. I realize that some of you are dealing with debilitating pain. I hope that something, anything, can alleviate this type of pain. Perhaps by putting our heads together we can find a way to cope with and perhaps even decrease this pain.

Pushing through

First, I guess I’d like to explain my personal experience with pain and correspondingly; my IBS pain. I was raised to accept physical pain and to not complain about it. Because of my experience with sports, mental illness, substance abuse, stomach ulcers, acute gastritis and now IBS, I have known all kinds of pain and discomfort. I live with it. You may hurt my feelings or embarrass me and I will cry. Really…maybe not in front of you (if I don’t know you so well :)), but I do cry and am upset when I am hurt PSYCHOLOGICALLY or EMOTIONALLY. Conversely, you could hit me with a baseball bat and break my arm and I can promise you that I will not cry. I accept it. Is this the right way to approach pain? I’m not sure that it is. The ‘sucking it up’ part of pain management only goes so far. Is it good to develop a personal resilience towards pain? Yes, as part of your bag of strengths. But, simply accepting pain may cause you to ignore proper treatment for the pain. There is no need for you to suffer. I am on two medications that are meant to alleviate some of the pain I experience on a daily basis. They work. Even though it sounds counterintuitive, sometimes I find exercise or even mild physical activity eases the pain for a little while. I’ll provide an example.

My IBS pain comes in two forms for the most part. The excruciating stomach and bowel pain during a flare up and often, a period of muscle aches and overwhelming malaise following the flare up. There were days when I literally couldn’t move. One day, I wrenched myself from the couch and went to work. I could barely think, I was in so much discomfort. I had promised my Dad that I would mow his very large lawn that week. I decided I needed to honor the promise that day. Don’t ask me why…I’m a glutton for punishment I guess. Nevertheless, I put on my comfortable clothes and began mowing. About half way through my job, it was very noticeable that I felt a little better. This lasted for several hours after I finished. Did the pain/discomfort come back? Yes, it did. But it was alleviated for a while by this physical activity. I can also say that since I have been exercising regularly, my severe episodes have decreased in frequency and intensity.

Get help for your pain

For those of you whose experience with IBS pain, or any other pain for that matter, is so intense that it ruining your life and your ability to function, my suggestion is to please reach out for help. The way you experience pain is particular to you and just because someone else says ‘they just deal with it’, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach out for help. See ALL of your doctors to talk about this pain. Consider all options for pain management, realizing, of course, that certain options do have an addictive factor. There are many ways to learn to cope and manage pain. You just need to have the strength to search for what might work for you.

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