When it hurts to wear clothes

Pain is a major contributor to a perceived decreased quality of life. It is a reason not to workout or exercise – not to squat, not to run, not to lift weights, not to jump, etc. Nearly 100% of individuals that I talk to experience some kind of pain on a consistent basis. I wish I could write about a miracle to make the pain go away. I cannot. But the pain can be minimized and managed. I manage pain daily – through diet and exercise. One of my reoccurring pain experiences:

Sometimes it hurts to wear clothes.

It is difficult to explain. It is an incredibly superficial pain. Clothes hurt. Gently brushing my skin hurts. DO NOT touch me. There is no deep pain associated with this. The pain is regional – only occurring in my right leg, from my hip down. Sometimes it goes all the way down to my knee. Other times it only goes down halfway. Sometimes it is in the front through my quadriceps and other times down through the hamstrings. And I have determined no rhyme or reason for flare ups – while I know there must be a trigger and I am working to define this.

The cause

I have a partial nerve impingement. Given some of my previous diagnoses, I knew it was an inevitable occurrence.

The treatment

Resting is always a good idea.

Avoiding extended periods of sitting eases the uncomfortableness.

Dynamic stretching, hip mobility exercises, and nerve flossing can help to reduce the inflammation.

After years of medications, I avoid them like the plague. Not to mention, I have tried them and they do not work.

The bottomline

Stopped

I will not be stopped. I do not complain about or wallow in my pain – and I do not write this for pity. Friends and acquaintances often tell me – you need to workout less or that my exercise is making it worse. Sitting around makes it worse! I need to stay moving in a safe manner.

I am not immortal – despite what some think.

I simply WILL NOT be stopped.

How about you?

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Listen. Slow down. Rest.

My body has been telling me to slow down and rest. But my mind is fighting it – NO! I have difficulty with doing nothing – both physically and mentally. As my favorite surgeon noted, I am a “Go go go girl.” (Not to be confused with a go go girl.)

My back hurts.

My hip hurts.

My hands hurts, with small blisters beneath my calluses.

My foot hurts.

My knee has been popping (not a good sign).

There is a pinching pain between my shoulder blades.

My head hurts, pulling from my shoulder blades.

And yet, my mind does not want to slow down. I share this, not to complain, or to whine, or for sympathy. But to show that I understand and that I too fall into the trap. The trap of habitual exercise and not wanting to stop – for fear that you will not start again.

Slowing down and resting is something that I have actually gotten better at these last few years. Each of my injuries forced me to slow down – each of them designed for the function of forcing me to slow down (there is a reason for everything, isn’t there?). I have since become more in-tune with my body. I listen to it. While I am pretty good at slowing down or cutting back,  I am not so good at resting completely. I go a little bit stir crazy on rest days (although I force myself to take at least 1 rest day a week).

Avoid overtraining

Some individuals may suspect I am overtraining. I am not overtraining – simply managing a chronic, mysterious condition (narrowed down to being autoimmune). Most of my pain has nothing to do with my workouts. However, minor aches and pains can be good indicators to slow down and avoid overtraining. Has your body been sore for too many days in a row? Rest. Are you getting adequate sleep but still fatigued? Rest.

Avoid Injury

If your body is fatigued or you are experiencing some pain, there is a good chance that you will workout, compensate with other areas, and incur more pain or injury. Another injury does not appeal to me – I do not think it is worth the risk.

The bottomline

Listen to your body. Slow down when it needs it. Rest when it needs it. When it doubt, if you have been working out hard, rest.

Rest —

Do you have low back, hip, or knee pain?

Gluteal amnesia. Sure, it sounds funny – but it is real. The butt muscles have ‘forgotten’ how to work. If you work in manual labor, you have heard, “Bend at the knees and you will lift with ease.” But do you bend at the knees? More than likely, you bend at the waist and lift with the back – bypassing the butt muscles. Are you a regular exerciser who is prone to knee squatting? More than likely you are and you are bypassing the butt muscles. Do you sit all day? More than likely your butt muscles are disengaged for the majority of your day. Do you have tight and/or sore hamstrings (back of the thighs)? They are likely overcompensating for underactive butt muscles. These butt muscles are your gluteals.

Gluteals

Gluteal amnesia

Gluteal amnesia occurs when your body forgets how to properly recruit the gluteal muscles. You lose the ability to move your hips through their full range of motion and compensatory movements occur. Find a great, detailed explanation of gluteal amnesia here.

Associated injuries

Common injuries associated with gluteal amnesia include patella-femoral (knee) syndrome, iliotibial band syndrome, disc herniation, chronic low back pain, recurrent low back strains, and piriformis syndrome.

What to do about it

There are a multitude of methods for eliminating gluteal amnesia – all require form correction and mind-body awareness during exercise. Dr. Lecovin outlines the corrective exercise techniques and I therefore do not need to repeat – read here.

However, his post is not exhaustive. A couple of other exercises include:

ImageMindful Step-up – Place one foot on the step – this foot NEVER MOVES. Driving through the heal of that foot, and without pushing off with the bottom foot, step up to a full standing position on the top of the step. Return the trailing foot to the floor, maintaining control with the working leg. If this is not harder than your traditional step-up, try again, mindful that your are NOT pushing off that back leg.

Wall squats – these are NOT your traditional wall-sits, sitting with your back supported on the wall. Stand facing a wall, with your toes no more than an inch away from the wall (yes, you are face-to-face with a wall. If you are looking at a mirror, you WILL know if you need to clean up your eyebrows). Your feet are slightly wider than shoulder width. Push your hips back and squat, as if to sit in a chair. Note: It helps to hold a kettlebell in your hands for counter balance and progress towards using no weight.

The bottomline

I have gluteal amnesia – moreso in my right buttocks than in my left. No one is immune. I happened to also have low back, hip, AND knee pain. But I do not let this stop me. I perform the above two exercises deliberately and regularly, and my symptoms of gluteal amnesia have diminished significantly. Combine these exercises with corrective exercise techniques – such as inhibiting (e.g., foam roller) and lengthening and you will be as good as new!

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We NEED. More. Yoga.

Yesterday I practiced yoga for the first time in months. It was a basic practice – relatively speaking. Very different from the forms of power yoga that I prefer. But this practice was a gentle reminder of what I have been missing in my training regimen. Yoga. Stretching. Lengthening.

What we often miss photo (33)

Stretching. Lengthening. Decompressing – both physiological and psychological.

I am guilty of not stretching as much as I should. I diligently stretch after running – other than that, rarely.

Our muscles need stretching – especially if we are putting in the work. Weight lifting involves continually contracting muscles. While proper form also includes lengthening, this is not always enough to allow the muscles to reach full length. I will not pretend to be a yogi – I am far from being a yoga expert. But I have done my research! (Don’t I always?)

Injury prevention – Research has shown that yoga has injury prevention properties. I would attribute this to the lengthening of muscles. The National Academy of Sports Medicine’s Corrective Exercise protocols incorporate lengthening into the four step program design. Unfortunately, corrective exercise is often only incorporated into training regimen after an injury has occurred. Why not use yoga as a tool for injury prevention?

Yoga & mental health – Yoga is known to be a ‘mind-body’ fitness practice. Some view this as getting in touch with your soft, gooey insides. I argue that ALL exercise requires mind-body awareness (Markula, 2004). Yoga has been shown to improve self efficacy and confidence and reduce depression and anxiety symptoms (Junkin, Kowalski, & Fleming, 2007; Markula, 2004; Rahimi & Bavaqar, 2010).

Relaxation – At the core of any yoga  practice is centered breathing. This necessitates focus on breathing. This allows our minds to relax and be free of the thoughts and worries that bog us down. Further, focusing on lengthening muscles allows those and other muscles to relax. Tension melts away.

Pain management – The benefits of pain management are well known and widely accepted. Time and time again, research has shown that yoga reduces back pain and other chronic aches and pains.

The bottomline

We could all use a little more stretching. I like the structure of incorporating a consistent yoga practice – and now realize I need to add that focus back into my program. As with all fitness professionals, not all yoga instructors are created equal. I would strongly urge you to read the American College of Sport Medicine’s resource on Selecting and Effectively Using a Yoga Program. Further, it is my personal opinion that instructors with 500+ hours of training are leaps and bounds ahead of their counterparts.

Looking for yoga that you can do at home? Debbie Williamson is your woman, with both DVDs (kids too!) and downloads. After traveling the country and experiencing many different styles of yoga and instruction – she is by far my favorite!

References

Junkin, S. E., Kowalski, K., & Fleming, T. (2007). Yoga and self-esteem: Exploring change in middle-aged women. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology29S174-S175.

Markula, P. (2004). “Tuning into One’s Self:” Foucault’s Technologies of the Self and Mindful Fitness. Sociology Of Sport Journal21(3), 302-321.

O’Donovan, G., Blazevich, A. J., Boreham, C., Cooper, A. R., Crank, H., Ekelund, U., & … Stamatakis, E. (2010). The ABC of Physical Activity for Health: A consensus statement from the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. Journal Of Sports Sciences28(6), 573-591.

Rahimi, E., & Bavaqar, S. (2010). Effects of yoga on anxiety and depression in women. British Journal Of Sports Medicine44i68-i69.

Snow, snow, go away

photo (18)Do not come back another day.

I have about had it with the snow. I believe that we have all had enough. While the snow removal is annoying and driving is hazardous, the pain is unbearable. It is no wonder retired folks move south for the winter months. The older I get, the worse my pain is when it snows.

Human barometer

I can predict snow – probably better than a meteorologist. Between the lingering effects of my surgeries and my chronic joint pain, the snow-related flares can make me want to stick a fork in my eye. It is indescribable really – and medically unexplainable and therefore difficult to treat. I spent last night sitting on my heating pad, trying to get comfort to the innermost depths of my hip joints. It worked temporarily.

In general, the best treatment is distraction. I have to keep myself busy. If I am shoveling, I do not feel it. If I am working, I do not feel it. If I am immersed in writing or research, I do not feel it. It is important that I avoid excessive sugar, as this will worsen the pain. More than anything, it is a case of mind over matter.

The bottomline

If I were to focus on the pain and maybe what I could not do because of the pain, I would be miserable. Instead, I put on my deep thinking face (but that face probably never comes off).

How do you find comfort while enduring pain?

What, if any, distraction techniques do you use?

Do NOT tell me I can’t

Do not tell me that I cannot or will not do something. You are only asking to be proven wrong. This is particularly true when it comes to physical feats. I take great pride how far I have come and what I can do. I spent years training a body to do things that most individuals do not even think about – and I had been told I could not do them. So do note tell me that I can’t. I have asked my friends never to tell me that I cannot run a marathon, because I do not want to have to do it. (I will never run a full marathon, that is just silly!)

I spent years visiting doctors, being poked and prodded, trying different treatments. Pain in nearly every joint was depressing and at times overwhelming. Not that I would let it stop me – but I wanted answers. But the doctors did not want answers as much as I did. Several of them shrugged their shoulders and handed me a prescription. The rheumatologist told me not to exercise and to lose weight. The orthopaedic surgeon told me that he had done all that he could (after my second surgery on my right knee) and that I would never run, squat, or jump. The chiropractor (also a CSCS and brilliant) told me to avoid overhead movements (e.g., shoulder presses, overhead squats, snatches), barbells on my back, heavy weights, jumping, and the prone position (e.g., pushups, mountain climbers). The combined opinion was that I would need to manage my pain – most prominent in my knees, hips, and back – by decreasing my scope of activity and taking pain medication and/or experimental drugs.

Between the activities that the surgeon told me I would never do again and the recommendations of exercises to avoid, the message was clear: STOP EXERCISING. Stop exercising? Ha! Fat chance of that one. Sure, I could build workouts around that list of no-nos, but that would have been boring – little variation and little fun.

Proving them all wrong

Mind you, the chances are – having dealt with chronic pain for most of my life – that my pain tolerance is higher than most. Nothing about what I have accomplished was easy. Nothing was pain-free. I have endured some pain – and maybe too much in some instances – in order to prove them wrong. But in the long term, my pain is better and well managed.photo (8)

No squats – I managed to max out at 300 pounds in 2010 and have set a goal of re-achieving this in 2013.

No jumps – I jump all the time. For fun. For exercise. I just like to jump. Sometimes, like yesterday, I even jump with a barbell on my back.

No running – since my last surgery in 2008, I have run countless 5Ks, two half marathons, and numerous relay marathons – including a Ragnar relay. I will attempt my 3rd half marathon this May.

No overhead movements – well, let’s just say that I take some risks here…but I listen to my body and I stop if I need to. I can do 54 pound single-arm kettlebell snatches. Weighted overhead squats tend to be a different story. So I listen, and I stop when m y body screams.

No barbells on my back – clearly I ignore this. BUT! I use progressions to warm up. And I have definitely cut back my everyday weights to reduce painful aftermaths. Again – body smart!

No heavy weights – I don’t know what that means. Friends do not let friends use light weights. The fastest way to fat loss is with heavy weights. The easiest way to weight maintenance is heavy weights. The fastest way to sweating is heavy weights. The best way to cardiac fitness is heavy weights – – – need I go on?

No prone position – I enjoy pushups and planks. Back/hip flexion is actually what gives me the most difficulty so I tend to avoid the dynamic movement (yeah, no burpees).

Inspirational transformation

My story is mild in comparison to many. Arthur Boorman completed an inspiration transformation:

Overcoming obstacles

What are your obstacles? Which are excuses and which are real? Just because it is difficult does not mean it is not possible. I know this because I have lived it. I know this because I have watched others live it. It is not going to be easy. It will not happen overnight. But are your obstacles worth tackling? One day at a time! Just like Arthur, you might fall down. But do not you want to get back up?

Exercise is medicine

There are days when my body aches. There are days I experience superficial burning in my thighs because my nerve is impinged. There are days when my knee buckles and clicks. Some of these days I rest, but more often than not I exercise. Exercise IS the best medicine. Exercise releases adrenaline – the natural pain killer. Being body smart, I use corrective exercise techniques to work with and around my disabilities. These are not the days for barbell complexes nor running. But these are the best days for building mind-body connections. These are the best days for being body smart.

The bottomline

You tell me I cannot do something and I will do everything in my power to prove you wrong. I can do ANYTHING I put my mind to. And so can you!

Lose the excuses. I know pain, I live pain – pain is an excuse not to exercise and eat well. When exercise and eating well are the cure for pain. You see, I am off all maintenance pain medications. I found the best treatment – so maybe all those doctors knew what I needed to hear after all!

Did Arthur have a right to excuses? Doctors told him that he would never walk or run. And look at him now.

What is your excuse? And what things will you never do?

If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.  ~ Hippocrates

Mental toughness as your arsenal

I could spend days and months describing my personal struggle to overcome chronic joint pain. I have gone through years of pain medications, blood work, x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, surgeries…and the pain persists. One doctor told me to workout with less impact (i.e., swim). I felt worse. Another doctor told me that if I lost 15 pounds, the pain would significantly subside. My response – 15 pounds from where?? Unwilling to manage my pain with medications for the rest of my life, I had to explore my alternatives. I knew pain medications would only temporarily mask the problem, so I found other ways to manage and cope with my pain.

A change in lifestyle…

photo (2)Determined to improve my quality of life, I modified my lifestyle. It worked. The stronger my muscles became, the better my joints felt. For years I would not workout without my knee brace. Did I need it? Maybe not, but I thought I did! Further, I was afraid of pain. I had lost my ability to distinguish between good and bad pain. With the guidance of an AMAZING trainer and friend, I was able to modify my exercise routine. And look at me now! I maintain the body and the training level of an elite athlete, but in all reality I exercise because I must.

In addition to exercise, I modified my diet. I limit foods that trigger my pain, such as sugar, alcohol, and red meat. I take a multivitamin, fish oil, and amino acids. I feel the difference! I spent years trying other supplements and nothing compares. One of the many benefits of fish oil is reduced inflammation and I cannot begin to describe the difference I have seen and felt. NOTE: Everyone has individual dietary and supplementation needs, this is just an overview of what works for me.

Mental toughness

I have been asked how I can do the workouts I do if I am in pain. First, I have become incredibly in tune with my own body, knowing what is good or bad pain. Second, mental toughness. Whether you are recovering from an injury or managing a major health concern, mental toughness is your arsenal. Mental toughness will help you cope with adversity.

Cope: to contend with difficulties with the intent to overcome them.

(The American Heritage Medical Dictionary, 2007).

My daily ability to cope with my pain is directly related to mental toughness. Don’t get me wrong, there are days, nights, and weeks of weakness. But I have far more good days than bad. The following tips can help you contend battles with physical pain and injury:

  1. Be informed. Ask questions and know your diagnosis and prognosis of your injury.
  2. Use imagery. Imagine yourself performing the skills you are working to recover.
  3. Maintain a strong social support system. Having strong social support can help you cope with the stress, whether by having someone attend physical therapy with you or by watching a movie to distract you for a time.
  4. Practice physical and mental relaxation. Release tension and clear the mind.
  5. Practice gate control methods. The physiological benefits of self-massage, tapping, etc. are proven and effective for many.
  6. Partake in alternative physical activities. This will allow you to benefit from the positives of exercise. Dive into the pool or get into a yoga or Pilates class.
  7. Communicate. Let the recovery team (e.g., physicians, therapists, trainers) know when you are in pain, when you have made significant gains, etc., so that adjustments can be made to the program if necessary.
  8. Get plenty of sleep. Inadequate rest can lead to fatigue and poor judgment. Note: While you are sleeping is also the time your body and muscles repair themselves.
  9. Maintain a positive attitude. And practice self-talk. The Law of Attraction: People with positive attitudes tend to approach problems with more hopeful and optimistic views and attain more positive results.
  10. Maintain realistic expectations and goals. Having unrealistic expectations can lead to pushing too far or hard, resulting in setbacks and/or delays in recovery.
  11. Celebrate. Recognize goals and milestones that you have achieved! Track your progress and see how far you have come.
  12. Maintain interests. Having external interests can keep you socially connected and help keep focus off of the injury and the pain associated with it.

The bottomline

Injuries and pain, chronic or acute, can get the best of you. It can be a daily struggle, navigating, “how do I best cope today?” However, you do not have to let pain consume you. Few people who know me or meet me know about my struggles – nor should they! I have provided these tips, but that is just the beginning.

References

Albinson, C., & Petrie, T. (2003). Cognitive Appraisals, Stress, and Coping: Preinjury and Postinjury Factors Influencing Psychological Adjustment to Sport Injury. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 12(4), 306-322.

Moran, A. P. (2004). Sport and exercise psychology: A critical introduction. New York: Routledge.

Cope. (n.d.). In The American Heritage Medical Dictionary (2007). Houghton Mifflin Company.

Pain management – It is within your control

What is pain? How much of pain is physical and how much is mental? We all deal with pain differently. Some people turn to prescription pain killers, while others will do anything and everything to not have to take them. After years of medications that didn’t truly work, I’m the latter. One of the hardest things I have ever had to learn in life is pain management. Acute pain can be disruptive, limiting our training and ability to partake in the physical activities we love. Chronic pain can be debilitating. So, how do we deal? Have you ever wondered why you immediately rub your leg after running into the coffee table?

The science of gate control

Pain is such a subjective term and an experience that varies person to person. Why does one person experience pain and another not when presented with the same pain-inducing stimulus. The Gate Control Pain Theory states that pain is a function of the balance between the information traveling into the spinal cord through large and small nerve fibers (Melzack & Wall, 1965). Large diameter fibers (associated with touch, pressure, and vibration) and small diameter fibers (such as pain) meet at two places in the spinal cord: T cells and inhibitory cells (Melzack & Wall, 1965). Melzack and Wall (1965) explained that both large and small fiber signals excite T cells, and when the output of the T cells exceeds a threshold, pain exists. These T cells are said to be the gate to pain (Aronson, 2002; Melzack & Wall, 1965; Taylor & Taylor, 1998). Inhibitory cells act to inhibit activation of the T cells and have the ability to shut that gate (Melzack & Wall, 1965).

When large and small fibers have been stimulated, they will activate T cells: opening the pain gate. The large fibers will also activate the inhibitory cells: closing the gate. The small fibers will block the inhibitory cells: leaving the gate open (Aronson, 2002; Melzack & Wall, 1965). Meaning, the more large fiber activity relative to thin fiber activity, the less pain you will feel.

This explains why we tend to rub our skin when we run into something. We rub the point of impact. And for as long as one rubs that point of impact, pressure will be perceived, rather than pain, because the message of pressure (large fibers) is ‘closing’ the gate and preventing the message of pain (small fibers) from passing through (Aronson, 2002). If the amount of activity is greater in these large fibers, there should be little or no pain. However, if there is more activity in small fibers, then there will be pain (Aronson, 2002; Melzack & Wall, 1965).

The science in practice

The Gate Control Pain Theory can explain all types of pain, although it is quite often used to explain chronic and phantom limb pains (Aronson, 2002). The ‘gate’ plays a very important role in pain management. As mentioned, we inherently respond to certain pain situations by rubbing or applying pressure to the point of impact, closing the gate. This theory also can explain the effectiveness of other pain management techniques, such as applying ice or analgesic balms. These treatments change the perception of pain by activating more large fibers, sending the message of pressure instead of the message of pain (Aronson, 2002).

The bottomline…

As I have struggled, and continue to struggle, with chronic pain, I love learning about the science and the reality of pain. Physiological pain can quickly and easily manifest into psychosomatic pains. How can I best manage my pain – acute and chronic – in a way that prevents me from losing control my gate? For the person who suffers chronic pain, stubbing a toe can quickly elicit negative thoughts, feelings, and sensations. I know I want to limit and control the negative! If I know rubbing and kissing a ‘boo-boo’ will make it feel better, I’m sure going to use it!

References

Aronson, P. A. (2002). Pain theories: A review for application in athletic training and therapy. Athletic Therapy Today, 7(4), 8-13.

Melzack, R., & Wall, P.D. (1965). Pain mechanisms: A new theory. Science, 150, 971-979.

Taylor, J., & Taylor, S. (1998). Pain education and management in the rehabilitation from sports injury. The Sport Psychologist, 12, 68-85.

Where is God when it hurts?

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. – Romans 8:18

I’ve been reading, Where Is God When It Hurts?, by Philip Yancey. For the girl who has tried to manage chronic pain for all of adulthood, this book is proving to be incredibly enlightening and powerful. It quickly occurred to me that I had NO IDEA what leprosy actually was! I had read about it and heard about it and believed it was a disease of the skin. But many who suffer from leprosy have numbness or a lack of feeling in their hands, feet, or legs (disturbingly similar to diabetes symptoms, huh?). While leprosy is caused by a bacterium, it is worsened and difficult to manage due to the absence of pain or sensation in the extremities. Yancey describes individuals who put their hands in fire and wear shoes that wear down toes because they do not feel the warning signs those of us who feel pain heed. Can you imagine? How dangerous is this world for those who may not feel pain??

I know pain. Too well. I spent a great deal of my time, energy, and money trying to manage my physical pain throughout 2007-2010. This came after years of trying to ignore or self-medicate this pain and suffering. My first recollection of pain is from middle school – sitting in the bleachers for a pep rally, hiding the tears that built up because of the pain in my knees. My mother disregarded this discomfort as growing pains. So I silently dealt with it. One morning when I was 16, I could not get out of bed. My back hurt so badly and I could not sit up. I eventually got up and my mom took me to the urgent care – x-rays, muscle relaxants, and steroids were the answer! The cause? According to the x-ray, I must have been dropped on my head as a baby (seriously!) and my spine was being compressed. A few days later a specialist called. After looking at my x-rays he suggested that I seek additional treatment or suffer extensively in the future. I tried chiropractic adjustments for a while, but then I came to rely on unhealthy doses of ibuprofen to make it through my days.

Fast forward 6 years or so to 2004, I was no longer taking regular doses of ibuprofen – I was silently suffering. I was introduced to water aerobics and as I became stronger, the pain lessened! It was not gone, but it became more tolerable. I fell in love with exercise – leading me to where I am today. I learned what my body could and could not handle. I learned what made my pain worse and what made it better. I learned to be in tune with my body. Being a master at ignoring pain – I ignored it too often and by 2007 I had done damage to my knees. I was in agony. I made a too-quick decision to have surgery in December 2007 on my right knee. While this surgery led to a miserable year of pain and suffering, it forced me to rest and protected me from doing permanent damage to my left knee – which exhibited ACL and PCL strains.

2008 was the year of great suffering. I had complications following surgery that significantly limited my rehabilitation, exacerbated pain, and led to a second surgery. Doctors and specialists told me that I would never run, jump, or squat again. I was told to stop exercising (or anything that caused pain – living caused pain at that time). At the same time, I was told to lose weight (at 5’7″, 155lb.) and to do so without exercising or much physical activity at all. I was recommended to try an experimental antibiotic regimen that had been shown to help osteoarthritic patients – I declined. Going into 2009, I was told that I would spend my lifetime managing my pain with medications (which by the way did nothing to alleviate my pain) and that the chances were good I would require joint replacements and invasive surgeries as early as age 30.

I was angry. I could see how my pain and suffering were molding me into the wonderful professional and woman I am today, but it was difficult to cope. I now know my body better than most people you will ever meet. That little tweek in my hip means no heavy lifting. The pain in my right temple is actually my trapezius screaming for a rest. I will not give up. I will not stop. I will use my pain as a barameter. I will love my pain – as it protects me from evil, injury, and even death. So where is God with it hurts? I don’t know about you…but I’m thinking that I may be safely protected in His arms when it hurts. It’s certainly something to consider!

…nine months of waiting and preparation, intense labor, then the ecstasy of birth. – John 16:21