How to Stay Encouraged When in Chronic Pain

By , SparkPeople Blogger
For those of you who believe there is nothing you can do when you have chronic pain, take it from me: there is hope.
I weighed 460 pounds and with all of my chronic medical issues and disability, I managed to baby step my way through my thus far of journey of 6 years. I’ve lost almost 200 pounds to date.
Lately I feel like I can do nothing. I have some extra medical issues getting in my way and need a few surgeries.  Part of me, the old me, wants to give up in a chocolate oblivion and couch-sitting frenzy. I got up to 460 pounds the last time I caved in and decided that not trying was better than failure.  At that point, I gave away my own rights to run, work, play, and walk on the beach. I literally handed over my freedom with full consent with each bite and every minute I sat sedentary. It seemed easier and freeing at the moment. I mean, what else could I do?
Well, let me tell you! I discovered that baby stepping is powerful. Something is not nothing. Even if you walk around the house with difficulty, you do it in preparation for your next steps in life. The real problem is that we have grown up in an “All or nothing/ No pain, no gain” world.  What about those of us who do have pain and are prone to gaining weight?  Push yourself without pushing yourself down. See a medical profession first and ask them what you CAN do. They can tell you how not to exacerbate your particular issues.  Then, armed with knowledge, go gently into your journey.
Support can be very hard to come by for those of us with chronic pain or disabilities. Still, it can be done-- just see my Spark Page!  I’ve lost almost 200 pounds despite my conditions. Forget those who call you lazy and give you advice like the artichoke and water pill diet.  There is no fast track. There is simply the journey, and I have found it to be one of the most introspective and joyous times of my life. You can educate yourself through SparkPeople and make a real lifestyle change.  Read, try different foods and activities and ignore the haters.
Never hold yourself up to Barbie girl working out next to you, on the TV, or in magazines.  You are unique. Go at your own pace and challenge yourself against your own accomplishments.  NEVER forget to reward yourself with some non-food item.  Things that I like to reward myself with are clothes, jewelry, and manicure/pedicures.  Someday, a massage sounds good.
Find what motivates you. Fill your life with supportive people, even if they are just your online Sparkfriends.  My Sparkfriends mean the world to me. They keep me going when I feel down. Lately I’ve been struggling because I need surgery and I feel like a rolly polly bug. It frustrates me terribly, the fatigue, pain, and just general lethargy.  If it were not for all of you, I would feel so lost. I read things people write to me and smile.  I feel better. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for keeping me going. 
Find your calling. For me, as soon as I lost 100 pounds, I knew I was supposed to get the message out that nobody need lie in their bed their whole lives, as I did. I was merely living, not existing. Once I found my calling, I wanted to pay forward everything SparkPeople and my journey had taught me. I found myself pushing harder to be ABLE to do that.
Another great tip is to redefine yourself. I used to be a 460-pound, fat, disabled woman.  Now, I’m me.  I’m more positive, spontaneous, and determined. Yes, I’m still disabled and overweight, but I feel mentally different. 
When I started trying to get in exercise, I had in-home physical therapy. Then I did light housework with many breaks, using a sweeper to steady me. Then I started using an arm cycle. That seems to be my most standard piece of workout equipment along with my wheeled walker, “Freedom.”
Don’t give up. Talk to you medical professional about what is right for you. They may refer you to other doctors and there may be a few hoops to jump through, but you are worth it. Do whatever you can to enable yourself, one tiny step at a time. If your medical professional is too aggressive toward you because of your weight, find a new one. If your medical professional does anything less than sincerely care, that is not the right one for you. We hire them. We can fire them.
So the good news is: YES!  You can get fit, lose weight and have a better life, even if you feel like you can’t do anything. I will be fighting the good fight with you!
How do you stay encouraged?

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One of the things that's almost never mentioned in relation to chronic pain is how it can contribute to weight gain. I spent the last 30 years in terrible pain. I often overate, because eating was one of the few things I could do that gave me a sense of physical pleasure and a moments respite from pain. Of course, because pain limited my mobility, those calories turned into fat. And as I gained weight, unsympathetic doctors insisted that my weight was causing the pain and arthritis. My insistence that the pain came BEFORE the weight went unheeded.

By 2009, my pain was unbearable. I could no longer walk. And doctors told me my life would never get any better. But I was blessed to find Professor Brian A. Rothbart, a surgeon that spent 40 years looking for a cause and a cure for chronic muscle and joint pain. I recently finished his therapy program, which did not involve drugs or surgery, and for the first time in 3 decades I have NO chronic pain. None. Professor Rothbart recently published a letter I wrote to him about my therapy here:

One of the important things I learned form Professor Rothbart is that being overweight does NOT cause pain or arthritis. He restated this to me throughout my therapy and wrote an article about it here.
(You may need to copy that address and paste in into your browser.)

Now that I am out of pain, I no longer crave foods like cookies and cake. I have no urge to overeat. And I'm losing weight without thinking about it or working toward it. I've lost 16 pounds in the last month and a half. But I'm still over 200 pounds, on a very small frame. So if being overweight causes pain and arthritis, why am I pain free? Why don't I have arthritis? I'll tell you why. Because my pain was caused by an abnormal foot structure which put me into a bad posture. When Professor Rothbart corrected my posture, the pain went away. Gone!

For everyone here struggling with chronic pain and weight gain, my advice is this--don't settle for a doctor that blames you for your pain and other health problems. Change doctors, and change again, until you find one that is willing to dig deep and find the actual source of your chronic pain and cure it. DEMAND this! If your doctor isn't referring you to appropriate specialists, including physical therapists that can help you work out an exercise program you can actually do, then speak up! Tell your doctor what you want and expect. If you still don't get help, change doctors and change again until you find one that is actually committed to healing.

You must rise above pain and fatigue and find the strength to be your own advocate for better health care. And each one of you can do it! After all, you have already shown a tremendous amount of personal strength and courage simply by getting up each morning and living though another day of pain. So without a doubt you have what you need to confront your doctors and demand a higher level of care than just being blamed or drugged. Report
You truly are inspirational. Thanks for sharing your story. When I see that others have gone through a lot to lose weight, it lets me know that I can do it too. I hope that you reach your goal. Report
this is the first response to a blog ever. i have felt this way for so long and feel like i am so alone in this journey. i havent utilized spark the way it is intended so as usual i feel like i havent done my utmost best. i do however keep striving. i have been reading all the articals, keeping some receipes and basically just that. i am at my highest weight ever and just had a partial knee replacement jan. 9. so im just right at 3 months getting well. i still have major pain. also because i have needed this done for so long and my body is back properly aligned now, my hip and back hurts. not to mention all the other usual hurts. and then there's the depression from being so big now and that hopeless feeling. reading this today has somehow touched me personally more than any other one i've read. this has helped me understand more of the journey i will have to take and dont be so impatient. thank you. Report
Dear Beth, Thank you so much for sharing such encouraging words with everyone - how brave you are! And congratulations on your weight loss.
From the rest of the comments it's easy to see how inspiring your story is for others in the same boat. You are absolutely right that baby steps are the way to go. Did you know that even the MAYO clinic now recommends ten minutes here and there throughout your day instead of attempting to do a 30 minute (or more) exercise program! There is much that we can do for a few minutes here and there which absolutely DOES count. I often recommend things like marching in place while brushing your teeth, one extra walk around the kitchen table, etc. And for all of those suffering from Chronic Pain there is a new book out by Dr. Mark Hyman with lots of good information on food triggers for pain and allergies, etc. It's called "The Blood Sugar Solution." If you can get to your local library, check out this book. You may find more simple, easy solutions to help relieve your chronic pain.
I am also proud of you Beth! Report
Thank you. Now I am going to get off my butt and go for a walk. Report
Hello, today we are having some friends over for dinner and I am cooking a belated St.Patty's day menu.Lots of good healthy vege's.
I suffer from osteo arthiritis and am in pain throughout the day but am taking a combo of MSM and GC and that seems to help relieve the pain.I wake up in serious pain but as the day goes on I feel a little stronger but am not currently exercising,don't have a friendly and supportive have to do this on my own.Really enjoy reading the comments,they are inspiring.Good luck to all of you out there and keep on doing what is best for you, CLin Oregon Report
It sounds like you are having some challenges you are always such an inspiration and have such a positive impact on so many. You are in my thoughts and prayers. I greatly admire you for keeping your eye on your successes rather than taking a "woe is me" approach. Thank you for sharing all of your insights you have gained. Report
Beth, you continue to inspire with your honesty and determination - thank you so much. Report
I loved reading your words of encouragement. In the past year due to medical reasons, and getting depressed over it all, I hit my top weight ever of 294 pounds. In a year I gained almost 100 pounds. I thought it was the end and I would never lose weight. In the past couple months I have slowly started doing things again. Going outside and walking a few steps to the garage was a big step for me. I did this for a few days then did a few more minutes of walking around. Now I get outside everyday. I started extremely slowly. Using baby steps has helped me to do a little more each week. I have lost about ten pounds. I discovered one of my friends using sparkle and decided to join. I love reading every ones stories and the encouragement is amazing. I am far from my goal of the weight I want to lose and far from doing things that I used to do, but each day I feel my baby steps are making it a little easier. After putting on the weight I started feeling pain everyday. I still feel it and I do not over push myself. I do a little each day and it has been helping to ease the pain some. Thank you again for the encouraging message Report
I am sick and in pain today. It was a real encouragement to read your blog. My weight crested at 350lbs several years ago. Over time I lost a lot of weight. Yet, the past few years I did struggle with binging. I do think that I need to push myself right now. But, I hear you with baby steps, I have to keep them going or I will get very burned out. Thank you for your blog and congratulations on continuing to make a difference in your own life and the lives of others. Have a great weekend, Beth. Report
What a great blog! Way to mix inspirational with practical. Hoping you get better, but, even more, that the journey keeps being worth it for you (and for others who can be inspired by you!) Report
Wow Thanks for the encouragement I have a herniated disc thats pinching my sciatic nerve, had surgery now the scar tissue is pressing on the same nerve , i'm in constant pain , also have 3 herniated disc in my neck , sometimes all I want to do is just stay in bed, I have gained 35 lbs and feel like a blob, I know I should exercise but everything hurts Thank you Report
What an inspiring message. You have definitely found the secret to keep going, focus on the positives in your life. Just keep moving! Report
I am pretty new here and have been out of action with a back problem for some 2 months now. I also have arthritis which means that there are some things I find hard to do. As Zannachan says you can get worn down by chronic pain.

I have just read what you have written and feel very encouraged by your words of wisdom. Thank you for posting and for a very uplifting story. Report
Hi Beth, Thanks for telling your story which, as I have learned matches the story of many of us at SP. I started my journey at 363 pounds and am back "up" to around 185. I say up because I have had 3 more surgeries since December 6, bringing my grand total of surgeries up to 43 in the past 11 years. Some of these surgeries have been small, but some of them have been BIG, lifesaving events and they have lasted from 15 minutes up to 12.5 hours. I have chronic pain that is the result of obesity and genetic arthritis that left me wheelchair bound. I am no longer in a wheelchair and I have joined a fitness center through my workplace that has a pool. I work out there for 2 hours almost every single day and I mourn a bit on the holidays they close. I don't know what I'd do without my pool. A couple of things that I'd like to mention is that if you worry about being seen in a swimsuit around Barbie, toss a towel over your shoulder until you get in. Once you're in the water--nobody notices or can really see anyway! Secondly, if you are mobility challenged, you will be totally amazed at what you can do in the water. I often leave wishing that I could live in the pool and that I could do the same things and distances on land as water. (Baby steps is my answer--it will come!)
The other thing I want to talk about is surgery. It can also be life changing and give you back aspects of movement and mobility. If you make the decision that your life will be better because you are doing this, there are things you should do to prevent yourself from reverting back to unhealthy habits. If you will be limited in doing shopping or cooking while you recuperate, do as much as you can ahead of time and prepare lists of what you might need someone to get for you. This may be a time that you will need to resort to frozen and canned vegetables and fruits, and fruit juice as opposed to fresh foods. You will still need a few items, but I learned about Wasa bread and I use those tasty little crackers in lieu of my 4o cal a slice bread in a pinch. I am a milk and yogurt person--so someone has to keep me in fresh milk. Anyway, prepare foods ahead of time so they can simply be popped in the oven. It helps if you mark the freezer bag with the name of the item, when you made it, and the cooking times needed. Have snacks available and this is a good time to have some chocolate in correct portions available. I haven't had any bigger surgeries that some minor "feeling sorry for myself" up to one episode that turned out to be full bloomed depression around. If a healthy size of chocolate might help you over the loop, it is better to be prepared for it or you will get someone to go shopping and before you are through with that list, you will ask for a ton of things that you no longer eat. No surgery is time for crazy eating with abandon and if you partake in that, when all is said and done, you will find yourself wanting to kick your own behind because you are losing a lot of pounds "one more time." Also, if you will be in the hospital, it is not necessary to order everything available on your menu. However, since they don't serve snacks between meals and you may be someone who eats 6-7 small meals a day, try to order something that can keep at your own bedside without danger of spoiling. Put it away until you need it--or bring your own snacks, IF you aren't on a specialized diet that prevents "bringing your own." Finally, ask your doctor about activity and resuming your regular activity. Find out from the beginning what you need to know about your future, and it will save you time and get you moving about as soon as possible. This will prevent you from becoming another "chair potato" again.
I hope that helps anyone who might be facing medically induced "down time." This period of surgery can be managed with some finesse and when you are chomping at the bit to get back to your fitness routine, the doctor will cheer you on too. Get as much information prior to your procedure as you can, especially about diet and activity. These are all important to help you to have a successful surgery without losing ground in other ways.
Best wishes to you!! Report
I too suffer from chronic pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome bilateral, etc, etc,. I hurt everyday, all over, head to toes. I have permanent and total disability and on Medicare. I signed up for Independant Health and I took advantage of the Y membership and joined the Silver Splash class over a year ago. My motivation has slowly increased and although I haven't lost but 10 lbs I am determined to stick with it. Last year, when Halloween came I gained five pounds. Ah, the candy then Thanksgiving Christmas, you get the idea, and now I am back down to the weight I was below where I started. I am now a Spark Person and have been tracking fitness and foods eaten since January; that helps alot.
Thanks for your blog post and letting me know I am not in the canoe alone. I still hurt daily and sometimes my motivation lacks but I am making a transition to a healthier lifestyle and I have learned in the past it don't happen over night. I am more determined than ever to stick with this even if I stray I am here to stay. Thanks Spark Peeps. Report
I keep reminding myself that I hurt less with each pound I lose. I have also found some of the "chair exercises" useful when my knee is really bothering me. Report
I stay motivated by learning to love me. I truly believe my inside is better than my outside. Unfortunately, I had to improve my outside to give me entry into people seeing my inside. I love life and that is motivation enough to make the effort to be better each day. I applaud your efforts to work through chronic pain and illness....its a true testament to courage and faith! Keep pushing and know I am rooting for you! Report
You are all sorts of awesome! :) Report
I'm not blowin' sunshine when I say, "I respect you!"and sincerely thank you for the inspiration. Report
Great blog...I deal with constant pain in my hips and back due to arthritis. Sometimes my exercise aggrevates it, but I have to keep moving! Giving up is not an option! Report
Very motivating blog. thank you Report
Thank you for such a motivating article. I too have chronic pain from fibromyalgia and a few other things, and your article has pointed me back in the right direction. Good luck to you on your surgery. Report
I've had chronic pain for the past several months and I've been using that as an excuse for doing almost anything. Thanks for reminding me about baby steps. I can still walk, I have limbs that move, I have a mind that thinks, I have a spirit to rise up to even if it takes all my will and sometimes it does. Thanks again Beth! Report
I stay encouraged by reading wonderful blogs like these. Thank you so much for sharing! Congrats & Good Luck to you!! Report
you are doing great! i keep my mind on small steps, which can lead to a wonderful journey. Report
You are very encouraging I hope you meet all of your goals Report
Congratulations on your strength! I know if I don't do some exercise every day my osteoarthritis will be more painful and I won't want to do anything. I love your view on life now. Report
Thank you! Report
Self motivation is a powerful thing, Beth. Keep pushing forward! Hugs,
MaryAnn Report
I have had many surgeries and a lot of health issues one of which is chronic back pain. I just wish I had known about SparkPeople when they all began so I could have dealt with them from a better outlook. I was always trying to get my health back but with no doctor encouragement on nutrition or exercises that I could do. I kept floundering on my home to find information. Thanks for SP to help us with these issues. You are a geat motivator to me in sharing all you have accomplished. Have your needed surgery but stay on top of the doctors to keep on track even while going through healing you need the proper nutrition. God bless you and keep up your good attitude. Report
Amen! God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. Report
How do I stay encouraged?

I keep telling myself what hurts today will not hurt as I get thinner and stronger Report
Wow that really is inspiring. Thank you for having found your calling and putting it out there. It really has me feeling quite motivated. I know that I am unique and it is my journey but I think a person needs to be reminded of that. I also agree that SP is the place to be for support and friendship along the way!! Report
Thank you Beth and CONGRATS on your accomplishments!! I am an overweight Fibromyalgia person that is gone into a very long plateau and getting discouraged. You are an inspiration and I plan on keeping it going and not be discouraged with "allowing my skin to catch up with my weight loss"!! Report
Thank you, for your blog. I needed to read this. I'm loaded in arthritis, and have had one hip replaced, and one knee. I'm looking at my left knee, to be replaced this year, as well. My hip replacement is 17 years old, so needs a revision. It is very easy to get discouraged. I always loved to exercise, and used to exercise hard, up until maybe 5 years ago. I can walk a bit now, so that is a plus, and I take water arerobics at the pool. Just because I can't do, what I once did, it is no reason, to throw in the towel. I appreciate your words of wisdom. Report
I needed to hear about the baby steps today. I have some back pain from a spasms and I am ready to throw the towel in. Thanks for keeping me focused. Report
You are an inspiration to me!!! Keep it up! Report
U are an inspiration Keep pushing can't wait till I reach 200!! Report
It certainly can be hard to stay positive when you suffer with chronic pain. After dealing with pain for so many years, I find I get easily frustrated and start to feel useless.

I don't like to see anyone hurting, but knowing so many others are in the same boat (or at least a similar boat) as me makes me feel less alone on the journey. Report
I say go for the massage sooner rather than later. It can help with the pain.

Don't quit. When I was 214# I couldn't take the way my back hurt just to stand at the sink and wash dishes, so I can't imagine being 460#, but I'm glad you have turned your life around!! Report
My journey began at 266 pounds and I like you have many health problems that seemed to keep me sitting all the time and eating to feel good. I finally got out of that chair I lived and slept in and began moving and watching what I ate. There were setbacks but I always returned to Spark. I am now 1/2 pounds away from my second goal of 180. I just find a way to put the pain away in the back of my mind and work through it. Focusing on something else has helped for me and staying busy so I don't have time to think about the pain. There are days it does not work do to fibro and having suffered from a shattered femur. Now they are getting fewer and far between!! We can do whatever we set our mind to do and keep our focus on the prize. A healthier lifestyle!! I don't want to be a Barbie, my goal weight is 160. I will be perfectly happy with that and I don't care how long it takes but I will be there one day!!! Thanks for your encouragement to stay on my goals!! You are great!!!!!!!!! Report
I love you. Thank you. Report
I stay motivated with my chronic pain by knowing that if I do nothing it will continue to get worst! I would rather be busy trying to get healthier with pain than sit and do nothing and get sicker. Report
I am a 358 lbs. 58 year old woman and have gotten so heavy that I am in constant pain. Ten years ago I damaged both my knees in a small accident and lost the ability to get around without the pain. I gained 200 lbs. over the years. Now I know what real pain is. I can't walk without getting out of breath or my chest hurting. My knees hurt so bad that I can hardly carry the weight of my body any more.I have been down in the dumps for so long I had just about given up because I felt so helpless, hopeless, and useless. I read your very inspiring blog and found that I can follow your steps into success- using the baby steps one at a time. I had never put things in perspective before. A little of something is better than nothing and that is not failure. Thank you for helping me change my way of thinking. Best wishes on your journey in life. Report
Don't give up! You can do it! Two and 1/2 years ago I came home from hospital/rehab after six months. I very literally nearly died. At one point, my family did not know if I would make it until morning. When I came home (on a walker) I walked into the house and had to sit down in a chair and rest before I could walk to the sofa. I progressed to a cane and started walking for exercise. First I walked to the mailbox (oh, joy!), then I progressed to walking to my neighbors mail box. I measured my success by the number of mailboxes I could achieve each day. When after weeks, I was able to go around a corner, a relative followed me in the van in case I couldn't make it home. Somewhere in that time, I threw away my cane, determined to succeed without it. One year and one week later I walked in a 5K. (Oh, greater joy.) Today, I live in pain and with my health problems, but I continue to walk even though on some days, it is very difficult to remain motivated. But I try to remind myself of how it felt to lie helpless in a hospital bed, connected to the tubes and machines, unable to move or talk. Reading inspirational stories like yours also helps to remind me that there are many others who face more difficult problems and are still able to have courage and face their challenges. Good luck to you. Hang in there and just think of one step at a time; one pound at a time. Hugs. Report
Wow! -you do it against the odds - that puts it all in perspective. I will never grumble about a few twinges again. Nobody could ever say you are lazy or anything but smart, motivated and inspirational. Report
Fantastic read. I feel like when I talk to my heavier friends about weight loss, they always counter any suggestions or tips that have worked for me with an extreme opinion. You don't have to starve yourself, or work out like a over-caffinated squirrel on a treadmill to get results. Any weight lost, or mobility gained, or increased endurance is a victory worth celebrating.

Keep up the good work! Report
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