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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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The Abyss of Pain

Many of you have written wondering where I’ve been. Many thanks to all of you who left me good wishes via email and Facebook.

A few weeks ago I started feeling a dull pain in my elbow. A week later, I had pretty severe pain in my neck. Soon after, the pain radiated from my neck, through my shoulders, down my arm, and into my fingers. Finally, it was accompanied by occasional numbness and a feeling that my elbow was on fire.

Over a few weeks, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t think straight!

First Stop

First stop on the road to wellness, I went to a conventional physician – a new one because we have new health insurance.  She evaluated me for 2 minutes or so (no kidding) and told me I had nondescript pain in my neck and shoulders, with fairly severe tennis elbow.  Then she gave me a referral to physical therapy.  And that was it.

Second Stop

I promptly called physical therapy, and they told me I couldn’t see one person for those three different things: they had a neck and shoulders physical therapist, and an elbow therapist – I’d have to see both.  And the next available appointment was 1 week away for the neck and shoulders, and 3 weeks away for the elbow.  Oh, and they were in two different locations.

Trying to explain that my neck bone was connected to my shoulder bone, and shoulder bone is connected to the elbow bone… didn’t work. Nope, there wasn’t anyone who could do that.

I was in so much pain my eyes were tearing, I was grumpy, and I was having real difficulty concentrating on my work.  The only time the pain subsided at all was if I was lying in bed in one particular position. And here I was faced with another 3 weeks of this sharp, radiating pain before comfort was even in sight.

Third Stop

So I made an appointment with my Naturopathic Doctor.  He saw me just 2 days later.

Instantly Kevin sensed I was in a lot of pain.  He spent 1/2 hour with me, learning exactly what was going on – by talking, moving and feeling my joints, and testing my strength and mobility.

His diagnosis:  Nerve pain in my neck.  I have a bad disc in my neck, that was probably injured back when I was in a car accident long ago and has now been re-injured.  Ah, I realized, I’ve had tingling in my fingers for a long time.

At the same time, I managed also to get tennis elbow – probably from hyperextending my arms in my new yoga practice.  So the two injuries were aggravating one another.  (Because the neck bone is connected to the shoulder bone… and so on.)

Kevin gently and carefully adjusted my neck and back. He gave me exercises. And pharmaceuticals (at that point I was ready). And specific vitamin supplements – for short-term and long-term healing. And orders to rest and ice as often as possible. And orders to make my desk even more ergonomic than it already is.  And to modify my yoga postures when I go back to yoga.

That was 2 weeks ago. I am finally able to concentrate for a full day at work.  Though I still get awfully tired – I have a difficult time getting up in the morning and I’m ready to go home by 4pm, exhausted. The pain is still there but it’s not mind-numbing anymore.

The Abyss Of Pain

I’m sure some of you have been to this place:  the abyss of pain.  It’s a cloudy-headed, self-absorbed, cranky and impatient, dark hole of dispair and disrepair.  In that abyss, your brain can really only focus solidly on the immediate needs before you.

Have you been there?

It’s terrible. I’m lucky that the people around me understand, support and forgive me.

If  you ever find yourself in that abyss, first be sure to tell others around you what you’re going through – otherwise they won’t know, can’t support you, and might be less willing to forgive you for your impatience. And second, be sure to advocate for yourself until you get the care you need to overcome the pain.

Now it’s like a fog is lifting. I can write again. I can see the bigger picture again – the bigger picture of life, of business, of the planet…

Hello again.

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22 comments to The Abyss of Pain

  • what a story, how incredibly unholistic and formulaic and stupid some practitioners can be. Abyss is a good way to describe it. I have been feeling tired and frustratingly limited in energy and I think that could also be experienced as a kind of abyss.

  • Judi

    I have been there, done that. My first thought was that you needed an adjustment. As I write, I need an adjustment – my left hand fingers are tingling. My chiropractor (wonderful man who really understands the body) keeps me going when a regular doctor would only scratch his head and give me pills, physical therapy, etc.

    Glad you’re back and feeling better. Ice will really help, as will the yoga. Just be gentle and love your body.



  • I am very familiar with the abyss, from an assortment of structural issues over the years. And I hear you on being ready for pharmaceuticals; at one point, after a long and fruitless course of treatment for plantar fasciitis, I resorted to surgery. Big mistake as I later discovered eliminating dairy eliminated 95% of the pain!

    I’ve got a heel issue right now and rather than going to the chiropractor again (the adjustments don’t hold through the 45 minute long drive home) or the regular doctor, I’m working with Pete Egoscue’s book, “Pain Free.” You might want to check it out as it focuses on alignment issues and how to fix them through very specific exercises and stretching. There are also Egoscue clinics across the country.

  • Richard via Facebook

    i live with lupus, so yes, i live with the the abyss of pain almost everyday.

  • Kerry via Facebook

    Thank you for this – I go tomorrow for the results of a CAT scan for very similar symptoms. Feel much better prepared (and far less anxious) after reading your story.

  • Kerry, I’m so glad this helped! Good luck tomorrow! Richard, I’m sorry – I hope you’re finding good ways to alleviate the pain as much as possible.

  • Glad to hear you’re feeling better! I see an Applied Kinesiologist who magically figured out 5 years ago why I had migraines for 20 years before that (that no other “traditional” doctor could figure out) AND figured out what I needed to do to make them go away!!! I’m all about “alternative” therapies and second opinions! Happy healing!!!

  • andrea

    I’m sorry to hear that you have been in so much pain. Glad to hear that you have gotten yourself the help you need. I hope your recovery goes quickly. Sending healing vibes your way.

  • Very sorry to hear you have had to endure such pain though very glad that you have found a path to recovery.

    I was about there with my back around 4 years ago. Through the careful ministrations of osteopaths and other alternative medicine practitioners I am pretty much pain free at this point.

    The over riding thing I remember from that time is the tiredness. I was throwing so much energy into functioning regardless of the pain that 12 hrs sleep was simply a pre-requisite before I was able to get up and do it all again with any type of reasonable humour. Pain at that level wears you down physically and emotionally so reaching out and exposing yourself to the world can be basically impossible when it’s at it’s worst.

    Kind Regards

    • Belinda, really glad to hear that you are pain free! I remember the pain you were going through. It has been really difficult to write and be thoughtful with the pain – you’re very right. Thanks for your caring sentiments!

  • Ah now I know what to call it – the abyss of pain – I like that description, it fits it perfectly….I am glad you have got yourself on the path to recovery….I know for me I need to make myself an appointment in the next week to start to get back on top of things…..this is an ongoing pain….I wish I could afford treatment every week but the fact of life is that I can’t…..accupuncture is what works for me at the moment… takes the absolute grinding pain away, the one that makes me not able to concentrate – every few months I also have a Bowen session (the fella here is a magician I swear) but this only just keeps life managable, I function to a certain degree but it doesn’t take my horrible nasty short temper away, this is what surfaces when the pain is building up….I have a low tolerance for everyone and everything….at least have now finally convinced hubby that he needs to mow lawns as the vibration from pushing that machine was putting me into bed it messed so much with my nerve endings…..and now I’m rambling….I think I better get off here

    • Katrina, I’m sorry to hear you’re dealing with so much pain. It does make my temper flare, too. I hope you’re able to find a sustainable, long-term solution to your pain soon!

  • Adi

    I really love your site! Thank you for taking the time. :-)

  • Hope you are continuing to feel better… it sure can take time. P.S. The diet changes that I made after reading _Clean_ and doing the cleanse have been an incredible thing for me. I don’t have any food issues that cause major discomfort, and yet what a difference just taking away the pesky issues make…

  • I’ve just turned the corner on some sciatic nerve pain I was suffering with since April. I’d been seeing a fantastic chiropractor who had helped me solve other issues related to running with just a visit or two. But this on grabbed hold and hung on.

    I finally (not sure why it took so long) googled ‘piriformis syndrome’ and found a YouTube video on ‘nerve flossing’. I’d never heard of that before… I tried it out and noticed significant improvement immediately – and it’s been better since. I’d say that I went from 6/10 daily pain level to 3/10 within a day or two, and improvement since then as well. I can actually sleep most of the night again.

    Hope your feeling better,

  • [...] day – that’s about 2 miles a day.  I was doing yoga about 4-5 days/week until I injured myself.  Since then I’ve been working back up to yoga by doing a few gentle or Yin classes, [...]

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