Coping with Chronic Pain (and!) Care for Caregivers
October 2, 2014
Persistent. Unrelenting. Untouchable. Punishing.
These are just a few of the terms I’ve heard people use to describe the pain they live with, day in and day out, when they have sought and failed to find relief... and they are all likely to translate the same way: chronic pain.
As opposed to an acute situation, which arises suddenly and resolves within a predictable length of time (a sprained ankle, for instance), a chronic condition may arise subtly over time and take a prolonged and indeterminate time to resolve. The causes are diverse, and may be related to injury, surgery, illness, or lifestyle and diet.
Of course, in Young Living, we have wonderful oils to work with, and often we are able to influence a person's experience of pain. Choosing the right oil(s) can be a process of elimination. Vicki Opfer uses a great example of this in her cd “Essential Oils: Nature’s Gift for Healthy Families” - available by itself or as included with her Book/Cd set Harmony, Joy & Abundance. Vicki says that if you’ve been working in the garden and have sore muscles, your body makes a compound called acetyl-choline that helps relax those muscles, if your body’s making enough of it. In the Essential Oil of Roman Chamomile, there’s a naturally occurring compound called 3-methyl-butylacetate which is so similar to the compound our body makes that our muscles will respond to it by relaxing.
This helps us understand that if the oils you choose have compounds your body needs, it will use them as certainly as it uses the nutrients in good food. If you haven’t found the right match, you may not get the exact same results. This also helps explain why two people with what appears to be the same condition may respond to different oils.
There’s a wide range of oils to choose from and try. The rule of thumb is to start with what oils you have on hand. Then you can use your Essential Oils Desk Reference to research which oils you want to add to your next order. Most of the “go-to” oils are mentioned in Part I of this series, The Pain Issue.
Don’t only address the pain
Some schools of thought support the idea that health challenges are a way for us to “get” an important life lesson about something we’ve not been tending to (diet, relationships, spirit or the inner world, habitual thoughts or limiting beliefs...). I’m not espousing any one thought over another here.
What I’d like to point out is that, as someone who’s been in chronic pain patterns- and as someone who’s been the caregiver to people in chronic pain patterns, is that changing the pattern is definitely a “call to action” of some sort; that “something’s got to give”. When the pain is strong enough to break a person’s spirit, maybe it’s the spirit we need to be fostering?
Listen to the language we use about pain (emotional or physical): we want to get Over it, Around it, or Away from it. We want to Put it Behind us and Move On. There are times though, and chronic pain will show us this, when the only way to get on the other side of the pain is to go through it.
So how do we go through it? The same way you drive through a rainstorm...
First you have to accept that water is falling from the sky (right now, some things are beyond your control). There’s no way to drive through a rainstorm without the car getting wet; this is really what the situation is right now. Oils like Present Time, Frankincense, Acceptance, Clarity, and Valor may be useful here.
If you decide to continue on your path, you need to adjust your speed and focus (look short range for a while, and work with emotions as they arise.) Keep in mind that it’s a journey- you don’t arrive suddenly, you must travel the distance (remember the value of regularity, in the oils you choose for physical relief as well as the emotional support ones- look for progress rather than sudden shifts). Then, you move forward one moment at a time, being extra alert to when something comes up (you need to make adjustments to support your journey)... it is here the oils can help us far beyond any ordinary measures!
I’ve mentioned before that it’s important to look at the entirety of a person’s experience when thinking about oils that might help~ and this is especially true for someone with an ongoing pain experience.
Consider this~ as infants we have no concept of “temporary”. You can’t explain to a baby that their earache will be over in a few days and expect them to stop fussing! Their discomfort is paired with the emotional experience of going through something that a meal, clothing change, or cuddle doesn’t fix, and for all they know it’s a permanent situation.
It’s helpful to remember that even the most stalwart adult, when dealing with chronic pain, finds themselves in a similar situation... nothing changes it, there’s no relief, and no assurance that it will be over soon. This emotional strain, paired with the reality of the physical pain, can be, in turns: exhausting, disheartening, infuriating, sorrowful, and downright depressing.
Further, people living with chronic pain may be grappling with life changes they never anticipated. Their level of ability may have changed to a degree that they need to consider a new livelihood. They may be facing challenges with work, mobility, relationships, not to mention the dance with the medical and/or healing arts communities in the ongoing pursuit of relief.
Let’s look at a few ways that Young Living oils may support someone as they move through the day-to-day experience that Chronic Pain may bring.
Many of Young Living’s blends are formulated specifically to support emotions. Sometimes just thumbing through the “blends” section of the Current Product Guide or EDR is enough to give a good idea of what they do. Names like Grounding, Magnify Your Purpose, Awaken, and Release give a pretty clear sense of their intention.
Also, choosing an oil to support emotions is not as specific as for physical effects (where you may want an oil with compounds that have certain properties- like cooling, or muscle soothing). When choosing oils for emotional support, the big measure is the experience you have when you use them. It’s good to experiment and use your intuition.
Because of the way our systems are wired, a scent that brings a positive shift to the emotions will affect our body’s healing mechanisms in a positive way as well. (See the “Science Bit” in the past post, "Integrative Healing").
Some people may choose a focused "emotional release" protocol such as the Feelings Kit. Emotions that have never been expressed can lodge elsewhere in our beings, eventually manifesting as pain and dysfunction in other areas. Taking the time to work with these emotions in a safe environment and with the support of the oils can be a great catalyst for further healing.
Others may find that the simple act of creating loving self-care rituals adds a richness and purpose to their healing efforts. Here are a few simple ideas to try~
~ Diffuse uplifting oils such as Citrus Fresh, Clarity, or Believe. When the brain gets uplifting signals, it has something to focus on other than The Pain.
~ Apply oils to the body. Of course use PanAway, Relieve it, and the other body-supportive oils, but keep emotion/spirit support on your radar too! Frankincense, Peace & Calming, Grounding and Gathering (for gathering all your internal resources in one place) may be good ones to start with. I also love Valor for anything that demands emotional endurance (and people use it when they have back pain too). If you get massages, ask your practitioner to include one or more of your Young Living oils.
~ Add them to your diet. Remember Young Living's supplements all contain our essential oils too! Add frankincense to your NingXia Red for an anti-inflammatory boost, or one of the citrus oils to your drinking water to refresh your cells. Remember that d-limonene (found in citrus oils) has been studied for cancer-regressing properties, and all the oils with "supplement facts" on the labels are GRAS (generally regarded as safe for consumption by the FDA).
~ Begin and end your day with oils. When rising, try using an oil as your intention for the day. Choose an oil and ask to bring its qualities into your healing practices for the day. At night, smooth some Lavender on your pillowcase or rub Peace & Calming on the soles of your feet. If you have trouble drifting off, you may choose to try Vetiver oil or the Sleep Essence Capsules (with Vetiver, Valerian, and Meltaonin).
Remember that when you use the oils you are addressing the whole person, and the environment that surrounds them as well. Scent and intention are two "invisible" factors in healing, and when they go together they can have a profound and positive impact.
Don’t only address the person in pain...
What About Those Caregivers?
Caregivers can be subject to burnout, stress, anxiety, and (it’s ok to admit, folks) even frustration when caring continually for someone living with chronic pain. It’s hard work!
Whether motivated by professional duty or deep affection, the person doing the care-giving may feel (and be overwhelmed by) their own sense of helplessness as well. How they are able to cope with this affects the quality of care they are able to give, as well as the quality of their own lives.
Caregivers can make good use of oils such as Stress Away, Peace and Calming, Grounding, Forgiveness, White Angelica, and Valor (the last two of these are part of the protocol featured in one of our older posts, Gary Young's "A Great Day Every Day" Protocol. This is a great daily practice for caregivers!
Here’s a quick rundown on other helpful strategies for providers:
~ Do a quick hand-diffusion. Keep a bottle of your favorite oil nearby. Put a drop in your palm, rub your palms together, cup your hands over your nose and take several deep breaths in through your nose.
~ Bare your soles. Treat yourself to a mini foot rub with a relaxing oil in the middle of the day. The soles of the feet provide a map of the entire body, so you can affect all of your parts this way. Go along the arch of the foot to give yourself a nice “back” rub.
~ Get in the tub. Put several drops of a soothing oil into a gel base or a cup of salt, shake it up and pour it in the tub. Even a short soak can help recharge and refresh.
~ Anoint yourself. Before bed, in the morning, whenever you can snag a second for yourself, take an oil that is meaningful to you and place it somewhere that’s significant to you. I like to put Humility on my heart, or Present Time on my shoulders, to remind me that I’m in service to Life at this time, making all of my duties sacred ones.