It came upon me quite gradually. I had a habit in my first job of holding the phone between my ear and shoulder, and over time I began to feel a sharp pain emanating from my shoulder blade. I tried to break the habit. I tried various massage therapies. But the pain persisted and at times the intensity left me unable to focus on my work.
For anyone struggling with chronic pain, often invisible to others, this may sound all too familiar.
This week is recognized on the American health calendar as ‘Invisible Illness Awareness Week’. Chronic pain – sometimes referred to as the ‘invisible illness’ – affects an estimated one in five Canadians (higher for seniors) who live with at least one condition considered ‘chronic’ in that it is persistent or otherwise long-lasting in its effects.
It is easy to rely on pain medication for alleviating chronic pain and it is equally as easy to get addicted to such medication. Many patients and physicians are urgently seeking solutions.
What would it be worth to those who are suffering – and to our health care costs – to have a solution to chronic pain that is not based on the latest diet, surgery, drug or vitamin? Priceless, we would all agree.
But would we explore it even if it defied our current, secular belief systems? One promising, and increasingly studied, solution is in using mindfulness practices – including prayer.
From my own struggles, I discovered something. I did not need to be trapped in a cycle of suffering, temporary relief, then recurring pain. I had previously practiced a prayer-based health care that had satisfactorily met many health needs. So, I turned again to prayer and Biblical inspiration.
Ancient, yet timely, the spiritual wisdom of the Bible showed me some great examples of complete turnaround from chronic pain and disability to health and full freedom of movement. In one instance – a woman, hemorrhaging for years, had the faith to enter a crowd and to reach out to touch just the hem of the robe of Jesus. She was instantly healed. In another, a man unable to walk for 38 years was restored to full health.
My prayer was not one of petition to a God that may or may not hear me. Instead it was the mental turning of my thought to understand more of the Divine source of inspiration and understanding. One textbook on healing through prayer that I studied described it as a “divine influence ever present in human consciousness…”.
My mental journey showed me more of a loving God whose authority in my health was complete. And before long, the pain disappeared completely.
My journey to restored health was not a singular one. There is hope beyond the feeling of helplessness and continued suffering. In a Canadian Community Health Survey, the survey indicated that consideration of an individual’s spirituality and/or religion might be an additional component to the overall management of chronic pain and fatigue.
My experience tells me we can go beyond management of chronic pain; an understanding of one’s relationship to the divine can lead an individual to permanent freedom.
This article was published in several online Metroland publications such as Simcoe County.