It came on quickly, pain and tingling in my wrist and arm, going all the way up to my shoulder. It was scary, especially after Googling carpal tunnel and realizing how hard that can be to fix.
I could guess some of the causes… a desk that’s not the right height. Too much time doing Canva. Less than perfect form and posture.
But I’ve had this desk and probably the same poor posture for a long time now, and I have used the computer a ton in the past without problem. So it did seem odd that it was all of a sudden causing all these symptoms.
I took a needed break from the computer, and thankfully it got better. I also tried to use better form when typing and using the mouse and did more stretching and exercises to open up my shoulders and neck.
(I also want to spend less time sitting at the computer, and I’m thinking about getting an ergonomic mouse and keyboard.)
I think all of that was and is helpful and good, especially the stretching, which I highly recommend since it’s so easy to succumb to poor posture in these days of computers and excessive sitting.
Unfortunately, my symptoms came back later (although not as bad as before, thank goodness) and that led me to seek solutions again.
A friend of mine told me that he had had carpal tunnel in the past and had even had surgery for it, but that didn’t fix it for him.
He shared with me the unconventional solution that did work for him, even though he thought I might be skeptical about it. To his surprise, I was completely open to the idea, since it’s based on the mind-body connection, which I am well-acquainted with and am a big believer in.
More about that in a moment… but first, what is it?
The Unconventional Cure
It’s called pain journaling, and it works! I tried it, and I believe it did make my carpal tunnel symptoms go away.
I also notice I just feel better when I do it. I can literally feel myself relaxing and feeling better physically when I do this.
I think it also works well for stress related muscle tension and pain. My neck and shoulders get sore and tense at times, and I feel like pain journaling helps relieve that as well.
Obviously if you are in pain, it’s important to fix any issues with poor form or posture and rule out any structural problems, and of course go to the doctor if you need to… but if you do all that you can and still have pain, then it’s definitely worth a try.
Thankfully I haven’t experienced ongoing, chronic pain, but having carpal tunnel symptoms that are cropping up from time to time is a big incentive for me to do what I can to make it go away as quickly as possible.
So while I haven’t used pain journaling for ongoing, chronic pain, it has helped me get rid of occasional pains.
I also want to mention that I feel like I would benefit from doing it more frequently, but so far I just do it as needed. I might challenge myself to do it for a month and then let you all know the results. (Let me know if you like that idea.)
Why It Works
The theory is that one cause of chronic pain is repressed negative emotions. When you journal out all the negative emotions that you can, it relieves the stress of holding all of that inside, and your body no longer reacts with pain.
When I first heard about this, I embraced it immediately.
It made perfect sense to me for so many reasons. It fits together with so much of what I know and believe already about the the effects of stress on our bodies and minds and the benefits of letting feelings and thoughts through, rather than holding them in and pushing them down.
This concept fits with my understanding of why meditation works. In meditation, we bring our awareness to our thoughts and feelings. We accept them and we accept ourselves as the thinker of those thoughts and the feeler of those feelings, without judgment.
And we let them go.
It’s just as in pain journaling, we bring our awareness to these feelings and thoughts that we have but that are difficult or we think are unacceptable or that we are even afraid to feel or think, and through the act of bringing our awareness to them and writing them down, we let them through. We let them go.
It fits with what I know about the mind-body connection in the context of giving birth… how a fearful, stressed mama can slow down and even stop her labor until she feels safe again, and how being afraid in birth causes more pain, while feeling safe and unafraid allows for less pain.
It also fits with what I know about all the detrimental effects of stress on the body. It’s well-known that stress can cause and aggravate physical ailments, such as headaches, stomach problems, high blood pressure, sleep issues, and more, so it makes sense that it could be a cause of chronic pain.
If you have chronic pain or even occasional pain, and nothing else seems to work or you can’t find a physical cause for it, pain journaling might help. It’s free and easy and certainly can’t hurt to try (pun intended!).
And I also believe that it makes sense to do this in addition to other methods of dealing with pain, since holding in stress can make existing ailments even worse. Releasing that stress may allow other methods to be more effective than they would be otherwise.
How to Do Pain Journaling
It’s simple and free (as so many of the best things are).
Write down anything and everything you can think of that makes you feel angry, irritated, frustrated, sad, guilty, ashamed, hurt, embarrassed, worried, afraid… anything at all negative.
These can be small things. Or big things. Anything from the past, anytime in the past, even 30 years ago. It could be from today. From five minutes ago. Last night. This very moment.
Anything that comes up when you sit quietly and search your mind for things that make you angry, annoyed, irritated, ashamed, or afraid–that is what you write down. Just write it all down.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve already “dealt with it” or if you feel like it’s over or if (and especially if) you feel like you “shouldn’t” feel this way.
If it crosses your mind, just write it down. (I find that even things that I have worked through in the past and that I do feel peace about, they still sometimes crop up as things that make me angry. And that’s okay!)
Also a note here: It’s okay and normal to feel angry or irritated at your loved ones. Even your children. Even your husband or people who are nice. Even strangers. Even yourself.
If you are worried about someone else reading it, feel free to just put the first letter of words and write in your messiest handwriting. These kinds of thoughts and feelings tend to bring out the messy in me.
You know what you’re writing and that’s all that matters. I don’t even go back and read it. It doesn’t matter. The work is in the process of letting it out, letting it through, no longer holding it in.
You can use a journal or a notebook or just a sheet of paper. You can use post it notes or scraps of paper. You can keep it or you can throw it away. For that matter, you could use a small whiteboard and a dry-erase marker and just erase it every time. (I actually might try this!)
BooksAbout Pain Journaling
If you’re interested in reading more, these two books give a lot more information about why pain journaling works and more details about how to do it as a solution for chronic pain. The first one has more about the science of why it works. The second one is more of a practical how-to guide.
The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain by John E. Sarno, M.D.
Pain-Free for Life: The 6-Week Cure for Chronic Pain–Without Surgery or Drugs by Scott Brady
Over to You
How do you deal with pain, anger, or stress? Share your tips or ideas in the comments below.
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