The Power of Breath: How to Manage Pain

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My intention for this article is to share how I handled a physically stressful and painful situation. I hope it will help you to learn from my mistakes and make the most of my failure. To make a long story short: breath was the key to handle such a situation and is a useful tool to manage pain and stress.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and I don’t play one on the internet. This article does not provide medical advice. I merely share my story and explain what I did. If you ever dislocate a joint, make sure to seek medical advice as soon as possible. Don’t treat yourself. Wrongly handling a dislocated joint can cause severe damage. I repeat this is not medical advice, don’t treat such an emergency yourself and seek professional medical advice as soon as possible.

manage pain

Here’s what Happened

I went to my gym for a workout session. My goal was to work on my compound lifts as I wanted to improve them. After a solid warm-up (something I always do), I started my workout. Once I was done, I did my cool-down, which consists mainly of yoga movements adapted to the muscles I worked on. I did the same that day and at the end did overhead shoulder stretches while holding a stick.

That’s when it happened. My shoulder muscles must have been too tired or tight. Either way, I didn’t feel any problem in particular. Right at the end, basically my last stretch, my humeral head popped out of the joint.

My body started to panic once I tried to elevate my arm but couldn’t. I moved it around to get a feeling of the situation, trying to establish if it was serious and if something was broken or ruptured. It seemed OK (as far anything can be OK at that point). Panic struck again, bringing its buddies physical pain, fear and sweat.

Manage Pain: Going Into Survival Mode

Once the pain started to arise, it hit me hard – and I am used to painful situations from my martial arts practices and competitions. Within moments it went from extreme pain to my body starting to shut down. I was starting to black out slowly. Thanks to my BJJ background (see here, here and here) I was familiar with this feeling and started to manage pain with my go-to survival task points:

  • accepting the situation as is,
  • assert the situation,
  • find a way to improve your situation,
  • take action.

This is something I have to do several times a week in practice. The stakes are certainly not that high but the symptoms – pain, panic, fear – are similar to above situation. The process of finding a solution is nevertheless basically the same.

I repeat this is not medical advice, don’t treat such an emergency yourself and seek professional medical advice as soon as possible.

Manage Pain: Getting My Body Back Under Control

When the pain was hitting me hard and I started to black out slowly, I instantly used the greatest tool I have at my disposal to get control over anything in my body or mind and hence manage pain or stress: breath.

While I focused on my breath, people helped me to stabilize my current position (by now I was lying on the flor). This helped a lot and I focused on my breath even further.

breathing

After what felt like hours, I ended up in the ER and the doctors did a check-up. Once they figured nothing was blocked or ruptured, they relocated my shoulder, they send me back home to rest for a couple of weeks.

Afterwards, I did start with physical therapy. I was very lucky. Now we are more than a year later and my shoulder is fine. No tissue seems to have been ruptured.

I worked hard to get back to my initial strength and I am still not back to that point. But both stability and mobility of my shoulder joint are better than they ever were. I made it my priority and work on it daily.

If this ever happens to you make sure to not overdo it, take this seriously and handle it with care, patience and let your dislocated shoulder rest.

Manage Pain With The Power Of Breath

While lying on the floor, I continued to breathe in a very controlled and focused manner. This, when done correctly, will reduce the symptoms.

In my case, the pain but also the raising panic, fear and confusion got better. In order to be able to pull this off, you need to create awareness of your breathing. That’s where my mindfulness, meditation (further information here) and yoga practice came into play.

Yoga

All of them help you to work on your awareness. All of them do it in a different way.

Mindfulness is the art of being in the now, no matter what you do.

Meditation helps you to focus on nothing and let go of things.

Yoga, depending on what you do, will create body-mind awareness. In a stressful or painful situation, as this is the case, all three of them come in handy.

In my current studies of yoga, mindfulness and overall holistic lifestyle performance, the power of breath is the key to success in my opinion.

Process To Health

Back home I started to help my shoulder to heal. MSM (joint care and anti-inflammatory effects) and cordyceps (anti-inflammatory effects). I also – even with reluctance – took medical painkillers and anti-inflammatory pills. To help heal my shoulder even faster, I bought turmeric pills and added them to my regimen. They have anti-inflammatory properties to and can enhance bio-availability of other nutrients too.

Don’t take anything without talking to your medical doctor first.

shoulder stability and strength

The steps to regain full health take time. It’s a lot of work. You need to regain mobility and stability first. Then, while it gets stable again and range of motion increases, you start to work on getting your strength back. It’s a process of mindfulness, patience and persistence.

Your Takeaways From My Accident

Here are the main takeaways from my accident. Follow them and I am sure you’ll dramatically decrease your risk of injury:

  • listen to your gut (I knew I was overreaching but ignored it)
  • be focused
  • check out your ego at the door
  • remain level headed in an intense situation

Make sure to foster your ability to be mindful on an everyday basis.

Learn the power of breath, meditation and yoga to work on those abilities. They will be a great resource if you need them. And when you don’t need them, they’ll still be of great benefit. You win either way. Besides that, if something similar happens to you: seek medical advice as soon as you can!

Listen, learn, apply
Listen, learn, apply

I am doing great and will soon be back where I was – while being much wiser too. I hope this article was helpful. Share it with whomever think might needs to read this.

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