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October 2, 2011 / Man in the Mirror

When Pain Stays, Hobbies Go: Why Not to Give Them Up

When pain is prevalent in your life, it can be easy to let things get pushed to the wayside. We stop doing many of the things we enjoy doing because we are in pain. Sadly, this is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing.
If you have chronic back or neck pain, you don’t need me to tell you that it affects pretty much every aspect of your life–and when then pain prevents you from doing the things you enjoy, or even the things you love, you can be pushed further away from who you are and further into the realm of being a sick person.
When I had severe back pain following a car accident, I rapidly fell into this trap. It was during my residency, and I became focused on two primary things: 1) Getting through my work day (other residents were counting on me to perform, and I wasn’t going to let them down), and 2) Getting home at the end of a rough day in pain and feeling sorry for myself because of my discomfort.
Many things got pushed aside: Creative endeavors such as drawing and painting, and most importantly for me–playing the piano–all stopped.
Don’t Give Them Up
Hobbies and other diversions are part of who you are, and are often what you do to help clear and reset your mind from all of the things normally going on in your life. Back pain makes things in your life abnormal and giving up all of the things you enjoy doing makes your life more abnormal.
One day about six weeks after my accident, I saw my piano languishing in the corner of my living room, and realized that I and not played for a long time (I usually played every day.) I sat down and played, and immediately I began to feel better. I played every day after that.
Now, I’m not going to tell you that your hobbies will rid you of your pain. What I will tell you is that your hobbies will do a lot to help your psychological state, which will help improve your perception of the pain, and ultimately how you feel overall (unless your pastimes include activities like base jumping or roller derby–in which case you probably should hold off for a while).
I firmly believe that every ongoing painful condition is an evenly split mix of physiology and psychology. Try to slowly reintroduce those activities you cherish into your daily routine, and you may find that you feel a whole lot better.
Andrew Kirschner, D.O., is a board-certified physician with a private practice in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, and a consultancy in Miami, Florida. He specializes in treating individuals and couples with musculoskeletal and back pain. To learn more about his practice, please visit BackTogether.org.

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