In the past I have gotten many comments from health care providers and others ( who don’t understand) stating I should “just push through” the pain. However, I have never agreed to this saying when it comes to chronic pain in fibromyalgia. Chronic pain is not like the pain felt after that intense work out at the gym. Yes, both produce pain and both cause physical limitations, but in my eyes the circumstances are so different.
There are times I may push my physical limits – attending a special occasion like celebrating a birthday or even to get a task done around the house. However, most times pushing my limits and “pushing through” results in a fibromyalgia flare up/ crash for days on end! For those of us who have fibromyalgia we all can relate, but for those of you reading this who do not have a chronic pain disorder, it may be much more difficult for you to understand – and that is ok.
Imagine you are driving down an unfamiliar road and you eventually hit a dead end. Obviously you can’t drive any further as the road ends. You have to turn around and go back the way you drove in. I guess you could technically keep driving off the road if there is no barrier stopping you, but it is risky. Is there any dangers beyond this dead end sign?! I use this example to compare to fibromyalgia because if we push through and keep driving our body to do more then we can handle we risk the unknown ( heightened pain, fatigue, flare up, etc.) When we feel like we need to stop to rest, we see that barrier in sight and have to decide if continuing is worth it.
Imagine driving your vehicle until it hits empty. I’m usually the type of person to add gas everywhere where I stop just to be safe. Some people take the risk and let the gas gauge hit the empty area. If you keep driving without stopping to put gas in, eventually you will run out of gas and the vehicle will not run. You are left stranded on the highway wondering what to do next. Many days my energy level runs on that empty gas tank reading. We must learn our limits and work within those limits. Obviously we have to keep pushing in circumstances. If we push through we eventually hit completely empty and can not function. – just like a vehicle that has run out of gas.
I had a doctor once tell me “No pain, no gain.” I am totally against this saying when it comes to chronic pain. We need to lower our pain levels not cause a further increase in pain and a flare up to occur. Pushing ourselves through an exercise routine ( etc. ) that causes higher pain defeats the purpose. Pushing yourself way beyond your pain tolerance – will not help increase your pain threshold. It will only feed the pain cycle further. Just like the dead end road or driving until your gas tank is empty , people with chronic pain must stop before they hit an empty tank or dead end road.
So please understand that when we say we can’t do things and need to rest, we are not being difficult or unmotivated. We simply are facing our reality – a slower paced life so we do not run out of gas like the car or hitting that dead end road. If we push through – we eventually hit empty! We hang on by a a thread until the thread breaks and we crash!