Welcome to the first ever Upright Health Podcast episode!
Today’s topic: Beating Pain with the Right Mindset.
If you approach pain from the wrong perspective, you’re guaranteed to live a life full of pain, pills, and increasing disability. Switch your perspective, and the results will improve drastically.
Click below to listen to or download the first podcast!
Episode 1 – Beating Pain with the Right Mindset
Hey everybody and welcome to the first ever edition of the Upright Health podcast. This is Matt Hsu and I am the founder of Upright Health. I am the host, the voice you’re going to be listening to for the next several minutes. Now, my goal with this podcast is to share ideas, tips, and tricks and different philosophical notions and meanderings that can help you not only get out of pain but also get your body feeling as good as you know it should be. So, to start off this whole podcast thing endeavor, I want to cover a topic that’s extremely extremely important and is in my opinion the differentiating, deciding factor between those who get out of pain and then get better, and those who simply end up chasing different ways of getting out of pain and ultimately end up spiraling further and further down.
This is based on my observation of the last seven, almost eight years of working with people who have various aches and pains all around their body and from also working with my own body and getting it out of pretty severe chronic pain. For those of you who don’t know, I’ll probably dedicate an episode to this a little bit down the line, maybe next time, who knows.
I’ve had so much pain all over my body over the years. Pain that was pretty much in every single joint. I had aching in my hands and wrists, nervy pain, back pain, knee pain, really a lot of hip pain and foot, etc., the list goes on and I’ll get to that on another episode like I said. Over time I was able to basically figure out what it all meant and solve that constant daily suffering that I was in.
These days I also, obviously, help people with that in my practice as a trainer and as an orthopedic massage specialist. That doesn’t mean that I am able to help everybody because I’ve actually seen a number of people over the years who just kind of…they flounder. They don’t really get better. What I’ve noticed over the years is that we’re often at philosophical ends, different ends of the spectrum, and that’s what I wanted to talk about today.
The people who tend — that I see — that tend to get better who tend to make progress, even if it isn’t quick but they make progress, are people who are doing one specific thing with their minds and it is something that I didn’t realize other people weren’t doing because it is something that just came to me naturally. I never realize you can think about things in a different way and the clients were getting better in doing this and then I would run up against this barrier with certain clients, it’s not like we’re coming to blows or anything but we would almost be arguing over basic fundamental things in a sort of roundabout way.
The big disagreement that I see was limiting people’s progress is basically their goal. It is what they’re holding in their minds when they are going through the aches and pains and what they are trying to accomplish when they come to see me, when they go to see a doctor, when they go to see their chiropractor, when they go to see a massage specialist, whoever it is really comes down to what their end goal is.
For the people who get better, the end goal is to do something, to be able to do something that is currently not possible and actually seems a little bit out of reach. What do I mean by that? Perfect example would be a personal example. In my twenties, I was actually unable to jog, well run is completely out of the question. I couldn’t jog, I couldn’t walk downstairs without pain in my knee.
I had trouble just doing some basic stuff but in my mind what I was shooting for in terms of saying I’m recovered was to be able to go back to playing ice hockey both as a goalie and as a player, as a skater for defense, forward or whatever.
Now, when you’re looking at a situation where you’re saying my knee hurts, my whole body is not feeling so good, thinking ‘I wanna go play hockey’ — when you say that to your doctor a lot of times what you’ll find is that your doctor laughs at you and says, ‘You know that’s probably out of the question. You’re getting too old maybe you need to cut your ambitions back a little bit.’ I’ve heard those type of things but in my opinion it’s actually crucial that you keep a goal set high.
So, the flip side of this is if you follow what your doctor said, or you take this opposite tack you’re gonna run into a major problem. Here’s the other direction, so, the doctor says you need to keep your ambitions really moderate. You wanna stop thinking about doing all those other high performance things and really just start thinking about, what? You wanna start thinking about “managing your pain”.
Managing your pain I think is a terrible idea. I think if that is your only goal and for many people that is, unfortunately, then you run yourself into a corner, and this is what I find people do when they end up basically stuck in pain. The idea of managing your pain or just trying to stay away from pain or reduce pain while it makes some sense in the short term can actually be a huge detriment to you when you try to actually get rid of pain for good.
Most people that I talk to when they have chronic pain they’re not really interested in just kind of not having just a little bit of pain. They want to get rid of it. When your focus becomes just get rid of it by whatever means necessary, what happens is you start making some very bad decisions. What can those decisions look like? Well, you can make decisions that basically look like going to see your chiropractor, your massage service, your acupuncturist weekly or twice weekly just to keep the pain at bay.
I’ve met a lot people who go to physical therapist, they go to whatever professional, they go to see this person every single week, at least once a week if not more because that’s the only way they can feel somewhat functional.
Now, from my perspective that’s not a solution. That’s basically only like popping pills which is another bad solution. You end up not exactly addicted but pretty much you can’t survive without your regular appointment, you can’t survive without whatever it is that relieves your pain. Now it seems like that’s a good choice if it relieves the pain, right? But the problem is you’re not actually solving the problem, you’re just trying to mask over the symptom. This is really no different from taking pills, right? I do body work, I do massage work so, I absolutely see the value in manual therapy especially for people who are extremely active.
People who are doing things like cross fit or working out a lot it’s pretty important to make sure you keep your soft tissues healthy and keep your muscles healthy.
If you get things wacked out of line, it’s good to keep those things in line but if you’re somebody who’s finding you’re not able to be active, you can’t exercise the best you can do is just manage your pain then your major problem right now is you’re thinking too small. You need to be thinking about what you want to achieve rather than what you’re trying to avoid.
The path for people who are trying to avoid pain usually involves like I said this pseudo-addiction to treatment and involves possibly a real addiction to pain killers which cloud your judgment and clouds your mental function as anybody who’s taking a stronger pain killers can tell you.
If you’re truly truly dedicated and continue to see different doctors and they’re able to find something in your X-rays or MRIs, God forbid, then it results in a recommendation for surgery that often is not backed by scientific research but is really based on some very strange anecdotal type of research that gets done in the orthopedic surgery world.
Once a surgery has been done you’ve basically thrown caution to the wind, you’ve thrown yourself to the mercy of the muses because if you do the research on how surgeries turned out and if you just look at back surgery as a perfect example the results can be pretty up and down. If you’re lucky you get better if you’re unlucky you’re just same if you’re really unlucky you get worst. So, surgeries often, in my opinion, are a very very last resort and often shouldn’t even be in your head at all because of the very nature of their outcomes.
Again, if you’re avoiding the pain all you’re doing is seeking out little Band-Aids that don’t really address what’s going on. If you’re setting yourself a goal for achievement, if you’re setting yourself some marker of success then you actually have something that is positive for you to look forward to. You have something that you can start troubleshooting towards, right?
It’s like if my computer starts giving me errors, unlocking to fix my computer to the point where it functions exactly the way I know it’s capable of functioning. I want it to be able to work all day every day. I want it to be able to run all the programs I know it should be able to run that as of last week it was running. I don’t want to just avoid an error, right? I wouldn’t just try to avoid having that error if every time I open Microsoft Word to type something it pops up an error. My goal should not be to just never open up Microsoft Word, my goal should be to be able to use the program without the error popping up. So, by whatever means necessary I need to fix this right. If I need to reformat the hard drive and re-install everything – that’s fine. That’s a pain in the butt but if that’s what it takes to make my computer work properly that’s what I got to do.
By the same token, if somebody is telling you, “hey, running hurts you so you should never run again,” you need to start thinking what is the end game with that thought process. If the end game is that you’re no longer able to run, if the end game is that you’re no longer able to enjoy the sports you love, if the end game is that you are shrinking your life then you need to re-think that basic philosophy. You need to instead find your goal, understand that what you want to do is something that is possible and that if you troubleshoot your body it will train your body well you can achieve that as long as you put in the work.
So, big take away today, make sure you have a positive goal. Make sure you have something that seems a little out of reach but totally reasonable in the grand scheme of things. Don’t just avoid pain, don’t look for those short term solutions just to avoid pain. Look for the thing that’s gonna drive you forward to be better.
My name is Matt Hsu, I hope you enjoyed today’s episode and I hope you’ll listen to the next episode. Thanks very much and remember that, “Pain sucks, Life shouldn’t”.