Two pains banished by massage
With implications for spasm as a major mechanism for chronic pain
Imagine you are sitting on your couch, peacefully watching The Sandman on Netflix, thinking “this is excellent…so far,” and minding your own business, when a wasp comes out of nowhere, lands on your index finger. You try to flick it off, but it’s too late: he just stings you, like an asshole, and the pain is instant and hot and you yelp and flail and shout, “What did I do to deserve that?!”
Now imagine exactly the same painful result, but without the wasp. Just OW, nasty stinging pain out of the blue.
Welcome to my stupid life.
Some of my ephemeral pains are like this, and nothing about them seems like a cramp. There isn’t even a muscle on the side of the index finger that can cramp. But they are the the exception that proves the rule: most of my ephemeral pains do seem like cramps to some degree. Some are obviously so, most are more “cramp adjacent.”
Massage to the rescue
I have had many examples of pains that I didn’t think were cramps at first, but later on it started to seem obvious, like the freaky mouth pain I had last summer. That proved to be a rather obvious (visible) cramp in jaw muscle, and it was quickly and completely relieved by just a little rubbing.
Today, I have couple more minor, recent success stories like this to document, while I continue to work on some of the trickier parts of Project Try Everything.
These are Whac-A-Mole victories that cannot solve the larger problem. But any relief is precious, and Project Try Everything is all about identifying as many of these tools as I can, in the hopes that they add up to something.
It’s also about sharing the wins. So here’s two more intriguing ones…
Case #1: Abdominal pain zapped by back massage
For a couple weeks, I was frequently bothered by a mild throbbing abdominal pain. It was never strong, just another annoyance in a long list, but it stood out because my abdomen is one of the places I rarely have any pain. It was just to the left of my navel, and deep.
Eventually it got a little worse and started to smear laterally, and something about that change made me wonder if it was related to my back. I can’t really explain that hunch.
It makes sense now, though, because two minutes of back massage did the trick. Just a bit of kneading with my thumb in the lumbar paraspinals and I knew I’d found The Source: pressing in back made the abdominal pain “light up,” connected by a band of discomfort from back all the way around to my belly button.
Only moderate pressure was required, and the sensation of immediate and highly relevant relief was intense.
That was about a month ago, and I have not had that pain again.
Confidence level that the massage was the difference maker: 99%
Case #2: Very old knee pain vanished after about five minutes of hip massage
I’ve had constant lateral knee pain for at least five years, often getting nasty enough to make sleep impossible. This is one of the most stubborn chronic pains I’ve ever had. There were zero days when it didn’t make think, at least once, “Fuck this knee.”
That pain stopped over the course of about three days, about three weeks ago, after I spent one or two minutes per day massaging a couple of crazy-feeling sensitive spots in my hip, trying to wriggle free of a seemingly unrelated and very crampy hip pain.
The hip pain went away, but it had only been bugging me for about a week, so that victory seems boring to me. The vanished knee pain is what stood out. It was just poof, gone!
There was no obvious sensory link between my hip and my knee. Nor did I expect any effect on my knee pain. But I will say that the hip massage was a sensory marvel! It felt amazing. Like lancing a boil. And it felt like it affected the entire limb, really. It’s easy to believe that such a profound sensation could have affected the next joint down the line.
I noticed the missing knee pain within a day, and after a week I was confident that Something Amazing Had Happened. I didn’t trust it to last at first, but it has been three weeks now of perfect relief.
Confidence level that the massage was the difference maker: 85%
What the hell?
Spasms! Spasms everywhere!
Most of my aches and pains do not yield to small doses of massage. These are the exceptions.
But every time I am able to massage or stretch my way free of a weird pain, it suggests that I was probably dealing with some kind of cramp, and I seem to have an awful lot of them (along with a kaleidoscopic variety of twitches).
Spasm and muscle pain are topics I have thought and written deeply about in the abstract, and often with great skepticism, but these vivid new extremes of personal experience are a fascinating new perspective for me.
The more of them I have, the more I wonder just how much chronic pain — mine or anyone else’s — is powered by diverse cramps and spasms.
If you also suffer from a great variety of weird aches and pains — and I know many of you do — how “crampy” does your own pain seem? Do you have your own examples of pains that you didn’t think were a cramp at first, but eventually it seemed more likely, or downright obvious?