The Pain Panic- What to do?

I’m writing this from ground zero. My 16-year-old daughter had four wisdom teeth extracted this morning and we are now deep into The Pain Panic.

What is this Pain Panic I speak of?

Any of you who have endured a serious injury or trauma, or have woken up after surgery and experienced that moment when all of the anesthesia wears off knows what I’m talking about. The Pain Panic is real and it is brutal.

For those of you still in the dark, let me explain my take on it. As pain is HIGHLY subjective and different for everyone, I can only speak to my own experiences.

The Pain Panic is that moment when the pain sets in, and HARD. It begins to ramp up and you think, “Ok, ok, I can handle this, I’ve got this” and then suddenly you are in the THICK of the ride and you cannot get off. That is when the panic alarms go off in the brain. That is when your brain screams “Not a drill, not a drill, sound the alarm!” and you can’t calm yourself down because you can’t think straight through the pain.

That is the Pain Panic. It is the FEAR that sets in when pain is having its way with you. I know it well. It can happen in a flash following a bad trauma, or it can ramp up gradually like in childbirth or when local anesthesia wears off.

This also sometimes happens with patients in my office with intense acute or chronic pain. You can tell it’s there when patient is not in control, the pain is. The constant fear that surrounds the pain is now driving the ship.

This is my advice on what to say when you or someone else is experiencing Pain Panic. This is exactly what I said to my daughter and what I’ve said to hundreds of patients, as calmly as possible:

  • You are on a ride that you cannot get off of right now.
  • You are likely experiencing a lot of FEAR around the pain that you are in. I realize that this is scary.
  • Things are likely going to get worse before they get better, but they WILL get better. This is only temporary.
  • You have to keep your breathing in rhythm and your wits about you well enough to process this pain ride until you can summit the mountain and start getting down the other side.
  • There is always an “other side”. (This is different for every person, every injury, every trauma, every chronic pain state, but there is some semblance of an other side. It’s a matter of finding the way there, which sometimes requires help.)
  • I will do everything in my power to help you get through this and up over that mountain. (This is where friends, community, family and/or good practitioners/coaches come in extremely handy, because we all need backup sometimes.)
  • My daughter calmed down immediately. I’ve been in the patient seat when my mentor Dr. Rick Marinelli spoke similar words to me. Whenever I hurt myself badly or found myself about to embark on the Pain Panic ride, I hear his voice telling me, “I realize this is scary, and things may get worse before they get better, but they WILL get better, this is only temporary, you WILL heal.”

    I hope you find this as helpful as I always do, and that you can refer back to this the next time you experience the Pain Panic.

    Bodies want to heal. Discs want to heal. Joints want to heal and so do nerves. That’s the beauty of the way our bodies work.

    If you are not getting the relief you’re looking for, consider coming in for an appointment. Pain is so multifactorial, you may need help coming up with a comprehensive approach for treating it.

    In health,

    Dr. Tyna

    P.S. If you do find yourself injured, please check out my Top 5 List of Go-To’s to manage the issue. These work for chronic issues as well!

    5 Things to do NOW When You’ve Had a Sports Injury

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