This week’s blog is a little different, as I want to tell you about an interview I did recently with Maya Novak, an Injury Recovery Expert and Mindset Coach. The interview was part of her Mindful Injury Recovery World Summit, during which she interviewed 25 specialists in different fields from around the world, from doctors to physiotherapists to dietitians to… me!
Maya came to her field after a rock climbing accident in 2012. At first she hoped it was a bad sprain, but it turned out the ankle was broken, and doctors repeatedly told her that the injury would have debilitating and lasting effects.
After nine months Maya was still in pain, and had become terrified that she would never fully recover.
However, this was not the case. In the end Maya completely recovered, and can now walk, run and move without pain. She was inspired by her experience to develop a Mindful Injury Recovery technique that she now uses to help other people recover from injury.
During our eighty-minute interview, Maya and I covered many topics related to injury, recovery, and resolving chronic pain. The full interview is available to purchase either as a video or audio file here.
Below is an abridged excerpt from the interview, where Maya and I discuss pain medication.
Maya: What do you say to someone who has had pain for, let’s say eight months, after a serious injury. Would you say that by then it’s essential to start looking into other things [such as Resolving Chronic Pain]? Or is it enough to wait for another few months and then maybe it will get better?
Mags: One of the things about people coming to me is that sometimes they’ve gone to every person they can think of, but they have felt they’re not progressing, that they’re not healing. I’m constantly taken aback by how people know themselves. It’s like a gut reaction: ‘This does not suit me. I’m not progressing here. I need to find a different route.’ So if someone had a serious injury, as you just stated, and they weren’t getting anywhere, doing this work on balancing the autonomic nervous system can do no harm. So they could do that alongside whatever else they were doing.
Maya: Being in chronic pain, many people use medication. So when a person comes to you, and if they’re on pain medication, do you suggest they stop using it so that they can really start observing the body? Because pain medication is kind of numbing you, so you actually don’t know what is happening. What is your approach to this?
Mags: I have a very open approach to pain medication. I feel I have to defend it on occasion because if someone is taking pain medication and it numbs the pain it allows them to move.
One of the things I feel passionately about is that if I can restore someone’s confidence in moving, they will initiate a reduction in their pain medication when they are ready. But often health practitioners have suggested that movement should be restricted because of pain, and what that can do is perhaps make someone quite anxious and nervous about moving. A lot of my experience of this is about low back pain with people explaining to me that their back is fragile, and I will reply ‘no, your spine is a robust bit of kit. It’s there to bend. If you look at the biomechanical structure of the spine, it’s designed to move, and it will support you.’ For someone to rediscover that that’s true, and then to be able to do gentle safe movement it can restore their faith in movement. If they manage to do that partly because of the pain medication, that’s actually fine because then they will find that they’ve got more confidence in their own body. That, to me is a great starting point.