A Mini Review of Gaga: Five Foot Two

Some of you might think it’s weird for me to review a documentary on a blog about how to deal with chronic pain. I’m guessing anyone who is, a) hasn’t seen this particular documentary, and b) hasn’t done much reading on Lady Gaga. There’s also the fact that I’m a huge film buff, so I wasn’t going to pass up on the opportunity to be able to work this into my blog. Like her or hate her, Lady Gaga certainly has had an influence on pop culture, pop music, and her fans. I’ve always considered myself a moderate Gaga fan. I’ve never spent the money to see her in concert, but I like her music, and utilize Apple Music to listen to it. I have done a bit of reading on her the past year or so as well, not a ton, but I did know before the doc, that she suffered from some chronic pain and has “borderline lupus.” I’ve also always liked the fact that she seems to genuinely appreciate her fans and treat them well. It can’t be easy for a celeb. So what of the documentary, is it worth a watch?


The answer is undoubtedly yes. Whether you are just curious about who she is, or what a year in her life (or the life of a big music star) is like, or you’re interested in how she deals with chronic pain, the documentary covers all of these things. The film itself is about her yearlong journey to performing at the Super Bowl halftime show. It also follows the recording and release of her album Joanne. Plot and subplot right there. Joanne is the mot personal album she has ever made, and also a huge break away from the flashy dance pop music that made her famous. She has also transitioned away from the over-the-top costumes and wigs, to looking more like herself – Stephanie.


The film does an amazing job of documenting the many aspects of her life throughout the year. Vying for the Super Bowl spot, talking to her family about the album she has written and the personal aspects around it, that not just affect her, but also them. The release of her album, and it’s reception from her fans. Not only how she deals with fame and the paparazzi and constant attention that comes with it, but how incredibly difficult it is for her, and without making her seem whiny. On the contrary, I felt incredibly sorry for her, and thought long and hard about how difficult it must be for celebrities to be constantly hounded like that. And finally, her personal life – her breakup with Taylor Kinney, hanging out with her friends and family, and dealing with her chronic pain.


I don’t want to speak too much about her pain, because I’d rather you all stream the film (it’s available on Netflix). I would be surprised, however, if anyone who suffers chronic pain similar to the way she does (which would include me, because hers and mine was scarily similar) didn’t become overcome with emotion. As much as I didn’t want to cry, I couldn’t help it. And yet, she remains resilient, using adrenaline from performing to do just that, and remaining as positive a person possible, despite dealing with not only chronic pain but the depression and anxiety that comes with it. If I wasn’t completely sold on being a Lady Gaga fan before, I certainly am now. But much in the same way that I am a fan of anyone who can deal with these things, and still manage to have a happy life, not letting it completely bring them down. The inspiration that can come from anyone is truly amazing.

Other than reiterating how much you need to watch Gaga: Five Foot Two (which you really, really do), I want to add that I wish I had enough money to have a personal masseuse follow me around all day.

All the Therapies You Can Do

I’ve touched on budgeting for treatments and therapies before, but today I want to talk about why they are important, and if they are necessary. I want to focus in on each one and see the benefits, because if we spend our time and money on these things, we want to know that they are going to help. Right? Even a small benefit can be worth it. A temporary lapse of pain, a short break from anxiety. Whatever it is, anything that can provide relief for a chronic pain warrior should at the very least be considered. So let’s take a look at some key therapies for chronic pain relief, and see what benefits they bring.

alternative-therapies-worldImage from: http://www.thehealthsite.com/diseases-conditions/alternative-therapies-from-around-the-world/


What is It?: is a primary care specialty in western medicine that, by using mechanical force and movements, Manual therapy, exercise therapy, electrotherapy and various physical therapies who practice evidence based treatments, remediates impairments and promotes mobility, function, and quality of life through examination, diagnosis, prognosis, and physical intervention. (wikipedia)
Mobility is extremely beneficial for chronic pain, and physiotherapists will help you find movements and exercises that will help with the pain, with the ultimate goal of reducing it. The key here, is to make sure you are doing the exercises your physiotherapists gives you, as instructed. Am I perfect at this? Definitely not, but I try to get them done as often as I can. In addition, physiotherapists can provide additional relief through acupuncture, massage, heat therapies, and laser treatments. The laser treatments work particularly well for me, and though they don’t bring permanent relief, the temporary (last from 1-7 days minimum) it brings is extremely helpful.

Physiotherapy-Month-Physiotherapy-Keeps-You-MovingImage from: http://applecreeksportsmedicine.com/may-national-physiotherapy-month/


What is it?: a form of alternative medicine mostly concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine. (wikipedia)
Again, chiropractors can help you increase your mobility, often giving exercises (which as above, are up to you to do consistently) to keep you strong and agile. Exercise is a known to help give relief to chronic pain, and chiropractors will stress this. They will also provide relief through massage, and most importantly, through adjustments. For example, I have been having some intense jaw pain lately, and through a neck adjustments, I was able to get some relief. The neck is connected to the jaw after all. Their knowledge of what joints are connected, can help (again, often just temporarily) in making sure everything is aligned. In addition, suggestions on things like posture (one I have taken seriously) can help with joint and muscle pain.

downloadImage from: http://chiropractorbackpain.com/

Massage Therapy

What is it?:  involves working and acting on the body with pressure. (wikipedia)
Even if your muscles aren’t the primary source of your pain, massages can be helpful in so many ways. They can provide stress relief, and get rid of tension you may not even know you have. Plus the relaxing atmosphere, allows for a chance for you to practice mindfulness, as I do every time I have a massage. If you do suffer from some muscle pain, this is a chance for those muscles to have some pain relief, especially if you do deep tissue/therapeutic massages (not that there is anything wrong with relaxation massages, it all depends on what you want). My ideal massages are anywhere from four to six weeks apart, and make me feel so good in so many ways every time.

downloadImage from: http://www.fultonmassagetherapy.com/tag/tingling-in-hands/


What is it?: a form of alternative medicine[2] in which thin needles are inserted into the body. (acupuncture – wikipedia)
Many naturopaths will do acupuncture as part of a treatment plan. Though it is optional, if you are seeing a naturopath I definitely suggest it. It has a number of benefits from relaxation and stress reduction (similar to massage – especially if you see a naturopath they will often have you practice mindfulness or do some psychotherapy with you while doing the treatment), and can release tension, particularly in nerves. Apparently, about six months ago, my liver was inflamed because it was holding a lot of anger. I’m sure some of you think this is hokey, but between the acupuncture and practicing some self love, my liver returned to normal. Naturopaths will also suggest diet and exercise changes, which as described in previous posts should definitely be taken into consideration. Particularly I love practicing self love, and doing yoga. Though some of the diet changes have been very difficult for me as an extreme foodie.

acupunctureImage from: http://www.diversifiedhealth.ca/category/acupuncture-therapy/


What is it?: the use of psychological methods, particularly when based on regular personal interaction, to help a person change and overcome problems in desired ways. (wikipedia)
The mind is where we perceive pain, and additionally many people with chronic pain also suffer from anxiety and depression, the cause-and-effect relationship often unclear. Having a non-judgmental person to talk to can be extremely powerful for both your mental state, and your physical. My experiences in dealing with chronic pain, and with seeing a psychotherapist, have actually influenced some potential career changes for me. I want to help people who feel like I feel, not feel this way. I’ll keep you all updated as I pursue these goals, but for now, I want to stress (yes stress) how important it is to take care of your mental health, while you take care of your physical health.

downloadImage from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/20/kinds-of-psychotherapy-try_n_4466536.html

Does everyone with chronic pain need all these treatments? I’m not sure, perhaps not. I’m not an expert, but it’s definitely worth checking them out and seeing which ones are most beneficial to you. Keep an open mind, and remember, there is a lot of evidence, that if you believe these things will help you, they have a better chance of doing so. If there are other therapies you have tried that work, please reach out via commenting or emailing so they can be incorporated into future posts.

Meditations & Visualizations for Chronic Pain

Mind and body go together. As stated by every naturopath ever. However, this is incredibly true. Our pain receptors are in our brain, and how each person perceives pain is different because of this. This isn’t to say that you can completely cure chronic pain by having some enormous will-power to make your mind perceive it differently. But there are some great ways to help with chronic pain in the meantime. I’ve touched on mindfulness in the past, but I feel it needs more exploration.

Image from: http://www.aplanforliving.com/science-shows-mind-body-connection-real/

Most of us, whether we suffer from chronic pain or not, can benefit from meditation. It has a calming effect, and can put you in the right place to live your day in the present. I like to start off my day this way. Recommended length of time for meditations is 20+ minutes. I’m pretty comfortable at around the 10 minute mark, at least for the time being. If you’re not used to meditating, it’s good to start slow and work your way up. It can be a little boring, and it’s impossible for your mind not to wander. The slow process of training your mind to come back to the present can be excellent for chronic pain, anxiety, and honestly, just life. Temporary relief can be better than no relief, and training your brain is only helpful in the long run. I started off with guided meditations (which I mainly still use), and now can, if I’m feeling up to it, do unguided (definitely requires more discipline). There are lots of place to find guided meditations (or unguided meditation soundscapes). YouTube is a great resource, as are certain apps (basically type ‘Meditation’ into your AppStore or PlayStore and you’ll find some good ones (some free, some paid. Try out the free samples on the app before making a decision if you want the membership or not). There are also meditation groups you can go to if you want some company while you meditate. I haven’t done any yet, but there is a LGBT-friendly group here in my city that meets every Wednesday night from 730-930. They meditate for an hour or so and then socialize with cookies and coffee after. It sounds interesting so I plan on checking it out this month.

o-MEDITATION-facebookImage from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/faisal-hoque/mindfulness-practice_b_4114543.html

Visualizations can also play a key role with chronic pain. They allow you to use your imagination to morph your body, pain, etc. into something else. Potentially something that doesn’t feel pain (like my “zombie hand”). If you haven’t done visualizations before, you can find them on the internet, but they are pretty generic. If you want to do more personalized ones, I suggest working with a therapist (if you already see one, if not, I recommend you check one out). Once you’ve done  few, they are easier to come up with on your own. I find them particularly helpful if I’m in pain at night. Lying in bed in pain, I have nothing better to do than to imagine my pain turning into something not painful.

pain-management-1Image from: https://paindoctor.com/chronic-pain-management-mind/

These are just some suggestions for mainly free, alternative therapies that have had some proven effect on chronic pain, as well as anxiety and depression. If you have any similar suggestions, please feel free to send me an email or comment on this post!



Chronic Pain and Meditation



To Drink or Not to Drink, That ‘Tis the Question

As adults, most of us get used to indulging in alcohol from time to time, some of us more or less than others. For most, the occasional glass of wine with dinner, weekend beer with friends, or drinks while out on the town isn’t a big deal. Though is it okay if you suffer from chronic pain? Does it make it worse? Should chronic pain warriors drink alcohol at all or completely abstain? An important thing to note is that alcohol shouldn’t be used to manage chronic pain. Even if the short term effects relieve your symptoms, there has been a ton of research done showing that long-term there are a lot of negative effects (which isn’t surprising, because, well, it’s alcohol).

Caesar with brunch at pride. It’s healthy if it has vegetables right?!

The first thing you should ask yourself is, does my medication say no alcohol? if it does, a good rule of thumb is to stay away. I take one pill that isn’t supposed to be mixed with alcohol. What I’ve personally found is that as long as I don’t take it within an hour or two of drinking, it doesn’t bother me. The only thing it does do (if taken close to alcohol consumption) is make the alcohol more potent. However, some medications can have more serious side effects when mixed with alcohol. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you’re not sure and want to be able to have a few drinks.

Check your medication before consuming alcohol t make sure it’s okay.

I did a post about sleep and pain. Unfortunately, alcohol can also make sleep worse, and therefore pain worse. If you’re typically having trouble sleeping, it might be best to stay away from an overindulgence in alcohol (one drink is likely fine, but it may depend on you) so that your body can get the rest it needs. Alcohol can also increase feelings of anxiety and depression. This is another thing to think about if you’re already dealing with these feelings. My ex loved to drink, so we did it a lot more often than we probably should have. I was dealing with intense anxiety at the time (though I doubt she was fully aware), and every time I drank those feelings became more intense. I have since learned to back off the alcohol when I’m experiencing these emotions.

When in Vienna, have a Mozart Latte (chocolate liqueur)

Beer. (Or in Buffyverse – Beer Bad, Bad Beer). Tasty, and chalk full of gluten. Naturally, if you’re on a gluten-free diet to manage your chronic pain, you’re probably staying away from beer (though there are some gluten free brands out there I’m interested in trying)> Gluten can cause inflammation; inflammation can cause an increase in pain. The solution may be to just stay away from beer altogether (the same argument can easily made about sugary drinks… so go wine at least!), or again, moderation. I personally find that two beers doesn’t affect me too much, but as with most things, an overindulgence can lead to dark places.

Some beer from my Austria trip.

I enjoy having some alcohol when I’m out with my friends. Or on the rare instance that I actually have wine at home, a glass after a long day at work. For the most part, I try not too have too much (I also noticed that hangovers after the age of 27 started to become brutal and I’d rather not subject myself to more pain than I’m already in). I’m not about to preach about whether anyone should drink, or not. That’s an individual choice, just keep in mind that there are options, and of course, consequences to our choices. Enjoy the long weekend!