Episode 40: One year anniversary, success at modulating acute pain

Episode 40: You experience an acute jolt of pain – now what?

Welcome to episode 40 of WAF Podcast!

I am recording this episode exactly on my podcast first anniversary! I launched The Winning at Fibromyalgia podcast exactly a year ago, October 15th 2021. It is now October 15th 2022. This is the 40th episode.

I could choose to be upset over not giving you 52 episodes – one per week.

But instead I am choosing to be grateful and excited. Grateful for all of you who listen and have found some form of helpful information, in one shape or another. I get excited when I get feedback that something I talked about or mention was helpful. I am also excited because a year ago I did not think I would do this, that I would be able to produce 40 episodes. It means putting my thoughts into words, on paper/computer screen, then recording it. It means picking and inviting guests on my podcast, recording the interview. Then listening to it and helping to edit. Hours and hours of work.

So, I am celebrating. This entire weekend. One of the questions I have for you – what are you celebrating when you look at the past year? I don’t think we should only reflect on the past year at the end of the year. I feel we can reflect any time of the year, especially if there is an anniversary.

It was also recently an anniversary of 8th year of my Mom passing. And I am not quite ready to talk about that on my podcast.

 I am so excited to be back. I have shared with you I have been going through a rather difficult time of accepting a dissolution of a romantic relationship. I am doing better and deeply appreciate all the messages of support and encouragement and love from you. It feels like I am almost over the hump

Today, in addition to this being a celebratory podcast of one year anniversary I am choosing to share another personal experience, intimately related to my story of fibromyalgia. Before I get to it, I do want to say one thing – aimed at all of you, my lovely women who suffer with pain every day, who wonder whether it can ever change, whether YOU can ever change it. I am here to tell you – YES YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN!

It is within your power to reduce your pain and turn the entire course of your fibromyalgia story around! I see it on myself, I see it in my patients, rewiring of the pain pathways, the pain neural circuits CAN be rewired, NEW neural connections can be created! Every minute. Every hour of every day, we have an opportunity create these new neuronal connections! That will translate in less pain and more enjoyment, and you doing things that you cannot imagine right now because you cannot see beyond the current moment

My fibromyalgia back pain has been flaring through this break up time (and coming and going anniversary of my Mom’s passing). I have been doing somatic tracking every day and it is really good in the evening when I am relaxing and definitely flares up during the day when I am at work. But it has been tolerable. Now I decided a break up would be a good time to go to my old crossfit gym here on the cape. I was a member for several months last year but quit last September and joined more of a regular globo gym. I felt I was too destroyed after each workout back then, and my joints were sore after – I do have rheumatoid arthritis and I just did not feel it was right. 

So with this break up I decided to return to the crossfit. And there the second day I went, we were doing push press and split jerks. That’s a movement when you push the bar above your head while you catch it below – with your legs slightly apart, as if in a lounging position. And I overdid it, too enthusiastic, I put on too much weight. ON the way down, as I was receiving the bar with weights, I felt a pop/sharp pain in my R shoulder, followed by a temporary weakness, to the point of not being able to lift the arm for a few moments.

My first though was “no! I hurt my shoulder again!”, I do have a history of R shoulder injury/partial rotator cuff tear, from 10 years ago, that responded to PT but would flare every time I overdid things in Crossfit – lifting things above my head. And my first thought went to – OMG, I MUST HAVE NOW COMPLETELY TORN it, that’s why I have weakness and sharp pain, why else would the pain be there so sharp???

I was in a pure panic mode.

And this is where something magic happened and the reason I am sharing this episode with you. I WAS ABLE TO PAUSE. I was able to put a pause, a break between the trigger (the movement that I believed re-injured my shoulder) and my spiraling out of control, the dooms spiral. I already put the bar back on the rack.

 I went to the coach. I told her what happened/that I was worried about re-injury.

Then I tried and succeeded in calming myself down.

Two main things happened:

  1. I focused on the pain and realized two areas were involved – my right mid back by the R shouldblade, that has had chronic flare over the last few weeks. It was on fire and super sore and the R shoulder – top/posterior, searing pain. Almost like somatic tracking but I don’t recommend somatic tracking in acute severe pain.
  2. Second thing I did was that I told myself messages of reassurance – in my case it went like this: Martina, ok, so you MAY have torn the shoulder cuff, you MAY have. If you did, you know where to go – you will solicit help of one of the surgeons you are familiar with at your work place. You will be taken care of.


But right now you DON”T KNOW FOR SURE that you torn it. You just know that it is hurting.

Can you TRY to calm your breathing and mind down, and see whether it helps?

The coach came by in the meantime seeing I am trying to stretch and gave me a ball that they refer to as “Chinese torture” in my gym She said I could try to use that to loosen up my muslces.


That’s what did the trick – I was leaning against the ball against the wall on the SOREST spot on my R shoulderblade, to the point it was taking my breath away, that’s how sharp the pain was. YET I was successfully releasing the tension in my shoulders, I let the shoulders drop down, while staying calm and telling myself to stay calm, with my breath, with the pain, and applying the pressure.

I did NOT go to push press that gym session.

Over the next 48 hours, my pain went down from 9/10 down to 2-3/10. The pain was really severe that evening and I had trouble even just doing dishes – any motion with my right hand INCLUDING brushing teeth was flaring the pain. But I continued to breathe through all of it, and did not lose the sight of the fact that I would know what to do if the pain was not getting better.

The pain was better the next morning.

I went back to the gym the next day but did NOT do any overhead activity. I did stretching at home and in the gym for the next few days.

Then over the next several days the pain went almost back to baseline.

SO why am I talking about it?

For the following 3 reasons:

  • Tense muscles can totally lead to acute muscle strains and acute pain. I clearly have myofascial pain and that underlying kind of baseline pain was there when the acute pain happened – and you need to know that this can happen.
  • Acute pain does NOT mean automatically acute trauma or tear. It DOES or MAY mean injury, but there is a scale and degree to injuries. What I experienced was most likely minor muscle/tendon strain from overloading and not stretching enough or not having my shoulder muscles ready for the load I put on that bar.
  • You can improve your pain experience by staying calm and knowing you have control over the physical experience of the pain. The main thing I did was to halt my anxiety or panic that I started feeling at the moment of the acute pain. I literally did not allow myself to go there. You can do it too and in fact you need to, in order to stay in control.

The second thing I did was I BELIEVED I COULD HANDLE things EVEN IF I HAD TRAUMA IN FORM OF TEAR> I never for a moment steered away from that though. And you can too – even if you are not a physician, you can have faith that you are able to seek help if the pain does not get better after the initial steps outlined above, or if it is getting worse in the first 48 hrs after injury.


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