I have a lifelong relationship with pain. In the early 1970s, when I was eleven years old I began having a deep aching pain in my neck and upper shoulders. It started only on the right side but over time the left side started to hurt too. Many mornings when I woke up my neck hurt so badly that I had to stay home from school.
In addition to physical pain, I suffered the pain of not knowing why my neck and shoulders hurt so much. My mother and I desperately made the rounds of all the top doctors in New York City, where I grew up. A battery of x-rays and other tests showed that my spine was well aligned and ruled out any blatant physical problems. For lack of a clear-cut diagnosis, doctors began telling me that “too much stress” was the cause of my pain. I was given numerous medication prescriptions including anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants and pain killers. They either didn’t work or the side effects (stomach upset and feeling groggy) were not worth the small amount of relief they gave me. I still had no real diagnosis or treatment plan.
I tried physical therapy, chiropractic and even acupuncture and biofeedback treatments. I tried more doctors, medications and injections. Still, I lived with pain, often severe, every day for nine years. I remember lying in bed at night and imagining that if a surgeon could just “cut out” the painful areas I would finally get relief (by the way, this is not an effective treatment).
Relief At Last
Fortunately for me, my grandmother had insomnia. One sleepless night she was listening to the radio and heard Bonnie Prudden talk about her new book Myotherapy: Pain Erasure (this book later became a NY Times Bestseller). Bonnie Prudden was a television fitness guru of the 1950’s and 1960’s and was part of the first President's Commission of Physical Fitness. My grandmother bought me the book, and I read it eagerly from cover to cover. I realized almost immediately that Bonnie Prudden was talking about my pain and me. The focus of her book were myofascial trigger points, which are small irritable spots or “knots” in the muscles that cause pain. Trigger points are also known as “pressure points”.
I tried some of the self help-techniques described. I got enough relief that I found a professional trigger point therapist and went for my first treatment. I'll never forget that first appointment. After nine long years of living with pain I was afraid that, yet again, I would I be disappointed. Should I get my hopes up or should I guard myself against the letdown I was used to? I lay down on the treatment table and for an hour the therapist found spot after spot (trigger points) that when pressed replicated my pain. This therapist understood my pain, knew what caused it and knew how to get rid of it. Wow!
In November of 1983, at the age of 20, I walked out of that treatment with no pain for the first time in nine years. After two more treatments I knew that trigger point therapy was the key to the relief of my pain. I was so inspired that I decided to become a trigger point therapist myself. Within the year I had entered a two year training program and studied to become a myofascial trigger point therapist and exercise therapist. I eventually continued my education by going to nursing school and becoming a Registered Nurse. I love learning and continue to take advanced training courses, improving my knowledge and adding skills to help patients. Now, and for the past thirty two years, I have the satisfaction of helping people get out of pain.
That's my lemonade.
Image of Erika Bourne, RN
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