“I am a Pain Ninja! A Pain Ninja is a stealthy warrior who specializes in covert and unorthodox warfare against pain.”
Tamara C. Staples is a newly minted pain coach, or in her words, a pain Ninja, living in Portland, Oregon. After living most of her life with lupus, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) she began taking first oxycodone then oxymorphone over the next fifteen years that helped somewhat, but ultimately she suffered from tolerance for the analgesic. After developing gastropharesis, a paralyzing of the parastalic action of the stomach, Staples took herself off oxymorphone. During her withdawal from the opiate she suffered from a spike in her overall pain level that led to an undulating panic: How coulld she survive?
Staples wanted to make clear to the readers that she is “not against opioids; it’s not up me to decide for others. Some simply need that type of treatment.”
Like many people frustrated with the treatment of their pain, Staples began to look beyond the frontieres of the medical model. Her first stop was with a small on-line group of people like her who lived with the ravages of fibromyalgia and CFS. Tamara is now co-leader of the private Facebook group that grew from 30 members to 350.
Tamara began a self-survey of things she had learned that might help her combat her constant pain and lethargy.She had in the past studied and practiced both meditation and breathwork. To Tamara’s surprise, she found both methods along with visulaization lowered her experience of the pain and it’s attendant anxiety. With this success, Tamara searched for more models of ninja treatment of constant pain, depression and anxiety, the normal human responses to truamas of all descriptions.
During her searches for more teatment wisdom, Staples discovered the Emotional Freedom Technique/Tapping that she shares with others living with pain. On her web site, painninja.com., Staples writes that “EFT is a very effective tool for working with pain and emotions. It is a form of accupressure bassed on the same energy meridians used in traditional Chinese acupuncture to treat ailments for the last five thousand years. The beauty of it is that you can do it yourself at any time and there are no needles involved.” EFT is relatively easy to learn and can, unlike most forms of psychological treatments, be practiced alone. EFT has shown some effectiveness with those suffering from Post Truamatic Stress Disorder..
Breathing and Visualizing techniques ofen come in tandem and can work well, as does hypnosis in breaking the pattern of obsessively repeating the internal scenes of pain and truama. These techniques can be learned and employed by a person with pain when the pain intrudes on the person’s thinking or activities, They can be employed as a way of refocusing the mind away from a constant focus on the pain and its attendant paralyzing emotions.
A related technique is to, either while meditating or in a light self-hypnotic trance, relable the word experienjce to another less emotionally charged word, such as saying to oneself “That’s not pain but a SENSATION. “Pain” and “SENSATION” involve very different emotional vectors.By repeating the word “sensation” the word also serves as a mantra meditation and self-hypnosis.
Staples also employs a technique called intentional resting developed by Dan Howard wherein a person in pain doesn’t simply rest but rests, paradoxically, with an intention. For example, someone with a headache might lie down with the conscious intention of resting the “headache.” Staples says that this can be employed with any area of pain in the body and can be accomplished in as little as thirty seconds,redering the pain more manageable, and managability is what people with pain seek.
Ms. Staples has gathered all of the techniques that have worked for her over time and now offers her services through a course that she’s developed. She works with a person in pain in once weekly sessions of sixty to ninety minutes, most often by phone and using the internet to offer video, and audio instruction.
She starts out by helping the client understand the origins of the pain and its impact and from that Staples and the client wil togetherl construct a plan to help ease the person’s pain. She makes herself available for check-ins with clients to help insure that the natural pain management program she offers is working. She goes on to say that she’ll “be the emergency room and they can call me during rough spots.”
These and like methods have been, fairly or unfairly, lumped together as alternative or complementary medicine. Staples is unaware of the contorversy around these methods. They are largely criticized as being untested and unscientific. Anecdotally, many people living with unrelenting pain say that they have met with varying degrees of success with a number of these methods. Insurance companies do not cover these complementary methods leaving people with pain having pay for these methods out of pocket. However, there is more reseacrh into these methods and there is hope that those methods found to be viable will then be covered by medical insurance. Recognizing that insurance will not pay for what Staples offers, she has set her fees low so that anyone can afford her coaching.
There are two hurdles facing complementary practitioners and people with pain: The first is getting funding for the necssary resecarch and the second is the political struggle forciing insurance companies to cover these treatments. These are two large, but not insurrmountable hurdles that the pain advocacy community needs to champion.
It would be a victory if those opposed to opioid prescribing could join pain advocates in leading the advocacy for the necessary reseach and insurance coverage of all promising complementary treatments for people with unremitting pain.