In a sub-culture where pain is not only an integeral part of what we do, but frequently the desired goal and anticipated result, those that suffer from chronic pain would seem to avoid the BDSM lifestyle, right?
According to the National Institute of Medicine and the American Adacemy of Pain Medicine, there are over 116 Million people in the country suffering from chronic pain. Diagnoses of Fibromyalgia, lumbar back pain and daily (disabling) headaches are on the rise. Frighteningly, more than 50% of chronic pain sufferers feel they have NO control over their pain. Add to that the stigma of ‘drug seaker’ that is prevailing among medical professionals and associated with patients legitimately needing narcotic medications to deal with their pain, and its no wonder they have no control over it. Studies have shown that chronic pain sufferers not only have more trouble functioning daily, but also have cognitive impairments related to their pain; Forgettfulness, depression, difficulty completing structured tasks, and decrease in self-esteem, just to name a few. More than 75% of chronic pain sufferers complained of decreased quality/enjoyment of their life, depression, trouble concentrating, difficulty sleeping, and decreased energy levels.
Not too many people know that after a traumatic accident, I ended up with a fused cervical-spine. It causes me many of the above symptoms, as well as frustration when I ‘cant’ do something. I can honestly say there is not a day that goes by without some thought to the pain in my neck and back, headaches, and paresthesia in my hands, arms and jaw. Anyone who has ever been tied in a restrictive position or suspended knows that while it doesnt always hurt, it is definitely not comfortable. Impact play by definition causes some degree of pain with every strike of a paddle, cane or flogger. So then the logical question would be, ‘Why the HELL do I <3 rope, suspensions, and impact play?’ when in theory all of those activities should exacerbate my pain symptoms, right?
For me, the answer would definitely be NO. The way your mind is wired, it focuses on whatever is hurting the most at any given moment. So while my body may be screaming with the ropes holding me immobile and the cane applied to my ass, the acute pain from those activies actually diminishes my chronic pain. You gotta love how the brain works! In addition to the active pain I experience during play time, the endorphin rush I experience in the after-glow diminishes ANY pain I might have been feeling on that chronic level before hand. My body moves easier, and without pain, for a little while anyway.
Let me also add the caveat that having a partner in tune with your body is a must. They have to know what your body is capable of sustaining, and how to recognize when enough is enough. You, the bottom/submissive have to have total and unwavering faith in your partner to push you to the edge, then reel you back. Jay has always been a trooper when dealing with my chronic pain issues, and is great to rub away the sore spots he inflicted as part of my aftercare. Typically, this leaves in me in an enorphin-haze puddle in the middle of the bed where I can relax and let the endorphins do their work. Yes, inevitably the pain returns, frequently with a bruise or sore spot to remind me of our play. But sometimes, that helps my chronic pain too, as a sort of distraction, and a little anticipation for the next time.
Do I think BDSM play is the worlds answer to pain relief? Of course not! I use other strategies like yoga, relaxation/meditation, massage therapy (Im a junky) and am very interested in accupuncture. BUT, it is one way (of many I employ) that I deal with my pain. It is the pain I CAN control that Im a junky for.