Chronic Pain: Don’t Suck It Up Buttercup Pt 1

Emflowerment blog 2019 Tracy O'Meara Smith

We’ve all heard the term “Suck it Up Buttercup”. It’s harsh English and a slang term that’s often used. I’ve heard this so many times in my clinic of late. Especially from by who are managing chronic pain. It’s been driving me bonkers. Hence the reason for this blog post.

This is the first article of a two part series. Don’t Suck it Up Buttercup. Please enjoy part one.

So many people have learnt to deal with chronic pain in such a way that feels dismissive.

I repeatedly hear the words … ” I just suck it up and get on with it”. It helps them realign their focus, giving them strength to deal with what they’re managing.
I get this – I really do. Sometimes it is appropriate to just “suck it up” and push past our fears, our pain and move forward. Doing this as a long term strategy over a long period of time can have far reaching effects. Making things worse not better.
By ignoring what’s going on, can increase further injury and illness, effecting emotional wellbeing  which can lead to depression and feelings of resentment. So many do this for various reasons.
Usually they’re feeling fed up, misunderstood and helpless as nothing can be done. On the bad days this is true. Unfortunately cupping the head within the hands and having a good cry can’t always be avoided.
Pain can take hold like a vice and the known cause can be tricky. Many don’t want to be a burden and this can feel scary and lonely.
For those that suffer chronic pain every single day, in every single moment it’s seriously challenging. There are good days, there are better days and then there are the bad days.

Links to World War Two

“Suck it up Buttercup” is a slang term originating from WWII. Pilots who, after vomiting into their oxygen mask, trained to “suck it up” to avoid breathing in toxic fumes. Also avoiding death.
I know gross. 
It’s a term now used to ignite a sense of resilience. Of mental, emotion and physical toughness. It’s about getting on with things.
Not wallowing in trivial or unnecessary matters. It has it’s place in the short term. It’s not a sustainable long term strategy.

The Relationship With Chronic Pain

When in pain over a long period of time, everything becomes magnified.
There’s a strong hypersensitivity that goes hand in hand with pain. Noise, emotions, house clutter, relationship dynamics. Everything comes under a negative guise. Especially when you’re dealing with pain that feels unsurmountable.
There’s limited tolerance.
Daily chores are overwhelming. Relationships come under extraordinary pressure. Many feel isolated in the depth of their experience.
There is Relief
Pain can be our ally. It’s a warning sign from the body that something’s not right and adjustments need to be made.
The body needs to be open to healing when it is in pain. Yet the opposite is usually true.
There’s a tendency to hold the body in a protective and defensive pattern. Not allowing anyone or anything in. Thinking the pain will get worse. Fear can take hold here. This is a natural protective response.
In truth if you’re someone who suffers from chronic pain on a daily basis, no one will understand. They can’t. It’s a solo journey. One that needs managing.
“Sucking it up” and getting on with it is not a long term strategy. 

Acceptance, Management and Consistency

In constant pain? Using pain management methods increases tolerance, quality of life and emotional well-being. It’s such a must
So many times I hear the words “I’m so used the pain, it’s just part of my reality”
There are ways to gain relief and make life a little less painless.
The key is not giving up and finding the tools that can help. There are going to be bad days. This is a given. Over time there can be more good days if managed in a way that suits your needs.
Avoiding painful periods can be a good motivator.

3 Types Of Pain

There are three kinds of physical pain.

Nerve pain – This is when there is when something is pushing against or pressing against  a nerve. Nerve pain is excruciating. Pain management and regular self care treatments can help as a means of emotional support.

Joint pain – Inflammation disease such as Arthritis. Arthritis pain is a constant throbbing pain that never lets up.

Muscle Pain – This can include spasms, tension or what feels like a “knot” in the muscle

Nerve Pain is intense and unrelenting. Medication has it’s place here. Following your doctors recommendations is necessary.
Relief can be gained through the tools I offer below. If you’re someone suffering chronic pain and I told you to breathe, you’d probably want to punch me in the face. It sounds patronising. 
However when there is nothing else the breath can be the go to. By breathing and easing into the pain, it can relieve and self soothes. It sounds counter intuitive.
By relaxing as much as possible, allows the subconscious mind to let go. The body will find it’s own way. It needs time and patience to remember. There are tools that can help you. From visualisations, meditations and changing mental focus can help. It’s not easy. It helps through the bad days.
Joint and muscle pain can treated successfully with body work. This includes Bowen Therapy, and actively participating in specific exercises. Using ice to reduce pain and swelling. Receiving regular treatments are all part of a self-care plan. 

Emotional and Mental Pain

Pain is not always physical, it can be emotional and mental as well. These too can manifest in the body. This type of pain brings about negative feelings that hinder quality of life. Effecting the relationship, we have with ourselves and with others. This is why treating holistically you cover all bases. Coming into a fuller understanding of why you feel the way you do.
Mental Pain. Mental Health can be exhausting and painful on many levels. If you’re suffering to the extreme and have feelings of suicide, it’s important to seek professional help.

Pain Management Steps


Abdominal breathing in particular is very effective in managing pain. Air is forced downward into the abdomen allows the body to relax. Calming the central nervous system and telling the mind that it’s ok. Being in constant pain is a marathon. These types of exercises can give you the stamina to ride the bad days and giving you the strength not to give up.
There’re several breathing techniques you can use. All bring a sense of relief to the body. They connect the body and the mind, letting go of any mental, emotional and physical angst.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxing is more than calming down. There’s an endorphin response when the body relaxes. Giving the body what it needs to respond in a natural calm manner.
This happens through such activities like gardening, meditation, and breathing. Anything that helps the mind focus on anything other than pain. The key is finding one that suits you best. Sucking it up is not included in this mix. Sticking it out is.

Being Mindful

Being mindful. This means being aware of our thoughts watching if our thinking is not contributing to the pain. Mindfulness work helps to break this cycle. Gratitude work can also help. These rewire the brain and bring about a whole new perspective. Incorporating body work in this routine would also prove beneficial as to make sure the mental shifts are integrated. 
This is where the work that I do is very effective.

Bowen and Flower Essence Therapy

I combine Flower Essences within my treatments. This helps relax the mind. The body then relaxes allowing it to be receptive to healing.
Combined with the Bowen work, the body has a chance to access and use its wisdom and move and adjust. Bowen influences the fascia. The connective web where all the body’s cellular processes take place. By working on the fascia it relaxes the entire body and realigns its postural alignment.
Many use Bowen Therapy and the treatments that I offer as part of their pain management strategy. They gain the relief, and more importantly, the support they need.
I incorporate many tools to support this within my treatments.
Touch is a wonderful pain reliever. “Sucking things up” so to speak, emotionally and physically, works against the natural principals of the body. The idea is to work with the body and not against it.

Helpful Routine

Having a regular routine can reclaim your life.
Being disciplined in self care routines can make all the difference. The difference from having a bad day to having a good day. Accepting this as a life plan is beneficial.
Good time management and having strong personal boundaries are necessary. Learning to say no when you know your having a bad day or even a good day is helpful. Reaching out when you need, more so.
Gentle exercise is great. The body loves to move. Simple gentle stretches are helpful.
Diet can also have a huge impact. Eating processed foods adds to the inflammation in the body. This increases pain levels. Diet plays an important part in pain management.
Pain and remedial health management can be a complete pain is the butt. Yet it’s a journey worth embracing. Gone are the days of playing the martyr and “sucking it up” as pain management.
Dealing with pain on a long term basis is a marathon. It’s good to remember that slow and steady can win this race.
Giving yourself the time and energy to heal and allow healing to take place is the biggest gift you can give yourself and those you love.
It’s such a challenging path. It doesn’t have to be a lonely one. Coping strategies and tools are necessary and are there to help you, there’s no need to “Suck it up Buttercup”.

 and there’s more

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