Podcast: Sharing My Experiences with Pain and Healing

In this podcast, I share with Emmy Vadnais, a Holistic Occupational Therapist, my healing journey from back injuries that kept me bedridden on and off for 2 years, along with 5 years of learning to walk again. For me, healing means connecting to our true self and embracing all that we are so that we may live life with meaning and joy. I also hope to be a voice for people who experience pain, educating others on the multi-dimensional effects of pain and the resulting struggles.

11:20 Meditation as a Coping Strategy
18:38 Emotions & Pain
23:00 The Balance between Activities & Pain
31:00 BioPsychoSocialSpiritual Components
35:00 Fatigue & Chronic Pain/Illness & the famous Spoon Theory
41:46 Pain & Trauma/PTSD/Panic Attacks
45:00 Gaining a Sense of Control
49:50 Discussing Pain Medication & the Opioid Crisis

You can find more podcasts by Emmy at HolisticOT.
Woman sticking out her tongue and it is cracked and dry

Dry Mouth: Causes and Remedies

I remember a time when I would wake up every morning feeling like a just ate a bowl of cotton balls. Yuck! I had major dry mouth from pain meds. Muscle relaxants, pain, anti-seizure, sleep or antipsychotic medications all can cause dry mouth. It feels like one’s body is parched from a trip to the dessert without water. Besides its horrible sensation, dry mouth can cause sore gums, teeth sensitivity, and decreased joy and ability to eat certain foods.

Why do gums and teeth hurt from having a dry mouth?

Ongoing dry mouth creates an acidic mouth. Have you ever taken too much Vitamin C to prevent a cold only to find that at the end of the week you have sores in your mouth from the vitamin’s acidity? This is similar to what happens when your mouth is dry and acidity naturally builds. The drier your mouth, the more:

  1. porous and weak your teeth enamel may become
  2. nerves inside the teeth may become damaged and sensitive
  3. your gums may become “sick”

Dr. Phillips (2010) in Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye: A Do-It-Yourself Mouth Care System for Health, Clean Gums and Teeth compares the effects of an acidic, dry mouth to what happens when soaking an eggshell overnight in vinegar. It’s not pleasant. The hard, outer shell of the egg disintegrates into a soft shell that can be easily rubbed away with your fingers.

This is why it is so important to maintain healthy, alkaline saliva and mouth. Healthy saliva contain healthy minerals that:

  1. strengthen tooth enamel
  2. lubricate the teeth to prevent damage
  3. cleanse the teeth and gums from food build up

Besides medicine, what else can cause an acidic mouth?

1. What we put in our mouth.

  • Acidic citric, fruit juices, especially when refrigerated as compared to room temperature.
  • Soda
  • Coffee (yes, this is unfortunate)
  • Beer and wine
  • Tooth Whiteners
  • Sugar

2. Hormone changes during adolescence, pregnancy, menopause, and aging

3. Illness, fever, nasal congestion, asthma, mouth breathing when sleeping

4. Stress

Prevention: How can we create a more alkaline, neutral mouth?

Again, by what we put in our mouth.

  1. Vegetable juices high in minerals.
  2. * Water or Water infused with more alkaline foods, such as: coconut, cucumber, watermelon, mango, raspberries.
  3. Broth and Alkaline soups
  4. Diary Products
  5. Xylitol, a sugar substitute found in vegetables
  6. Gum made from xylitol
  7. Coconut Oil Pulling – swishing coconut oil in your mouth for 10 minutes. The theory is it detoxifies the mouth, heals gum inflammation, prevents cavities, soothes dry throat, and naturally whitens teeth.

Other dry mouth remedies:

  • ACT Total Care Dry Mouth Mouthwash
  • ACT Dry Mouth Lozenges
  • Alcohol Free Xylitol Mouthwash or Any other Alcohol-Free Mouthwash
  • Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse
  • XyliMeltsoral-adhering discs that stick to your teeth or gums to relieve persistent dry mouth.
  • Xylitol Moisturizing Mouth Spray
  • Spry Xylitol Gum or  PUR Xylitol Gum –  sugar-free/Aspartame-free (Dr. Phillips states that this is a safe sugar substitute for people with diabetes) Xylitol also removes harmful bacteria that causes cavities.
  • Fluoride rinse
  • Toothpaste without baking soda, harsh abrasives, or teeth whitener 
  • Avoid breathing through your mouth, especially when sleeping at night
  • Use a humidifier in the room to increase moisture in the air
  • And, as always, water. It is important to stay hydrated.

 Mouth Care When Brushing Teeth

Dr. Phillips recommends a 3-step process of pre-rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash (or perhaps tea tree oil, as my friend uses), use a soft-bristled toothbrush, gently brushing gums and teeth, proper toothbrush care, and a fluoride after-rinse to help decrease acidity in the mouth, and increase health of gums and teeth. 

For more information, check out Better Bones’ blog for an alkaline food list and chart. You can also check out Amazon if you are interested in buying PH strips, books on Alkaline Diet, an Alkaline Food Chart, or any of the products mentioned above.


Dr. Phillips, Ellie. Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye: A Do-It-Yourself Mouth Care System for Health, Clean Gums and Teeth. Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2010.

Note: I have no affiliation of any kind with the products/companies mentioned in this blog post

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Do I Have To Accept Living In Chronic Pain Forever?

Question mark held up in front of woman's face

What does it mean to accept living with chronic pain? And forever? How do people do that? Should they?

I struggled with these questions for years as doctors constantly told me that I needed to learn to accept living in chronic pain. I thought, How could someone have the audacity to label me as “a hopeless case” and define my future, my life? Did this mean relinquishing hope of getting better? Did it mean I needed to stop trying? I could not, would not, accept living in pain forever

As much as I had been rejecting pain, I had been also rejecting my body.  I was attached to something that no longer existed. I idolized and clung to my “perfect” body and my “perfect” life before my injuries. Before my back injuries and pain, I was fully living life, not merely existing. I did not want this “new” body. I felt unsafe in this body of pain and had lost control over it. Because of pain and physical limitations, I lost my health, my home, my job, financial stability.  But, over time, I began to realize that my body did not do this to me. It was suffering too, and trying to heal. 

I began nurturing my body as I would a beloved child or a sick family member. I began listening and responding to its needs. Through exercising, Feldenkrais work, Pilates, yoga, eating more healthfully, and gaining understanding of my activity tolerance so I did not overwork my body and cause more pain flair-ups, I began accepting and respecting my body.

Silhouette of person with head in hand surrounded by words related to depression

Chronic pain is as much a mental dis-ease as it is a physical dis-ease.

I needed to learn to accept my body and my Self.

Chronic pain creates not just physical trauma, but a disconnection from one’s Self. Grief is not just for those who have died, but for a loss of ones’s sense of Self, including one’s belief system and how one once defined his or her Self. Within my grief dwelled so many dimensions of loss–loss of abilities, companionships, independence, and how I defined my place in the world. I felt unlovable and inadequate–unworthy. Beliefs swirled in mind, such as: I had no value in society anymore. No one would ever want to date me. I could not go for long walks, or even walk on sand; no one would ever want to spend time with me. I could not be financially independent; I was worthless. All I had is my personality, but society defines people by their career and money. I had nothing to offer. How could I exist in society with pain and dis-abilities?

How could I heal from such catastrophic losses? By increasing my physical functioning, I thought. I changed my exercise goals, bought a stationary bike, and started biking for 1-minute intervals throughout the day, trying to rebuild my strength, thinking things would get better if I focused more on my body. Weeks passed and I realized that my new bike and goals were not healing grief. 


To move forward in my grief, I needed to let go of my false beliefs and misperceptions about myself–how I defined myself. Beliefs are stronger than thoughts, for they are thoughts embedded with feeling. We do not just think we are unworthy, we feel it to our depths. Often these beliefs start in childhood and are strengthened by other experiences, such as physical pain and trauma, because we define everything in relation to these beliefs.

Healing from grief and its psychological consequences due to trauma, is a process, a journey–a birthing–of the Self. I needed to open my heart to myself, without judgment. With compassionate awareness, I embraced the experience of my Self. I acknowledged, experienced, and de-tached from my emotional pain, the negative self-perceptions and the stories that I had created.  Underneath, deep down, I found resilience, wisdom, and self-love. Then, I began to accept the true value of my Self, limitations and all. 

From self-discovery evolved self-acceptance, and ultimately, self-love. 

When I began learning to accept and love myself, I began to accept my life. Through my inner journey, a new freedom impressed itself upon me. I had nothing–no roles, labels, or judgments to hide behind. I am what I am. And I love myself for this.

I still look for treatments that will improve my well-being and decrease pain, but I no longer allow myself to be consumed by pain. I perceive it as separate from myself. Pain is a part of my life for the moment, maybe forever, but it is not who I am.

Is it pain or loss that we need to accept?

People have told me that once they accepted pain, they felt a huge weight lift from their shoulders. They could finally refocus from trying to find a fix to living life again. If you ask me today, “Do you accept living in chronic pain”, I will probably say no, but I accept myself and my life, because I, not pain, define who I am and the course of my life.

Perhaps, instead of patients being told to learn to accept living with pain, which usually causes a defensive reaction, maybe they can be asked: “What problems are you having related to pain?” and “How can we work together to mourn your losses and reclaim your sense of Self, feeling even more self-compassion, self-reliance, and self-empowerment in your life right now?”  After all, don’t we all need this, whether we will live in pain forever or not?

I Love me

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