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Why Pain Is Like a House Plant

It’s true I come from a farming family, but my experience is with fields of mint, not house plants. Several years ago, I was given a ficus elastica (yes, I had to look that up) as a gift, but it’s more commonly called a rubber plant. I dutifully placed it in an area where it would receive some sun – but not too much – and watered it weekly, thinking that was the extent of the attention my rubber plant needed.

The years passed, and I gradually noticed that my plant had begun to tilt. Almost imperceptibly at first, then it became more and more pronounced – the plant was growing toward the light, leaning farther and farther over the boundary of its pot. I didn’t think much of it until the day the plant actually toppled over. I picked it up, scooped the soil back into the pot, and tried to return it to its place, but the plant had become so out of balance that continuing its current status on the shelf was just not possible. All at once, a mixture of common sense and some long forgotten advice came rushing back to me – ohhhh, you’re supposed to rotate house plants so that the same side doesn’t face the light all the time and the plant will grow evenly.

I can see those of you green-thumbed people shaking your heads as you read this, but I will refer you back to my disclaimer in the first paragraph. With the lesson firmly implanted (pun intended) in my mind, I switched my hunched-over plant to a larger, heavier pot that it couldn’t upend, and put it back on the shelf, but this time I turned it 180 degrees. It has been several months since then, and I can see some small improvements in the newer, more flexible stems. However, the main body of the plant is so drastically bowed that I wonder if it will ever be able to correct itself. If I’d simply realized my mistake and begun to rotate it sooner, I’d have a very different looking rubber plant right now.

Whether you’re dealing with a painful back, achy joints, or stinging nerves, the general rule of physical therapy is this: the longer you’ve had the pain, the longer it usually takes to recover from it. If you take steps to address the pain once you first notice it (such as using R.I.C.E. and/or seeing your physical therapist), a smoother, complete recovery is almost always guaranteed. However, if you let the pain persist for weeks, months, even years (thinking you will deal with it later, or hoping it will just go away on its own), your road to recovery is going to be much longer. Not that you can never achieve a pain-free lifestyle if you’ve been living with chronic pain, it just will be more challenging.

It’s true for pain, house plants, money issues, weight gain, relationship troubles, and problems of every kind – addressing the problem when it’s little is a lot easier than waiting for the problem to grow. Until next time, rotate your house plants and keep moving, my friends!

– Alan

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