Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Have you Ever Felt Stretched?

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Two weeks ago I woke up at 3am one morning with pain. Eventually the pain died down but I wasn’t able to go back to sleep. Then the next morning the pain came back. And it was even more intense.

I tried to ignore it, but this pain was talking. As I drove to work I decided it represented something real and something bad going on inside of me. I wanted to, but I couldn’t ignore it any longer. And even though the pain settled down some after arriving, I called my doctor.

The CT scan I obtained that morning proved what we suspected. A kidney stone in my right ureter.

photo by bokeh burger

photo by bokeh burger (Creative Commons license)

Nothing Helped

The stone was small enough that we decided to give it a chance to pass. To let the issue resolve itself. I drank so much water I thought I was going to drown. For the next week or so I had very little if any pain.

And then Wednesday happened.

I didn’t have the debilitating type of pain that so many described. I didn’t pass out. I wasn’t lying on the floor in the fetal position. But the pain came that morning and it did not let up.

Alleve didn’t help. Holding my side didn’t help. Sitting didn’t help. Standing didn’t help.

On Thursday I went and talked to a urologist. He offered to perform a lithotripsy. He offered to blow the stone into tiny pieces. Without hesitation I said yes.

What Does the Urologist Say?

I’ve never had the idea that a urologist would have anything interesting to say. The stories they tell at parties must be weird and disgusting and scary all at the same time. But my urologist explained something to me that I didn’t know.

He told me that I wasn’t actually feeling pain.

He wasn’t suggesting what I felt wasn’t real. He was merely telling me that my brain didn’t understand what I felt. Instead of pain I was feeling my ureter being stretched.

Lost in Translation

Your body is filled with different types of sensory receptors. Baroreceptors respond to pressures in your blood vessels helping you to regulate blood flow to your brain. Chemoreceptors detect noxious chemicals. Hydroreceptors respond to changes in the humidity. Thermoreceptors respond to changes in temperatures.

And of course there are pain receptors.

When stimulated, each receptor sends a signal to your brain. Then your brain interprets the signal. And then you make a decision about what to do.

In the ureter there are no pain receptors. Only stretch receptors. My brain didn’t know what do with the information it was receiving. It didn’t know how to interpret what was going on inside of me.

But I can tell you, along with every other person who has a kidney stone, it sure felt like pain.

My brain told me the wrong thing.

Better Stories Stretch Us

Kidney stones are not the only thing that has the potential to stretch us and make us hurt. Living a better story can do the same.

  • When we take risks, it hurts.
  • When we take a step forward not knowing the way to go, it hurts.
  • When we sacrifice for the good of someone else it hurts.
  • When we end a day exhausted, not knowing how we can possibly do tomorrow, it hurts.
  • When we choose to love unconditionally, it can be extremely painful.

But in these moments, what feels like pain is really our souls being stretched. Our brains just don’t know how to interpret the sensation. Our brains tell us something we don’t like is happening to us.

And we want it to stop.

Being Stretched for a Purpose

There is nothing good in a kidney stone. It benefits nobody. And so blasting it to pieces can be a good option to make the misinterpreted stretching to stop.

But better stories do have benefit. The stretching is for a purpose. The misinterpreted pain is for a reason.

Better stories benefit others. Better stories benefit us. Better stories help us to become.

You can’t accomplish your bigger purpose if you avoid the stretching even when it does feel like pain.  The goal is to take a step today in spite of how or what you feel.

Have you ever felt stretched?

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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18 Replies

  1. Ouch. Sorry Jeremy. Tough time to be physically stretched when I’m sure everything else in your life is feeling pretty stretched right now.

  2. The day of the procedure was actually nice. I took a big nap. I had no responsibilities. I spent the entire day with my wife.

    Try not to stretch yourself with too many crepes.

  3. Are you kidding me? Stretching is what inspires me to write. The theme of my blog (Jon Stolpe Stretched) is … STRETCHING. Love this post!

  4. I thought if you as I wrote it. I didn’t think of you when it hurt.

  5. I hope you didn’t think of me when it hurt. Glad you’re doing better.

  6. Thanks for the encouragement, and very glad to hear you are feeling better as well! I do feel like I am being stretched, in many ways, but am not sure what the purpose is yet. I will take the next step though. . . thanks again!

  7. You brought up an interesting topic. What do you do if you don’t know why the stretching is happening. Before my CT scan, the pain was scary.

  8. DDF

    Thanks Jeremy… Your posts both encourage and stretch me. Still made me wince, in spite of the urologists explanation.

  9. Yes, scary. . . is it a sign that something is wrong, or that something just needs to change a little? Or, like you, do we need to seek advice from someone who might know more about the symptoms?

  10. Stretching? Pain? Whatever. It isn’t good.

  11. I felt relieved, with a diagnosis. It made me understand that the pain was okay. And what to do next when the pain didn’t go away.

  12. Grandma P.

    At the tender age of 58, I went back into the classroom (after a 15 year hiatus), but this time as a Special Education teacher for children ages 7 and younger — something totally new for me. Talk about being STRETCHED! For the first time in my career I feel like my teaching has meaning. I feel needed and humbled at the same time by my students, their parents, and my colleagues. The stretching hurts, no doubt. At my age I’d rather sit back, enjoy my crazy 8 grandchildren and quilt all day. But it’s the stretching that brings me back every day. The stretching tells me there’s more to be done before I’m finished. Thanks for the thought-provoking stories. Look forward to what you have to share every time.

  13. I’m glad you keep going back. I bet the kids are too. : )

  14. Too late. 🙂

    Joe Bunting

  15. In that case, eat a banana and nutella crepe for me.

  16. Jan

    So glad you’re feeling better. I’ve been through the “stretching” (painful) experience of a kidney stone. Thanks for the explanation about the ureter being stretched. Definitely a type of stretching I never like to feel again!!

    Being stretched is often painful, but as the Lord leads us through the process, sometimes a long one, we can look back and see how the Lord has led us, helped us, and worked through us one step at a time to touch the lives of others. Having an adult child with a severe disability, chronic health issues, and raising three children as a single parent, has been a very stretching experience. Many times it was so painful, and I wondered how I’d ever get through it, but God has been so good, and taught me so much. I have been able to use these stretching experiences to minister comfort to others. I now work with the elderly and have been able to connect with others who are going through difficult times. To God be the glory!!

    Keep sharing your stories!! It encourages us all to live a better story!!

  17. I can only imagine how much stretching you have endured. I’m glad that it helped you become, though.

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