#22. BLOCKING PAIN, Part VI. Riding with the wind

In my previous papers I tried to uncover the scientific basis of several “pain blocking” techniques. We talked about imagery, use of counter-irritation techniques, changing brain waves, blocking the conscious brain with hypnosis, and the placebo effect. Today, in my last paper on the topic, I want to share with you what I know about an amazing group of women that has filled me with awe and wonder for their ability to seek freedom, break the barriers and even “block pain”!

When I decided with my husband to start riding a motorcycle 10 years ago (at the beginning of my “zoomer” years), we took a safety course and then bought our first Harley Davidson bikes. While my husband was my companion over the weekends, this was not always the case. So, I tried to find girlfriends who enjoyed the same sport and came across the Motor Maids of Canada. The Motor Maids (for short MMs) was the first all-women motorcycle group founded in 1940 in the USA with the Canadian division founded in 1949. Together, the group consists today of over 1200 fun loving motorcycle female riders across North America, with more than 120 in the Eastern Central District in Canada where I belong. So, I phoned timidly the then president who welcomed me and suggested that I meet the group in the MM Mother’s Day Brunch held outside Toronto. This was May 2003. It was rainy weather and I chickened out, deciding to leave the bike home and take the car.

When I arrived at the brunch place, I was amazed to see at least 35 bikes parked outside, street bikes, cruisers, sport bikes, ranging in size from small to gigantic, with helmets laying on their seats . Inside the restaurant I was welcomed by a large group of women of all ages but mostly well over 40 and 50. Most were leather clad with chaps (the special leather motorcycle pants most of us wear) with heavy jackets hanging at the backs of their chairs. I sat in a round table of 8 women and I introduced myself to the bubbly group. Once I said I was a pain doctor the conversation turned very quickly to health issues and specifically pain. Hildi, a white haired woman sitting on my right side, asked what kind of bike I ride and in turn I asked her the same question. She replied: “Well, I cannot ride a bike this year as I am still in therapy”. In short, Hildi had been involved in a serious motorcycle accident the year before and had suffered a broken shoulder and a double fracture in the bones of one leg. She ended up having surgery for an artificial shoulder and a large plate with pins for the leg.

“I guess, then, you cannot ride anymore” I said. “No way” Hildi replied. “I have already ordered a new bike with modifications”. Hildi was then 68 years old, but was not the only one at the table with pain. A younger looking woman, around 38, said ”I am in pain almost all the time. I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia”. She admitted she had lots of stress in her life been a single mom of 3 and working to support her family. “But”, she went on, “I get onto my bike and all the pains disappear when I am riding out there”! A third woman took part in this “painful” conversation. She was short, close to 60 years of age and had a noticeably crooked spine.”I, too, have pain nearly all the time. I had two back surgeries, but they did not work. “How do you manage?” I asked. “Well, just knowing I can still harness my steel horse between my legs, gives me a lot of satisfaction and somehow blocks my pain when I ride”. “Of course”, she went on, “I have a good horse” and pointed to a monstrous cruiser, many times her own body weight.