Woodworking For Therapy #10: Woodworking For Pain Relief

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Blog entry by Steve Kreins posted 01-22-2014 01:42 PM 1558 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: This Can Be Nerve Racking! Part 10 of Woodworking For Therapy series Part 11: No Saw Dust This Week, But.......... »

I hope you all understand that I am not complaining about the pain associated with my liver cancer. The things I write are to ENCOURAGE OTHERS WITH DISABILITIES of all kinds. Let me share what happened this morning.

In Part 9, I wrote about my experience with my first glue up and first end grain cutting board. I joked that maybe I’d just sit in my man cave all night and watch the glue dry. Well, I almost did.

I went to bed about 9:00 PM. The chemo is making me need a lot of rest, it also has one side effect they didn’t tell me about until after I started, inflammation of the joints. I already had some pain in my joints, especially my ankles and hands so I take an anti-inflammatory that helps some. (meloxicam)
At 3:30 AM I woke up and almost screamed because the pain was so bad.
I have a pretty high pain threshold, not that I could give birth to a child or anything, but I’m usually able to grin and bear it. Not this morning! I could barely walk to the bathroom to grab some pain killers they gave me, that I rarely take, but this time I took a double dose. Now the pain killers take about 30 to 45 minutes to have any effect and I figured if I went back to bed and moaned about my pain, my wife might cause me some real pain. (not really, she’s a sweety), but I didn’t want to wake her so….........

I grabbed a walker that belonged to my mother-in-law and scooted out to my man cave and sat in front of my work bench. There I was in the middle of the night, watching glue dry. That’s kind of like watching the grass grow here in Texas. As I sat there I quickly took out a tablet and started sketching plans for my next project and looking around the shop to see what I was going to need. The pain was still there, but they say 70% of pain is psychological, and I think whoever “they” are, they are correct. On a scale of 1 to 10 my pain started at a 25+. Within ten minutes, while sitting in my shop it went down to an 8. I’d say that proves what I’ve been saying all along, “Woodworking is good medicine!” BTW, watching glue dry isn’t my favorite thing to do at 3:30 in the morning, but this morning it was.

Now I’m going to get a little spiritual here so close your eyes if that bothers you. The Bible tells me some things that apply here (at least two). First, You reap what you sow. I am sowing my energy into woodworking and what am I reaping? Well, YOU for starters and all the wonderful people I’m meeting who are helping and encouraging and teaching me. I appreciate you all so much. Secondly Philippians 4:8 tells us to meditate on good things. I think about woodworking all of the time now, not on the cancer. It has helped me more than I can express in words.

One last thought about sowing good seeds through woodworking. The return is far more than I sow! I have more energy, less pain, my wife isn’t as stressed as she was when she sees me getting excited and doing things. I am building some great relationships with several of you through messages and e-mails. the list just goes on and on. I could sit around waiting for something good to happen or I can do my part and plant seeds. I found this note that I wrote to myself 15 years ago and I’ve put it up in my shop as a reminder.

You all have a wonderful day making sawdust!

-- I thank God for everything, especially all of you!

14 comments so far

View lightcs1776's profile


4272 posts in 2935 days

#1 posted 01-22-2014 01:46 PM

Cool note, Steve.

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

View RHaynes's profile


113 posts in 2901 days

#2 posted 01-22-2014 02:02 PM

“The Bible calls this faithfulness.”

Right on. I love this blog. Glad you were able to use your new hobby to help you through the pain. I remember my mom having a lot of joint pain while she was on the chemo, but it improved with time thankfully. That was five years ago now and she’s still going strong although the neuropathy still gives her problems from time to time. Best thing is to keep everything flowing by staying in motion – and you’ve found and activity that can certainly involve a good workout, especially if you’re using some hand tools! Just be careful wih the power tools because “chemo brain” is a real thing, not a joke. All it takes is that one second of inattention. Stay strong, keep the faith!

-- "Sometimes the creative process requires foul language." -- Charles Neil.

View GrandpaLen's profile


1652 posts in 3553 days

#3 posted 01-22-2014 04:32 PM


Your ability to compartmentalize your pain thru woodworking is truely a blessing.
It’s a shame that the doctors can’t write a prescription for that. Keep that Faith my friend.

Lord when things get difficult, lead me to Your word and remind me that You are in control.

Best Regards. – Grandpa Len.
Work Safely and have Fun.

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View WoodGuyScott's profile


51 posts in 2944 days

#4 posted 01-22-2014 05:00 PM

I find it aweing, truly, to witness the strength that God pours into his children. Remember that it is through pain and struggle that God prunes us, that we may bear better fruit.

My wife and I are going to pray for your health, and the joy you have in your passions.

Keep on, brother in Christ,


-- --Shafe

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

9996 posts in 3609 days

#5 posted 01-22-2014 05:22 PM


There was an interesting article about back pain on NPR just this week. There is a growing view in the medical community that more (drugs, stronger drugs, surgery, repeat surgery) is often not better.

They interviewed a doctor who had excruciating, yet inexplicable, back pain. Surgery made it worse, repeat surgery made him nearly a cripple.

So there’s a lot of momentum behind the idea that many suffer false pain, in which nerves signal pain messages when they shouldn’t. And the therapy is to learn how to ignore the pain.

Dating myself here, but Johny Winter used to sing blues song with the chorus “Mind over matter, matter over mind” and for years I’ve said to myself, “if it doesn’t matter, I’m not going to mind” and “If I don’t mind, it doesn’t matter” And though I’ve never been much of a runner, when I used to have to do PRTs, I used to run through my side cramps by thinking “if I don’t mind (the pain), it doesn’t matter.

Another little ditty I’ve used for fear/pain management is the mantra from Frank Herbert’s Dune books…”I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. “

Admittedly, none of this is really spiritual… or is it?

O.K. I rambled on long enough…. have great day

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4615 days

#6 posted 01-22-2014 05:28 PM

I’ve been ‘treating’ my arthritis and other pains with woodworking for about 18 years now Steve, so it’s easy to understand and agree with you on the benefits of being in the shop. I also totally agree with your very wise note. If we have dreams for the future we need to find out what steps are necessary to get where we want to go and start walking! Keep up the good work and I hope you get good results from your chemo therapy. I think you will become a very good woodworker based on what we’ve seen of your work so far.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View alohafromberkeley's profile


257 posts in 3685 days

#7 posted 01-22-2014 05:55 PM

Steve, I think you’re a better man than I am (another 60’s reference) You’re handling your travails with humor and grace. There are people who end up miserable and lonely because they don’t trust themselves. I gain something with every one of your posts (PS-Mike, just finished Dune last night, man, I love that book!).................Wes

-- "After a year of doing general farmwork, it was quite clear to me that chickens and I were not compatible"-George Nakashima

View Bigrock's profile


292 posts in 4243 days

#8 posted 01-22-2014 08:09 PM

Keep on smelling the saw dust. There is something in it that helps us.
For several years up to June 2010, I would walk out to the shop, sit down on a stool because the pain was so bad and look at the tools and wood and 30 min. later walk back to the house. I had been fighting for years for help for lower back pain. I found a doctor that said he could help, and he did. I am in the shop now for 6 to 8 hours a day. The saw dust smells great. Mine was not cancer. Steve, you keep on fighting and have fun in the shop.

View Steve Kreins's profile

Steve Kreins

358 posts in 2912 days

#9 posted 01-22-2014 11:24 PM

Bigrock I did the same thing today. After I got a few hours sleep I came out into the cave and watched my glue up dry for a while, had a cup of coffee (well, actually several, don’t tell my wife) , and I just looked at the tools, read a few woodworking articles and it’s now 5:00 PM and I’m still in my bathrobe, but feeling much better.

I even drew up plans for a new project my wife wants. It’s an outdoor plant starter to get ready for spring. I even figured out I have everything in my scrap to build it except a set of hinges.

Even though I didn’t build anything I keep a small pile of sawdust on my workbench so I can take a sniff when needed. ;)

Thanks for the feedback, BTW I have a stool for working, but I also put in a swivel rocker for thinking. Much easier on my back.

Be Blessed!

-- I thank God for everything, especially all of you!

View Todd's profile


421 posts in 2957 days

#10 posted 01-23-2014 12:23 AM

I was beginning to get whiny today. Thanks for curing me of that! God Bless You!!!

-- Todd, Huntsville, AL

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3971 days

#11 posted 01-23-2014 01:36 AM

Steve, I agree that pain is always worse when you are just laying around. Can’t explain it, but the more I do, the less it hurts.” Staying too busy to die” is a saying I heard somewhere a long time ago and I have tried to live that way ever since.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View CFrye's profile (online now)


11376 posts in 3121 days

#12 posted 01-23-2014 02:57 PM

Thanks for sharing your insights Steve. Distraction is a method I encourage my patients to use when they are in pain (and focused breathing). As you have discovered, it does work. God bless you brother. You are in my prayers.

-- God bless, Candy

View Dave T's profile

Dave T

196 posts in 4901 days

#13 posted 01-23-2014 03:38 PM

Just read your entire series. I love it.

I’ve always found my woodworking to be a huge stress reliever and an escape from the everyday to help me decompress. I had a heart attack on 12/23/13 and have gotten a second chance with a new outlook. While I’ve been off from work recovering, I too have realized just how much therapy woodworking is for me. While it can be somewhat physical I find myself feeling better after being out in the shop. Just wanted to share. You are you’re family are in my prayers.


View NinjaAssassin's profile


656 posts in 3005 days

#14 posted 01-30-2014 03:18 AM

You’re in my prayers, Steve. I’m glad to read that woodworking helps you so much. Keep it going!

-- Billy

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