Chronic Pain and BDSM

August 10, 2022

As a sadomasochist I LOVE giving and receiving sensation. I love to touch and be touched. It took me a really long time to embrace that part of myself and even longer to learn about communicating my needs and desires in the arena of sensation, especially pain. Pain and I are very old friends. 

I have chronic pain from injuries I’ve collected over the years through sports and dance. I have a daily baseline of pain. I can recognize the pain and acknowledge it and move about my day most days. Other days I can’t get out of bed without help, my partner has to rub me down with CBD ointments and I keep my Advil at the ready. These are the days that I can’t necessarily be the ass kicking Dom I want to be. 

1 in 5 American adults experience chronic pain. The most common forms of chronic pain are arthritis, or joint pain, back pain and neck pain. As a pro Dom, I see a lot of clients that have fibromyalgia.  Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain and spinal cord process painful and non painful signals. Women are two times as likely than men to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. With over 20 years of chronic pain under my belt and a client base that is mostly non cis het men, I have spent much of my sexual and kinky life talking about pain and pain management.

Make it a part of your negotiations

Part of my negotiations for play, no matter if it is pick up play at a local dungeon or working with a new client, includes talking about chronic pain and injuries. By discussing potential injury or health issues that may be exacerbated during play, as well as any accommodation needs for disabilities, I can make sure that the scene we are crafting together meets my standards for RACK (Risk-aware consensual kink). These conversations are especially important when playing with bondage. Restrictive materials, such as rope or cuffs, can cause more problems for already existing nerve issues. Make sure aftercare is a part of negotiations as well. Years ago I had a partner that got me in the habit of asking for what I needed as part of my aftercare for my chronic pain. I asked for a massage.. Absolute heaven, but also helped with body aches down the line.

Use a pain scale

I would like to thank my doctor’s office for this one. “On a scale of 0-10, how would you rate your pain” is something that I like to ask during check in before play begins, but also during and after a scene. This is incredibly helpful for not only assessing pain levels of the play itself, but is a valuable tool to utilize with play partners with chronic pain. My daily pain level is about  a 3, but on bad pain days in my back and knees standing to do an impact scene isn’t in the cards for me, so I’ll need to make accommodations. This could look like sitting on a stool and my bottom laid out on a massage table or maybe a human furniture scene where all I have to do is sit on a very eager human chair. 

Honesty is the best policy

Some days aren’t the best day to play. It can be really disappointing to call off a scene, but that is why open and honest communication is vital. Part of this is rooted in self care too. Self care isn’t just about bubble baths and retail therapy. Things like making sure you have eaten and that you are hydrated, and checking in with your pain levels and headspace are important self care measures. This allows you to be, one, honest with yourself and two, provide information to your play partner that can determine if a scene should happen. One of my submissives is required to send me a text message in the morning and at night letting me know what self care measures they have taken for themselves. It is part of their practice of taking better care of themselves, but also so we know what days are better than others for the more physical impact play we both enjoy engaging in together. Being honest about how your body is doing and your chronic pain can lead to feeling more safe in your dynamics, but also improve the quality of your play you are having overall.

Relief, Release, and Control

One of the fews things I bottom to these days is bastinado or foot caning. My feet are always in pain. I have terrible arches and a compacted big toe. Having the soles of my feet caned is an incredible feeling. One of not only relief, but a deeply satisfying and pleasurable feeling as well. It is a controlled pain, a concentrated pain, that I have some authority over. I can make the scene stop at any time. I trust the partner that I allow to cane my feet, he knows my limits. I know that when my pain levels are high I want to dissociate or disconnect from my thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity. A controlled or ‘safe pain’ allows many people who suffer from chronic pain to be in their bodies, until they are ready to drift off into a satisfied headspace. I definitely recommend looking into the research by Emma Sheppard and her paper Using Pain, Living with Pain. 

I know it’s like a broken record in most kink and sex positive circles, but communication really is key. Having to have the difficult conversation with my submissives about how my body is changing and how my chronic pain is evolving as I get older was one that I dreaded a few years ago. My boys have been nothing, but understanding and supportive. My self care is important to them as well. Goddexx Worship, which was something a few years ago that I wasn’t that interested in, has become a fixture in starting scenes. It is part of our ritual and allows me another opportunity to check in with my body and communicate what my access needs might look like for the scene. Another opportunity for my boys to be of service and another opportunity to be mindful as we engage together.

Mx. Pucks A'Plenty

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