Disclaimer (from blushangel): “I write about my personal experiences. I am not a medical professional. One should consult with their doctor before pursuing any kind of alternative or traditional treatment for chronic pain.”
The first time I was flogged was only about a month after I entered the public community. I loved it instantly!! It was a sensation unlike any I had ever felt before, and was anything but painful. The few veteran folks at the party who were watching, could tell immediately just how positively taken I was because of the enormous grin on my face after only a few strokes from the flogger…and by the fact that I did not want to stop! What I hadn’t yet realized at that very early stage in my journey, was that I had discovered something that would transform the way I process and ultimately learn to deal with the chronic nerve pain I have been living with for over 10 years.
I was initially drawn to BDSM and the BDSM community for other reasons, and it has enriched my life and my relationships in so many ways that I could have never imagined. However, I want to focus on this most unexpected finding…that intense BDSM play, particularly flogging and sensation play, helps to reduce chronic pain. For me, and others whose stories I have read, there is also a considerable mental and emotional component that accompanies chronic pain. It’s incredibly difficult to see yourself as a romantic and sexual being, because you’re so defined by the pain. Along with the physical benefits, BDSM has also been an incredible way for me to explore this mental and emotional component of my pain and restore my confidence in what my body is capable of and in my ability to connect on a physical and emotional level with others.
I was diagnosed with vulvodynia in 2007, which was followed by a diagnosis of endometrosis in 2010. After multiple surgeries, nerve block injections, physical therapy, and opioid drug therapy, my condition had significantly improved by 2015. In addition, with a rather rare surgery in 2015, my vulvodynia was cured. However, due to damage done by the endometrosis, and also a significant amount of scar tissue and nerve damage from the multiple surgeries, I was still left with chronic pain on the right side of my pelvis that often flared up and caused radiating nerve pain down my right leg. Currently, I manage this with physical therapy and a consistent meditation and yoga practice. In addition, I am planning another surgery this summer that has the potential to significantly improve my condition even further.
I was quite worried at first that my pain would be a barrier for my ability to engage in BDSM. I do have to be very aware of my body and be sure to communicate to my play partners any restrictions or flare-ups that result from my condition. Flogging, in particular, as opposed to other types of impact play is ideal for me, because floggers can create so many more sensations than paddles, crops, or canes. These items also tend to be less forgiving upon impact. There is something about the range of a flogger, and the way the falls diffuse the impact that is incredibly gratifying. When combined with rope bondage or other painful sensations there is an even more delicious combination that acts as the most natural painkiller I have ever experienced.
How does this work? Clearly, there is an instant endorphin rush and dopamine release with BDSM play that can cause a reduction in pain, and also accounts for what most in the community know as “subspace”. The more I have done flogging scenes, the more I have started to take notice of just how incredibly relaxed and sleepy I am after a really heavy flogging. Being able to get significant rest and sleep is vital to my body being able to repair and restore itself. Often, because of pain I am unable to sleep well. The amount of relaxation or subspace that a heavy flogging brings can make it possible for me to sleep. I also started to wonder why the world seemed to have brighter edges for a day or two after a great flogging or a night of really intense play. Perhaps during play the “good pain” that is being inflicted upon me is diverting my brain’s attention away from my “bad pain.” Admittedly, I wish I knew enough about how the brain works to understand why, but for me it’s next to impossible to remember that I have constant pain shooting down my leg when I am tightly bound with rope, blindfolded, and someone is putting clamps on my nipples, or when I am taking a heavy beating from a flogger, or being whipped with a single tail. Possibly pain signals in my brain are becoming “mixed up,” or the sensations are so intense that it just takes me out of my mind entirely. Regardless, I have experienced significant relief immediately after a flogging or play session, and even continued relief for a day or two after an intense night of play.
Quite recently, I had the pleasure of receiving the heaviest flogging I’ve ever been given. Immediately following the scene, I was ready to be tucked into bed and fall asleep! I was feeling no pain! I was still floating on air the next day, and had significant pain reduction even two days later. When I experience sub-drop, it is typically not until two or three days after play. As I began to come down from my post flogging high on the third day, I noticed that my chronic pain or “bad pain” begins to return. I can only deduce from this that, the heavier the (consensual) impact, the longer the potential pain reduction benefits will last. This relief is of course temporary, but so is any relief I have ever received from other forms of treatment such as opioids or anesthetic nerve block injections. I would much rather get my relief from a natural high that is the result of engaging in an activity that brings joy and pleasure in so many other ways as well.
While there is little more than anecdotal evidence and speculation from the medical community as to the link between BDSM and “good pain” and the relief it gives those with chronic pain, I can speak from personal experience. I have also encountered others in the community with similar experiences. Unfortunately there is little to no research on this subject. Aside from multiple blog posts providing additional anecdotal evidence and personal stories from others in similar situations to mine, the link to an article in Psychology Today at the end of this article is as close as I have come to finding any explanation or “research” regarding BDSM and “good” vs. “bad” pain.
I quite truly stumbled upon this happy accident of BDSM play as a way to reduce my chronic pain while exploring my sexuality, myself, and what it means to connect with partners in this new way. It would be impossible at this point to separate my pain or my kinkiness from who I am. I can’t really explain how or why my brain processes “good” and “bad” pain in this way or why being flogged and dominated helps to reduce my pain. I’m just so thankful that it does.
About the Author
When looking for a way to turn what had always been kinky ideas and submissive desires into a tangible reality, blushangel discovered the Los Angeles BDSM Community a little over 2 years ago and has not looked back. Besides exploring kink and submission, her favorite things are yoga, the beach, and incorporating her love of fashion into her fetishes of corsetry, lingerie, and erotic photography.
Thank you for writing this piece, blushangel!
I adore learning more ways that BDSM can have practical value and benefit. Thanks for sharing your story!
It’s called Gate Control, and is a fairly common method for the treatment of pain, usually chronic pain conditions. It’s the basis for the use of TENS by the medical community (you didn’t think they were all for kinksters, did you?) and may also explain the effectiveness of acupuncture.
Extraordinary! There is not enough literature on this topic.
Jennifer Masri says
Love! Love! Love!