When we have a problem, such as physical pain, there are many different ways in which we might react. Some of us might try to ignore it and just keep going. We may be afraid of what we might find if we start investigating the pain, or even if just acknowledge it. Or we might want to believe that we are stronger than this petty little issue, after all there are worse things in the world. If the pain is bad enough we may also just want to surrender ourselves to someone who we like to believe can fix us.
Another approach we have available is to start taking charge and investigate this problem, possible causes and solutions ourselves. We might consult several experts and therapists to help us along the way but ultimately we are in charge, we research, evaluate, experiment and decide what seems right for us. This is perhaps the most proactive and best way to deal with recurrent or persistent pain. And yet it does not come with its pitfalls.
There is a fine line between proactive problem solving and obsessing, over-analysing, dissecting and making things worse!
I know this from first hand experience. I used to undertake any professional development course I could find that promised me I would learn the skills to totally understand the body, its anatomy and movement biomechanics. And yes I did learn a lot and sometimes that knowledge came in handy. Unfortionatly when it comes to persistent or chronic pain a different approach is often more useful. Why? Because we are usually not dealing with an anatomical or biomechanical problem, but with a neurological one.
Once I myself was stuck in an unending pain loop and my doctors, who assured me that there was nothing medically wrong with me any more, suggested I take a good strong dose of pain killers for a bit, so that my brain would simply forget about the pain.
I am not so keen on taking strong medication if I can avoid it, so I began to learn how I can help my brain move on and out of the vicious pain cycle. Since then this experience has informed my work with every client who is struggling with recurrent and chronic pain. However it was recently, when I was working with a new client that I remembered how this approach may not seem logical to many of us at first.
After my client described the pain to me for a while I asked him to feel into his body and find out where in his body he feels the opposite to the pain. What felt really good? Since pain has the habit to drown out any other more comfortable sensations it is often not an easy question to answer. My client was also somewhat reluctant, obviously wondering how it would help him to pay attention to the parts of him that had no problems. “I am a problem solver,” he explained and it was very apparent too. He indeed was able to tell me an awful lot about what he suspected was the problem and all the ways in which he had prodded the pain and tried to get rid of it.
Sometimes we get lost in the problem and we need to take a step back, give ourselves a break and take in the bigger picture. Once he had considered this idea he looked much more relaxed. Once we give the pain itself some space and the rest of ourself some attention the pain already had less of a grip on us. It stops being so all consuming and we can resource ourselves better in order to deal with it.
Both of these things are very important. Pain is not just an unpleasant plague to get rid off. Pain is our nervous system’s way of letting us know it has detected a problem. If we do not accept it first of all and allow it to be heart it will only shout louder. Secondly, if we make the effort to stay in touch with all that we are while the pain is shouting we do not loose ourselves in the pain. We keep perspective and can say “something is wrong, other things are okay and strong.” If we are aware of this, our nervous system is aware of it too and makes the pain much more tolerable for us as it does not become so all consuming.
From this place we can being an intervention that includes all that we are as a whole, which means we are also more likely going to affect the cause of the pain. If we just rub the soar muscle to kingdom come, or keep stretching or doing the same exercises or take the pills that helped at some point, we are only tackling the issue on the surface and we are feeding the pain cycle. The real cause of persistent, chronic pain is usually more complex and as mentioned before, includes the nervous system. So a holistic approach is needed in which we reorient and resource the nervous system just as much as we engage with the problem.
If you would like help with managing and improving your persistent or chronic pain you can contact Kristin at The Body Matters on 01702 714968.