Pain Management: The link between stress and physical pain

Those people who live with chronic pain will tell you that on top of the pain itself, they feel exhausted.  Constant pain debilitates you to the point where you may have days, weeks, or even months, at a time when you just can’t face moving.  At my worst, I was a disabled blue badge holder suffering from prolapsed discs in my lumbar region and neck and with a diagnosis of dystonia.

It’s true that as you learn to adjust and live with the condition that you have been dealt with, your pain threshold tends to get higher.  The medical profession can prescribe medication to help at some level, with the physical symptoms.  Often though it’s the mental and emotional debris from a chronic condition that is harder to live with.  In my experience, at this point, your GP may suggest anti-depressants.

What if there is another way? 

The body tends to hold memories of pain and this helps to protect us and stop us from doing something that may exacerbate our condition.  So, we need this brake then?  Well, we do and we don’t.  If I have a damaged back, I might be considered foolish if I decide to go horse-riding or bungee jumping and so I need that internal reminder of what the consequences of my behaviour might be.  But what about my reaction to, for example, a difficult phone conversation or an argument with my child?  Why should my back play up then?  Anyone who has a chronic condition will acknowledge that stress worsens it.

There are several reasons.

If you hold stress in your body, you may start to feel tense, you hold yourself differently and this, in turn, can trigger back pain as your muscles begin to tighten.  The pain itself causes stress and a vicious circle begins.

Old memories can do the same, they can bring with them a whole raft of emotion and this can cause a reaction where there is already a weakness.  If this all sounds a bit silly to you.  Think about the butterflies you might get in your stomach when you are nervous.  Or consider the way your throat dries up when you have to speak and are uncomfortable doing so.  Our bodies react to our emotions constantly and automatically.  Scientists believe that on a cellular level we hold memories of past trauma throughout our bodies.

Pain and suffering are not the same.  Pain is inevitable, but suffering is the story that we develop around the pain.  If we go back to the back analogy there will be physical pain no doubt, there is damage and that will have consequences.  But the suffering comes when I remember what the pain has been like in the past, how having such damage limits me, how I felt at its worst, and all of the what-if and ‘W’ questions that have developed since the onset of symptoms.  What if I had done something differently?  What if I never get better?  What if I get worse?  What if I become a burden on everybody?  Why did this have to happen? And of course, the one we may secretly ask ourselves and which is often a guilty secret because there are people out there who are worse off than me right?  But in the privacy of my mind and wrapped up in guilt and shame for even thinking it…Why me?

Some important questions that a good practitioner will ask about your symptoms are ‘What was going on in your life when the problem started?’ and ‘How did/does this make you feel?’  Our issues are not linear by that I mean one doesn’t necessarily follow the other they can and often do, happen at the same time.  Emotions, bodily sensations that developed in response to one experience may have become tied up and linked to other things that were happening at the same time.  This is not something that you would even be aware of especially with the passage of time.  But it means that those strong feelings that emerged at a difficult time period keep getting reaffirmed deep in your subconscious mind and body.  Emotion and actual physical pain become interwoven and your stress just mounts and as the stress mounts your physical symptoms resurface.

therapy anxiety stress pain

So how do we take out the emotion?

We become detectives and break the problem down.  Initially, focusing on how the diagnosis makes you feel.  Where in the body that feeling has settled e.g. ‘I feel sick in the pit of my stomach’.  If it has a physical sensation or colour ‘I have this red-hot ball of pain’.  We then diminish or remove these feelings and replace them with happier thoughts.

Next, we consider what was happening in your life at the onset or diagnosis of the problem and how these other issues affected you at the time.  Often there is a correlation and so, we deal with these feelings too.

This results in removing energy blockages which whilst in place have a detrimental effect on health and well-being.  The key to getting good success is that the focus remains on you and you use your own words to describe your experience because only by using affirmative statements that resonate strongly with the truth inside you can you successfully address the issue.

Beware of practitioners who literally try to put words into your mouth!  You will only see improvement when you take ownership and are completely honest.  For this reason, you may have to try several practitioners before you find the one who makes you feel supported and able to be yourself.  Once you have a clear idea of where the treatment is leading, you trust the practitioner and you engage with the process you will feel emotional and energetic shifts. 

My own back pain, the result of three prolapsed discs in the lumbar region, dramatically improved in two sessions but, obviously, we are all individuals.  Since then, using pain management techniques, I have come off all medication and more importantly, avoided having an operation on my lumbar region and a further operation to replace two discs in my neck. 

If you would like to know more about pain management and the link between physical and mental health, then please get in touch.  You can email me carol@carolhickson.co.uk or telephone me on 07899806494.  

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