There are a lot of things that can cause pain, some more obvious than others. For instance, if you break a bone or sprain an ankle there’s a natural pain response from the body that makes sense. But many times, especially with chronic pain, it is much less clear cut than that. It’s often hard to know exactly where the pain is coming from, and why it’s happening. And scores of doctor’s visits and medical tests can be less than helpful in figuring it out.
In my more than 20 years of helping people deal with and recover from pain, I’ve found that there are 3 things that commonly cause or contribute to pain, but that are often overlooked:
1. Fascial Restrictions.
Fascia is a 3 dimensional web of connective tissue that exists throughout your entire body. Have you ever pulled the skin away from a raw piece of chicken and seen that thin whitish membrane underneath? That’s fascia. Fascia connects everything to everything else in the body, from head to toe.
A restriction or imbalance in this fascial system can have far reaching effects. And fascial restrictions are very common. Releasing the restrictions and balancing out the fascial web very frequently leads to decreased, if not eliminated, pain.
Western medicine usually does not recognize the significance or even existence of these fascial restrictions, and typically does not offer treatments aimed at addressing them. But there are many types of alternative or complementary medicine that do, including Fascial Mobilization, Myofascial Release, Craniosacral Therapy, and Rolfing.
2. Blockages or Imbalances in the Human Energy Field.
Every living thing has an electromagnetic energy field that surrounds and penetrates it. This energy field is an integral part of the health of the body, and imbalances or blockages in the energy field commonly lead to pain. In fact, some people believe that anything that manifests physically has its origin in the energy field.
I find that physical pain almost always has an energetic component, typically with a decrease in the energy flow in the involved area of the body. Restoring the full flow of energy in the body often leads to a decrease in pain. Many alternative and complementary treatments are aimed at restoring the vitality and balance of the energy field, including acupuncture, Reiki and Craniosacral Therapy.
3. Unresolved Emotional Issues.
Every emotion has a physical expression. Have you ever seen a child have an emotion? Then you know what I’m talking about. Now imagine that that child, for whatever reason, is unable to safely express that emotion. She may learn to hold that emotion in. She may even come to believe that she doesn’t feel it. But the body will still have the experience. And over time, the body will develop some type of restriction pattern in order to hold that feeling in. And often, that restriction pattern will show up as pain.
This type of thing commonly happens with trauma, whether its a single traumatic event, or a recurring traumatic pattern. If you’re not able to fully express and resolve the feelings associated with the trauma, then the body may hold onto those emotions for you, resulting in pain.
But this doesn’t mean that the pain is “all in your head”. These chronic restriction patterns actually have an impact on the tissues of your body, and can lead to things like chronic muscle strains, arthritis, repetitive strain syndromes, and things like that. But the true cause of the tissue injury can be traced back to the unresolved emotional issues being held in the tissues.
There are many ways to address these unresolved emotional issues that are being expressed as physical pain. The most important thing is to recognize that the physical pain may have an emotional component, and to be willing to explore the pain from an emotional angle. You can do this work with a psychotherapist or other mental health practitioner, but it is best if this practitioner has an appreciation of the connection between the emotions and the body. You can also do this work with a bodyworker, such as a Massage Therapist or Craniosacral Therapist, but it is important that the practitioner has experience working with the emotional component of pain.
If you feel nervous about this type of exploration, then it is best that you work with a mental health practitioner that you trust before you start getting into the physical component. Remember, you chose not to express the emotions because you felt unsafe to do so, most likely for very good reason. So to now go and start to feel and express these emotions may feel very threatening to part of you. So honor that part, and go gently.
Pain is a complex and highly individualized experience. If you haven’t explored these 3 areas in relation to your pain, then perhaps one of them holds the key to real and lasting pain relief for you.
Wishing you health and happiness,