How often have you heard “I have a bad back, neck, arm, wrist, foot etc. My problem started when I lifted a heavy box, hiked in tight boots, twisted my neck, fell down, etc. about a year ago (or many years ago), and now I really need to be careful not to aggravate my injury.”
We tell the story of the onset of the pain or symptoms and identify a physical cause. Perhaps we pulled a muscle or experienced a strain, sprain or fracture; and the body sent signals to the brain firing up pain pathways.
Normally these signals decrease and the pain stops when the injury heals, usually within six weeks. Fractures of even our biggest bones heal within this time frame.
After this, the injury itself is not causing pain, but we continue to dwell on the story of the physical circumstances that caused the injury.
But there is another story – a story we often ignore – the story of what was going on in our lives when this happened. This hidden story holds the clues that reveal the emotional issues that perpetuate the persistent firing of pain pathways.
This phenomenon is often misunderstood. Many people have been told by well- meaning doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, etc. that their injury never healed or set off misalignments that continue to cause pain.
Injuries that occur around times of high stress, including periods of deep loss or major life transitions– death of a loved one, job loss, financial troubles – moving to a new home or city, new job, divorce, new baby, caring for aging relatives, etc.- greatly impact our bodies.
We now know that the same areas of the brain get fired up when people feel physical or emotional pain. Both are triggered by activation of the stress response.
Years ago I fell on the ice. I was nine months pregnant, carrying a huge basket of laundry and landed smack on my tailbone! I had recently moved to a new state leaving all my friends and family and was about to have a baby. I had never experienced snow or ice.
For decades after this my tailbone pain would “flare up” and often cause excruciating discomfort. As soon as I understood that these “flare ups” were caused by activation of pain pathways in the brain and were triggered by daily life stressors, the tailbone pain vanished.
Our bodies are designed to heal. We owe it to ourselves to acknowledge that everything in our life experience is connected – mind, body, emotions and spirit.
Let’s consider the possible emotional, psychological and spiritual causes for chronic symptoms – instead of becoming victims of purely physiological and anatomical ones.
We are not machines!
When we honor our emotional world with compassionate self-reflection, we bring balance back to the mindbody system; and the stress response calms down allowing our bodies to heal.
Remember, YOU hold the Key!