A large number of people suffering from chronic illness are also chronic pain sufferers. A question that I’ve constantly been asked is, “How do I cope with chronic pain?”
The answer? “Let your body move!”
Step One: Tune into Your Needs
Now before we take a look at how to use movement to overcome pain, it’s important to note that not all pain can be improved. Your pain may be due to a chronic condition such as Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme’s Disease, or Arthritis, and it may be hard to reduce your pain symptoms, no matter how hard you try. And in some cases, movement may be contraindicated, so please check with your doctor if you have any questions about your unique situation.
If it turns out that there isn’t anything you can do to turn your pain around, then there are other tools you can use. Medications for pain management in these situations can be a godsend. In addition, finding a psychotherapist who can help you come to terms with your reality by practicing acceptance, surrender and processing your grief is going to help you be able to cope with your symptoms.
But for many chronic pain sufferers, a reduction of symptoms really is possible through movement.
What Purpose Does Pain Serve?
In order to understand why movement is so important to pain management, we need to take a step back and ask, “What purpose does pain serve?”
Pain is designed to alert you that you are in danger. If you have a history of living with invasive medical procedures or chronic medical conditions, these may have been highly traumatic for your body and your whole sense of self. These experiences may have even given you the perception that your life was at stake. Your chronic pain may be related to physical tension that your body developed in order to protect you from being reminded of the original trauma. In other words, you may be holding an added layer of stress in your body as a way of protecting yourself against unbearable feelings of pain or discomfort.
Pain is a Sign of Stuck Energy
Trauma theory helps us understand this problem and what to do about it. Our bodies have a natural wisdom: when we feel a perceived life threat, we are designed to protect ourselves by running away, or fighting back—the fight or flight response. Trauma happens when we are unable to complete any of these natural self-protective movements. Frequently, this is exactly what happens when we are dealing with the effects of a chronic illness. We are living with symptoms and we can’t get away. When we don’t move and discharge the energy, it gets stuck in our nervous system. The pain then in turn creates more tension, which creates more pain. And we end up in a vicious cycle.
In Chinese medicine, pain is seen as chi, or life energy, that gets stuck somewhere in the body. The key to overcoming it is to get the energy moving. So in order to get out of pain, it’s critical to start moving your body when you are in pain. Even if you are not working with a trauma therapist right now, you can put this tool into practice by starting to pay attention to the way you body wants to move when you are in pain.
Explore Movement, Your Way
You may find that you want to push against a wall, shake, stretch or even roll around on the floor. You can also experiment with using your voice to release tension. As you let yourself experiment with movement and vocalization, it signals to your body that you don’t have to hold onto tension patterns any longer. This is going to free up some of the stuckness and help your nervous system reset and return to a state of relaxation and well-being.
Body-centered Psychotherapy Can Help
If you are a chronic pain sufferer and don’t have a psychotherapist to walk with you every step of the way to help you get out of pain, let’s connect on the phone and see how I can help you get the results you want much faster.
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Looking forward to speaking with you soon.
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