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Pain is an Option – part 2, What Pain Does

Graceful MorningWe all know that pain tells us that something is wrong. What we might miss is that the immediate pain is telling us that something was wrong for a while. As we became more stressed and tense, we became less aware. This inverse relationship builds until we have significant pain. When the standard route of treatment is not working and the pain is getting worse, the old coping pattern shifts. It’s only when the pain is greater than the fear of trying something different that we will muster up the courage to try a new option.

When I had a holistic medical clinic in Scottsdale, AZ, we operated the largest Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program in the country. Hospitals and corporations would send us their chronic pain patients and stressed-out people. These students were the people others gave up on helping. Through eight weeks of 45 minutes of practice per day plus a weekly class, we were continually amazed at how the students transformed. Chronic pain students would be off their pain meds and suffering no pain within weeks.

What we were teaching couldn’t have been simpler. We were teaching the students to do the opposite of what they’d perfected: rather than attempt not to feel their bodies or their pain—or tighten up against it—we taught them to feel. As they felt and breathed, they relaxed. As they relaxed, a little of their tension would release. At first, these small acts of surrendering were scary. It was going against everything we all were trained to do.

We had athletes, physicians, and corporate executives coming in each week sharing their stories of how their pain was gone, how they weren’t stressed out, and how they were getting more done. They realized that their chronic pain was more a function of their chronic stress conditioning than that last accident. Just like in my Rolfing practice, once people have a little improvement from some non-standard approach, they are fully committed to doing what it takes to read all the pain.

No one wants to be in pain. Most people have the smarts and courage to do what it takes to get out of pain. Understandably, after the experience of many drugs, treatments, and shelling out of money, these people were hesitant to try “another treatment.” One thing chronic pain does is wear you out—you become discouraged. When others tell you there is nothing that can be done, it’s understandable that you’re depressed.

Many years ago, a woman sent her friend to me for Rolfing. The client sat on my couch describing how at the end of the week at the Mayo Clinic, the best that they could suggest was the woman see their psychiatrist. When I walked over to touch the places I saw that were tense and in pain, she began crying. In her tears, she said, “You’re the first person who believed me.”

Next week I will discuss alterative solutions to pain. All previous articles are on our blog.

Owen Marcus, MA Certified Advanced Rolfer, www.align.org – call if you have questions: 265.8440. 

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