In Part 1 of our two-part series about chronic pain, we uncovered how chronic pain in the body can be linked to unresolved emotional issues. Though it may seem controversial to assert that pain originates from a psychological cause, please understand that it’s not meant to be understood as any type of personal shortcoming or character flaw. In fact, it’s extremely common in a society that has ill-equipped its citizens to manage their emotions and stress in a self-regulatory manner. Pain is real…regardless of its origin, and our goal is to help ease your suffering. We, however, need to shed light on the cause of pain in order to help you better treat its symptoms.
The Mind-Body Disconnect
Our bodies and minds are incredibly adaptive and, when certain capacities are limited, we compensate in order to continue to function. For example, people who have lost their sight unconsciously develop stronger alternative senses to process the data in the outside world around them. Similarly, if you stop listening to your internal cues, ignore anxieties, unresolved emotional issues, and pain sensations, push through warning signs, and tune out from your inner world, your body will compensate by eventually disconnecting from these inner signals. However, the issues remain unresolved; while this adaptive mechanism can allow you to ignore your needs in the present moment, those unmet needs will rear their ugly head in other ways.
In turn, pain can manifest in other areas of your body. Pain that began in your lower back (say, from a postural issue related to spending hours on end sitting in your office chair in a job you hate) may translate into an upper back issue, then if ignored again, into a neck issue, then into a chronic headache condition. Until you address the cause of your pain, your pain will be fueled and live on within your body.
Though you might be, perhaps unwittingly, disconnecting from your body, your unconscious mind certainly is not. Your mind is so powerful that distress within the emotional sector can manifest as physical symptoms within the body. According to the National Institute of Health, depression, for example, can result in chronic joint pain, limb pain, back pain, gastrointestinal problems, and low energy levels. Symptoms of anxiety–according to researchers at Harvard University–can be implicated in heart disease, chronic respiratory disorders, and gastrointestinal conditions.
A study by Brown University delved into the idea of “optimal inattention, that is the phenomena that occurs when we ignore stimuli that are outside of our focus of concentration. It’s time to take a look at what you are focused on in your life…what is the primary focus of your concentration? Is it your health, wellness, and wellbeing? Or, is it outside achievement, a construct of happiness, or external success? While the ability to ignore distractions is, of course, at times a necessary part of our lives, ignoring our internal world leaves us disconnected from our mind, body, and spirit.
The End of Pain
Bringing our attention to what we truly need to live a happy and healthy life, we must look inside. Tuning into our internal world may not be an easy or comfortable task, but it’s one that’s crucial to preserving our self esteem and wellbeing. While many of us rarely connect with ourselves on a deeper level, doing so can allow us to find the source of our pain and suffering.
Modern society does not make this any easier. Instead of following our intuition and our instincts, we cave to the screaming, external stimuli that is rational, logical, and achievement-oriented. Because trauma has been identified as having a strong correlation with chronic pain, we must first address whatever trauma we hold onto.
How can we address trauma and end chronic pain?
Here are three ways we recommend for stopping chronic pain at its emotional source:
- In Yoga philosophy, it’s believed that the body retains the scars from past trauma known as samskaras. Through the physical practice of asanas, pranayama breathing, and awareness of our habits, patterns, and mental or emotional addictions, we can begin to break free from the hold trauma has on our mind body and spirit. Find a Yoga class near you using YogaFinder or apps like MindBody Fitness.
- Psychology Today recommends a combination of psychotherapy and physical therapy as “the most logical pain management option for stress and chronic pain relief.” Both therapies are typically covered by insurance; be sure to select a Licensed Psychologist who has the educational background and experience to address your needs. See this article about how to choose the best therapist for you and locate a Physical Therapist using this database.
- In The Mind Body Prescription, Dr. John Sarno elaborated on this controversial subject, that chronic pain has psychological origins. Selling over a million copies, Sarno’s book has unlocked many people’s personal ability to end pain through the simple knowledge and awareness of the mind-body-pain connection. (Thousands of appreciative readers have publicly thanked Sarno for his knowledge. Click here to check them out yourself.)
How has chronic pain impacted your life, health, and wellness? How has identifying the emotional cause been beneficial to you?