Experiencing chronic pain can very easily lend itself to not trusting your bodies. In fact, on an unconscious level, when we are experiencing pain and tramua we abandon our bodies. If you experience chronic pain it would be natural if you could not relax into your body. It would be natural that you felt betrayed and angry at your body. Although all of these feelings are natural and normal, it actually does contribute to creating a pain cycle that can be challenging to break.
When we experience chronic pain it is very easy to develop a chronic pain cycle. Meaning we start participating in actually creating our own pain due to the pain memories we have involving movement. In fact we actually develop the habit of looking for the pain because we are trying to protect yourself from the memory of the pain. In looking for the pain we usually brace and tense as we approach the movement which can actually subconsciously create the pain. This is a very understandable pattern to develop however, it is not functional if we are trying to dissolve the movement patterns and get out of pain. Awareness, patience and trust will be required to break the pain cycle.
The repeatable and vivacious pain cycle is described as :
Pain leads to muscle tension.
Muscle tension leads to reduced circulation.
Reduced circulation leads to muscle inflammation.
Muscle inflammation leads to reduced/restricted movement.
Restricted movement leads to muscle weakness and loss of normal function.
Loss of normal function leads to feelings of hopelessness and frustration which create more tension and pain.
EXPLORE VS. PERFORM
Breaking the pain pattern requires that we explore movement instead of performing movement. For this reason, I am calling all of the movement suggestions, “explorations” and not “exercises”. Most of us are used to relating to movement as exercises, which means we do not pay attention to what’s happening while we are in process of the movement. We tend to focus on the end point of the movement .
Persistent and chronic pain cycles often result in getting caught in the “fix it” mindset. When we view our bodies as a mechanical object that needs fixing we approach our bodies as if we are made up of separate parts. We begin to say things like, “I have a bum knee” or “ I have weak shoulders”, or “my right leg is my good leg and my left is weak and/or bad”,etc.
EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT A BELIEVER IN THE MIND/BODY CONNECTION
When we do not acknowledge the body/mind connection and view the body in separate parts it is not only objectifying yourself as an object without a soul, it is also physiologically incorrect.
The human body is wrapped in the fascial system. The connective tissue of the fascia is ONE inter-connecting web of tissue that runs throughout the entire system. Fascia connects your muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and even organs. Think of your body being shrink wrapped in one piece of saran wrap. Since this is true, it means our body moves like a single cell organism instead of separate parts. It is very difficult to move an arm or a leg and not have it affect another part of your body.
Chronic tension, tramua, scar tissue, dysfunctional movement patterns, and immobility all create what we call “sticky fascia”. Sticky fascia is an interruption in the facial system. It does not allow your soft tissue; muscle, ligaments and tendons, to move freely, instead the soft tissue begins to pull and tug on the bones and joints.
Therefore in order to break a pain cycle it is paramount to release the “fix it “ model whereby you are only looking in the place where the pain orginates. When we move with kinesthetic sensing instead of thinking, we are able to become aware of many places at once and we begin to sense the body’s connections and inter-play from one area to another.
Sensing through the sensory motor cortex, which is located in the back brain, lends itself to a gentle internal vision allowing us to release the hyper-vigilant mindset. All of the somatic explorations in this book begin with closing the eyes and softening to look within, as if we are traveling underneath the top layer of the skin. This inner posture is not one of scrutiny or going inward with the intention of looking for what’s wrong, rather just radical curiosity and wonder. Adapting this inner posture is the starting point of the road which will allow you to trust your body again.
The very essence of the “fix it” approach narrows the scope of probable cause, which narrows the lens of possibilities of connections. The “ fix it” mind is stressful and contributes to chronic pain.
Breaking the chronic pain cycle, learning to trust movement again, learning to trust your body again, as you can imagine takes time, patience and practice. Breaking a pain cycle will not happen over-night which is yet another frustrating fact to the process. Remembering that the body is a living breathing system that is always in process and capable of change will soften the frustration and encourage curiosity.
I offer the following questions, not necessarily to give an exact answer but rather to open the mind to the possibilities in the unknown.
Practice asking yourself these open ended questions; don’t even feel you have to answer, just ask endlessly and ceaselessly:
“What if I could get out of pain?” ,
“What would my life be like without pain?”
“What would I do if I didn’t use my energy toward managing my pain?”
“What would it feel like, NOT to have pain”
I am not suggesting in any way that your chronic pain is not real or imagined. If you are feeling pain, there is always an extremely valid reason why the pain is there. Pondering these questions has the ability to expand your mind and ease mental stress. Pondering open ended questions filled with possibilities allows us to think in unlimiting ways allowing us to break the cycle of thinking the same old way which is creating the same old pain. . Pain patterns in the mind and pain patterns in the body are undeniably connected. We do not have to figure out how they are connected, we just have to stay open to the possibility that they are. Staying open to the many mysteries of the mind/body connection is admitting that we really do NOT know everything there is to know.