Ever had a knot in your back? One of those knots that stab, ache, impede movement, and generally make your life just that more difficult?
Eventually, you get tired of the constant pain and aggravation so you decide to go get a deep tissue massage. That’s what works the best, right?
The therapist digs into the tight muscle, presses deeply into sore spots. You find yourself tensing up, guarding against the pain, your fingers curling inward, your jaw clenched.
You hang on, though, because you know that if you are able to gut it out until the end of the session when all of the endorphins kick in, you’ll feel ggggggrreat!
And, you do. For an hour or two anyway, perhaps even for a day or two if you’re lucky.
Then, the pain and tension set back in and you eventually find yourself once again under the thumb of your therapist, gritting your teeth against the pain, and constantly reminding yourself how much better you’ll feel once it’s over.
Does it make sense to inflict pain in an attempt to relieve pain?
What if there was a different way? An approach that doesn’t cause pain trying to get you out of pain?
Think about it. When your body is hurting, does it really make sense to make it hurt even more? Especially if whatever relief you feel at the end of the session is only temporary?
Put yourself in the shoes of your body. When your feelings are hurt in some way, how would you respond if the person you were looking to for help and comfort just re-hurt your feelings again. Want an example? Ok! Let’s make it simple.
You’re getting ready for a party. Your significant other looks at you and says,
“Really? That’s what you’re going to wear? You look kind of fat in that.”
You change your outfit but on the inside you are crushed. You call your best friend, crying, looking for some support and for your feelings to be acknowledged. She (or he) says:
“Yeah, you know? You really have been packing on the pounds lately. Now, buck up and let’s party!”
You’re even more crushed and end up not going out at all.
Ok, maybe their intentions are good. Who knows? But, the point is, receiving additional criticism, being hurt even more, wasn’t what you needed in the moment.
Our bodies have feelings, too.
Our bodies tend to respond in a very similar manner.
When our bodies are in pain and the treatment involves more pain at the area of injury, our bodies react, eventually, with even more tension and guarding.
In the moment, yes, the muscle is forced to relax and you feel better. But, as soon as possible, it is going to tense back up to protect the original injury and now, to protect you against the treatment as well.
This is why you tend to find yourself back in the therapist’s office time after time for the same issue. Your body hasn’t been heard. It has just been forced to change.
Our bodies responding with more tension and guarding (and thus more pain and discomfort for us) is the equivalent of us getting more and more upset when our feelings are repeatedly not acknowledged.
Diffusing pain: a new approach.
Let’s go back to the party example. What if your friend had said, “Oh, you sound so hurt and sad right now. I’m here for you.” How would that have felt? Would that have helped to diffuse some of the pain you were experiencing?
Maybe it wouldn’t have solved the situation with your SO but I’m guessing you would be able to relax a bit and begin to get in touch with what you really needed.
Now, back to physical pain in the body. It’s the same thing. Our bodies want to be acknowledged. They want to know that the message they are communicating (that something needs attention) is being heard.
Then, and only then, is it appropriate to begin to use techniques to help the body let go of those areas of pain and tension.
The good news is that yes, there are approaches (Ortho-Bionomy, for example!) that acknowledge what the body is saying. There are techniques that guide the body into ease and comfort, that help muscles release, without causing more pain.
And, when your body is able to let go of pain and tension through relaxation and comfort rather than through pain and discomfort, the effects tend to last much much longer.
Keys to Remember:
- Our bodies have feelings too, feelings that take the form of pain, discomfort, tension etc.
- These feelings need to be acknowledged.
- There are many approaches out there that use pain to help you get relief from pain. Generally, the relief is temporary, at best.
- Approaches that acknowledge the pain the body is feeling, that are gentle, that work with the body, often are more effective and provide lasting relief.
Over the next couple of weeks, just notice the things you do to get relief from pain.
How often do you end up hurting more in an attempt to hurt less? What do you notice happening in your body as you receive this kind of treatment? And, are the benefits you get from that sort of an approach worth the additional pain?