Putting Pain in the Past

Helping persistent pain is actually simple process of understanding a complex story.

Having been a physiotherapist for many (many!) years, I have spent a lot of time listening to patients in order to understand  the persistent pain they are experiencing.

They may have had numerous investigations and have been given a medical diagnosis, or may have been given the results that there is nothing more to done.

Sometimes after extensive tests nothing is found to be the cause of the problem but still the pain continues.

I often see clients who are in this position of ongoing pain, they have been given diagnosis, maybe of fibromyalgia, disc problems, arthritis, to name just a few. When they arrive to see me they are frustrated, tired and fed up of being so restricted by the pain that they are in; perhaps you can recognise this situation, or know someone just like this ?

They may have believed that the only reason pain is present is because of some ongoing physical damage, but I can show them that this, so often just isn’t the case.

It all becomes quite clear to them when I explain how their emotions can impact on the persistence of pain.

As I’m also a  psychological therapist I’m very interested to understand their story… the one behind the pain.This often opens up a whole new chapter which they have never considered to be significant to their situation.

However once we start on this journey it all becomes so clear……

So how can our past impact our pain?

If we have experienced stress for long periods or been exposed to an extremely distressing situation in our past it can lead our ‘protection mode’ to be set at a state of high alert. When this happens it leads to ongoing physical changes which result in increased pain sensitivity and muscle tension, both of which can be a source of pain in our body.

Our brain is programmed by the experiences we have encountered and so emotional difficulties from our past, can continue to create worries about the future and so bring us a feeling of stress to the current moment. This will all be happening in our unconscious processing in our brain.

If we’re not aware of  these patterns existing then it can make it difficult to change things, but once we are it is entirely possible to deal with them. We can then reset the ‘alarm system’  and return our systems to a more comfortable level, allowing us to leave the pain in the past.

Paula Story 

This is clearly seen in the story of  ‘Paula’ who suffered many years of persistent pain since having a prolapsed disc. She had Physiotherapy at the time of the problem which helped restore her to moderate function. However, she was left with sciatic pain. She had undergone two spinal injections and was taking Pregabalin medication to keep pain to a manageable level. She also regularly practised Pilates which helped to keep her moving. Despite this, she was plagued with intermittent episodes of severe, debilitating pain. She understood this to be because of  nerve damage following the disc prolapse.

A Life Without Limitations

Once I explained the connection between emotions and pain Paula was keen to work with me and joined my Freedom from Pain Programme.

In this programme we work initially on Clearing your Mind, which helps let go of unhelpful beliefs and fears that are getting in the way of  being who you want to be.

We then look at how to Free your Body, ensuring your physical body can move freely and easily, discovering both the  positive emotional and physical benefits of exercise and movement.

The third pillar of the programme is to Feed Your Soul, exploring what is it that makes your heart sing and understand how important it is to prioritise this into your life.

We explored Paula’s beliefs and uncovered that she had a huge fear of the pain worsening.  She felt the need to be careful with all that she did in order to protect herself from further damage. She was fearful she would end up crippled by persistent pain and unconsciously protected herself with guarded movements. She hadn’t previously acknowledged  this fear or realised how it was impacting on her progress.

We also explored other reasons why her alarm system may have already be on alert, and discovered a chaotic childhood. Her past experiences had left her with the unconscious belief that there would always be another crisis.

She also discovered that she had lot of unresolved emotion attached to the death of her father.

Paula was completely unaware that her alarm system was on high alert or that these emotions and beliefs could be contributing to her pain. However she did recognise that she was a worrier,  it was part of her…how she always has been. What she didn’t realise was that these were only patterns of response that her brain had programmed. Once she could see this, it became perfectly understandable that new patterns could be learned too to move past the situation that had been holding her back in a life of pain.

Having worked together over a number of weeks Paula was experiencing considerably less discomfort and her confidence to move was much improved.

She was really excited to share that her expectations of the programme had been greatly exceeded. She felt that her reduced pain levels had drastically improved the quality of her life. Her sense of wellbeing and confidence had greatly improved too, noticing positive changes in many areas of her life.

She noticed not just freedom from pain but also had discovered a whole new approach to life that filled her with more happiness than she ever had expected.

This is the story of just one person, but it’s a pattern I see repeating in my consulting room on a regular basis. Clients arrive living in the shadow of pain, but discover through our work together, that it’s quite possible to leave pain in the past and so discover a whole new way of life.

I’d welcome comments or questions and would be interested to hear how others deal with similar clients.

Sandra Lamb is a Chartered Physiotherapist, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist, helping find freedom from pain at BodyMind Solutions. Sandra@bodymind-solutions.co.uk

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