Healing Chronic Pain

I was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 12. I had been complaining of back pain and my mom took me to get X-rays. My scoliosis was considered mild. I was told to carry a lighter backpack and was sent home. 

Since then I’ve dealt with back pain. It’s come and gone. Being in a profession that deals with the body (and seeing sooooo many clients with back pain of their own) has been both helpful and a burden at different times and for different reasons. Therefore, what I want to share with you today, is what I’ve learned.

Exercise, acupuncture and clean eating all help. These are all external sources of treatment (and I will talk about these), but what has helped me the most is a general reframing of how I think about pain and the power it has over me. 

Now, if you’ve dealt with chronic pain (pain that’s lasted for 6 months or longer), whether it be back pain, migraines, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, anxiety, keep reading… 

Your body is designed to heal

Please take that in for a moment – your body is designed to heal. Even if you are ill right now or in discomfort, embrace the truth that your body is fighting to maintain your health. Believing in your body offers some comfort. (Did you feel your body relax a little when you read that? Or did you wonder further why you aren’t better yet? Maybe you are worried your body is beyond repair? We will get to that bit). For now, breathe deeply and accept the knowledge that your body is designed to heal. This is true for all bodies, even yours.

An article by the Temecula Center for integrative medicine writes, “Cells can heal themselves when they become unhealthy and replicate to replace destroyed or damaged cells. If you break a bone, your body immediately begins producing new cells to heal the damage. When your skin is cut, platelets in your blood clot to stop the bleeding, white blood cells remove the dead, injured cells and new healthy cells repair the damaged tissue. Daily wear and tear are also promptly dealt with. In fact, our bodies are in a constant state of removing damage and producing new, healthy tissue.” 

It’s amazing! Your body is doing so much to support you: healing, renewing, restoring – everyday. It’s happening right now. 

The presence of pain doesn’t always mean there is something wrong

Pain sends an alarm bell through your body. It’s electric, it’s achy, it burns – it grabs your attention! If you’re holding your hand over a flame, your skin receptors tell your brain to tell your body to remove your hand from the fire to prevent a burn. Messages are being sent like this all the time. Now, with chronic pain, it’s possible to get into a pain cycle. Let’s take the candle example again. If you have inadvertently placed your hand over the candle a few times, a pattern can develop. In this patterned behavior, even if the candle isn’t burning and you place your hand over the unlit candle, your body may receive the alarm signal. This is a signal of perceived pain. 

Now, we are all too smart for such a simplified scenario. But a real-life scenario I’ve heard MANY times is when someone bends over to pick something up and they hurt their back. Then every time they bend over their back hurts. They associate the bending with the problem. I’m here to inform you that just because you receive a pain signal doesn’t mean there is something wrong. There might be an issue with your vertebrae or disc but it could also simply mean that your brain misinterpreted the action and sent an alarm bell. This doesn’t discredit the pain you feel. It’s definitely real, but we need to examine why your body responded this way to such a normal, everyday movement.

When you’ve gone through a traumatic event like your back spasming, you lose faith in your body’s ability. This is where the pilates studio works wonders. Moving in a controlled environment, with an educated teacher, will regain your faith in moving again. Moreover,  it restores clarity of communication between your brain and body. 

You don’t need to be a victim to your pain

Stay with me through this next section. It’s an important one! A client once told me that it wasn’t the back pain itself that was so bad, it was what the pain represented. What does your pain represent? Does it bring up feelings of inadequacies? Of being broken? Of not being enough? What gets triggered in you? 

Caroline Myss writes, “The first step is not to separate yourself from the challenge but to face clearly the fears and the feelings of being a Victim that the crisis activates in you. The second step is to walk directly into those feelings. The illness is not the issue… The issue is the loss of power that the illness generates in you.“ 

Focus on the feelings that arise. Create a Journal about them. As you write, ponder these questions: 

  • What does your pain represent? 
  • Have you always felt this way, even before your symptoms manifested
  • Where and when did these feelings first originate? (It may be from your childhood.)
  • Do others in your family circle model similar behavior?

There is a very good chance that your subconscious is offering you an opportunity for resolution, clarity and emotional healing. Your body is just helping you get there by being the vehicle in which to bring it forward.

Feeling like a victim makes healing harder. You can get out from under it. Start with the questions above and then go on a quest to find things that make you feel powerful. This is your job. What gives you strength and makes you feel powerful? What activities make you feel good about yourself? Maybe you love your career and so you invest a bit more time working. Or you feel really good about yourself as a mother. If so, spend time with your children. If you find contributing to our local community rewarding, then volunteer. 

Mundane activities of positivity are not to be discredited: you could be a master at making an omelet. Make an omelet daily! (Your family will love you). Feeling good about yourself could occur when you’re engaged in activities that impact a larger group of people or doing something simple for yourself. Spend time in this space and really take in these feelings of worthiness and wholeness. 

Create your own recipe for healing

Be an active participant in your healing. Only you know the best ingredients to help yourself move forward. This is not meant to overwhelm you and it doesn’t mean you’re on your own. Be inquisitive. Seek help from others. There are SOOO many healers out there. Try some of them, but don’t relinquish your power over to them. They work for you. You are in charge of your healing. The objective is to get to know what works for you best. Be open; be patient. This puts you in a position of power. The more you take active claim over this experience, the more you will cease being a victim to it. See what resonates with you from the list below:

  • Hands-on Bodywork: chiropractic, massage, craniosacral, FST, physical therapy, rolfing, acupuncture (this one is also emotional/ spiritual)
  • Emotional / Spiritual practices: talk therapy, EMDR, meditation, biofeedback, somatic experiencing, journaling 
  • Chemical / Nutritional: clean eating, nutritional support, do a blood panel and look at vitamin deficiencies. 
  • Exercise: Pilates, functional strength training, Feldenkrais, Gyrotonics, GAGA, swimming, walking … 

Seeking treatment to heal can cost a lot of money. You are worth it and there are also plenty of free practices like meditation, journaling, dietary changes, and exercise which can all be done at home. With convenience and price in mind I created the virtual studio to offer my knowledge and services at the lowest price point possible. You can start moving your body daily with me. Then seek out support from the resources I mentioned above. Use your intuition for guidance. 

Final thoughts to keep in mind

It feels like each of the guidelines above could be their own articles. Remember: 

1) Your body was designed to heal. It’s not beyond you. 

2) The presence of pain doesn’t always mean there’s something wrong. Signals get mixed up. If you’re in a pain cycle it could simply be that the messages are being interpreted erroneously. That is very fixable. 

3) Don’t allow your pain to make you feel like a victim. It can be the avenue for deep healing and a chance to reclaim your power. Become an active participant in your healing. 

4) Create your recipe for healing by being inquisitive and seeking out treatments that work for you.

Take each day as it comes. Stay positive. Don’t let the discomfort alarm or scare you. Discomfort is part of the healing process. Breathe into it. Life is about change. The pain will pass. Nothing stays the same forever. 

If you need guidance with slowly moving your body again the virtual site has many short simple workouts. Start with our 10 for 10 Series. It’s 10 minutes of pilates a day for 10 days. If you’re in Los Angeles, start with a private pilates session. Mind & Motion is here to help you build back the confidence in your body once again. You can always drop me a line at meghan@mindandmotionpilates.com!