Yes, body pain happens to most of us. Globally, at least 577 million people each year deal with chronic back pain alone, and that’s not even considering all the other body regions like necks, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, jaws, and heads that pain can show up in. If you follow the statistics this issue isn’t getting any better. Despite modern medical advances, the prevalence of pain-related issues globally continues to rise. So, if you are dealing with a pain that comes and goes, doesn’t seem to go away, or have sought out professional advice to get rid of it, you are in good company with what feels like an unrelenting bad problem.
If you are looking to say goodbye to your body pain, there are 3 things you need to know.
#1 – Your Body Pain Isn’t Even a “Problem” to Begin With
One thing that I have realized over the past 30 years of professionally helping people solve their pain problems, is that there are several false premises that we are operating from when it comes to dealing with body pain. Of all those false premises, the primary one is that pain is a “problem” to begin with. If that one makes you scratch your head, again you are not alone.
Before we continue, let’s be clear that if someone is experiencing acute pain with a direct physical cause, like a ruptured appendix or rusty nail in the foot then addressing it quickly is important. Get to your doctor, ASAP!
However, for the vast majority of people who experience body pain, the issues tend to be chronic and with no directly attributable cause. You may yourself have experienced the frustration of seeing specialist after specialist diagnosing you with a tendinitis, wait no it’s a tendinosis, or maybe a sprain, strain, pull, tear, bulge, pinch, impingement, spasm, or arthritis and yet day after day the pain is still there. Or maybe the pain mysteriously comes and goes, sometimes hanging around for months before disappearing for a day or two and then coming back again. At some point you might even realize that the pain has become a backdrop for your entire life and you start making decisions about what to do and not to do based on how bad you think your pain might be later on. Slowly, day after day the physical experience you are consistently having starts to own you. You might be wondering, as you feel yourself spiraling downward, how could someone have the gall to say that your body pain isn’t a problem.
Consider for a moment that in the western world we have been trained for centuries to focus on eliminating dis-ease symptoms rather than seeking and addressing their root causes.
Got a headache? Take an aspirin.
Heartburn? Grab a Tums.
Anxiety? Swallow some Xanax.
For every symptom of dis-ease that humans know, from abdominal cramps to yellow eyes, you can be sure that there is a potion or lotion to get rid of it.
While I’m not opposed to modern pharmaceutical approaches, it is important to ask ourselves the purpose for using them to begin with; and based on the statistics mentioned in the opening paragraph, if the purpose is to get rid of the pain then obviously the current strategy isn’t working.
Imagine if your house is on fire and the fire alarm is going off. What is the real problem? The fire or the alarm? Treating the pain as the problem is like silencing the alarm every few hours while continuing to let the house burn!
When it comes to most chronic body pain issues, the one thing that is typically not the problem is the pain. Pain is an alarm signal wired up to your nervous system. If you are experiencing that alarm then your nervous system is doing exactly what it’s supposed to. Focusing on it as the problem will keep you forever frustrated and trying to eliminate it for years upon years. I have seen this first hand more times than I can count, and have lived that crazy-making loop myself.
#2 – Your Brain is Creating Your Body Pain
Hang on! Are you telling me that this pain is all in my head?
Well, yes, sort of and not exactly. As long as we’re human, technically, everything we experience consciously is processed between our ears, however that doesn’t mean that it isn’t real and it also doesn’t mean that the information used to construct the experience isn’t coming from places outside of the brain. So, let’s get a little better understanding about how pain is created in the first place.
The new science of pain has been greatly aided by understanding the phenomenon of phantom limb pain. The original idea about pain, and one that is still commonly accepted, is that where I have the pain must be where the problem is. However, in phantom limb pain, a person experiences painful symptoms in an area of the body that has been amputated and is no longer there. Yes, really! People suffering from phantom limb pain will report pain not at the amputation site but out in space where their foot once was located. How is that possible if pain is supposed to originate in the body? Obviously, it’s not, and some very smart people began looking for the reasons why.
Through functional MRI studies, where brain activity and blood flow can be tracked in real time, researchers verified that that brain can project symptomology out into the body and make it feel to us like there is a primary problem in that specific area. For example, there is a part of the brain that correlates directly to your foot. If someone were to squeeze your foot, that specific part of the brain would show electrical and blood flow activation. However, even more fascinating, is that if you were in brain surgery and the surgeon probed the part of your brain correlated with your foot, it would feel like someone was squeezing your foot even though no one actually is! In the case of phantom limb pain, a specific electrical pattern was set up in the brain which projected out onto the body the sensations of a foot that was no longer there.
How does this relate to the chronic back, neck, arm, leg, hip, or head pain that you are experiencing? At some point in the past, sensory signals were sent from your body up into your brain and the specific combination of intensity, duration, and context of those incoming signals created a pattern “loop” in which your brain now not only projects an experience out onto your body but in which your body also feeds that projected experience back up into the brain.
Have you ever dreaded going home for the holidays because you knew exactly what annoying thing was going to happen, and then it does? It’s basically the same thing. From past experience we learned to predict a painful experience and ironically in order to protect ourselves from that painful experience we actually look for it; and while annoyed, are not surprised that it occurred.
In essence, when it comes to chronic body pain, this is something that we are creating not something that is happening to us. Why then, might our brain create pain at all?
#3 – Don’t Kill the Messenger
At this point we need to understand that your body pain isn’t a problem; it’s a message and all messages carry one thing: Information.
Imagine for a moment a tyrannical king who kills every messenger that brings unpleasant news. Whether that news is of an enemy army approaching or that there is a plague in the village, ignoring that information comes at great peril. As we’ve already discussed, too often we just look to “kill the pain” as it were, and again this approach comes at a great cost as well. When the body has information that it needs us to know, it doesn’t matter how many times we silence the message, the body will just create another way to send the information; and each time it gets louder.
A wise king wouldn’t kill the messenger, he would ask the messenger questions in order to gather more information about the situation before taking appropriate action to remedy the primary issue. In the case of pain, a few good questions might be:
“What specific sensations are you experiencing that you are calling painful?”
“Why are you calling those sensations painful to begin with?”
“When are those sensations more or less intense?”
“What other things like emotions, thoughts, and social situations correlate to those sensations?”
Certainly, the quality of the questions we ask equates directly to the quality of life experiences we create. The answers to questions like these will eventually reveal patterns of information that contain the root source of the chronic “pain” experience you are having. So, rather than trying to kill the messenger, instead, ask what information the messenger is carrying and with patience and persistence, those answers will undoubtedly be revealed.
Take the first step in releasing your body of pain for good, and watch Huddol Journey Mentor, Brian Trzaskos, explore the science underneath the hidden messages that your body is sending and get some initial steps to healing body pain for good. These live online classes are brought to you by Huddol Journeys: A daily companion for personal transformation.
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