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Filtering by Category: Chronic Pain Counseling

How to Get Long Lasting Relief For Chronic Pain: Tune Into It

Scott Lilleston

What if you could feel empowered and strong while having chronic pain?

Although this might sound difficult to do, it’s entirely possible.

When I work with clients who suffer from severe chronic pain and injury, I notice how quickly my clients want to get away from intense sensations and focus on something else. Obviously, it’s a part of the human condition to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Freud figured this out a long time go.

Biologically, we are hardwired to do this. I’m sure you are familiar with the fight or flight response. Naturally we want to remove or distract ourselves from painful stimuli or situations. There are useful reasons for this.

What would happen if you placed your hand on a hot stove? Would you stand there with your hand on the stove? I hope not. That would be a different type of problem. You would pull your hand away immediately to avoid a burn.

Our instincts tell us to react to pain, because they are looking out for our immediate best interests. However, when you are facing chronic pain, you do not have the option of moving away from the stimulus that causes the discomfort. Chronic pain will just keep coming week-after-week, day-after-day, hour-after-hour.

My work as a body-centered therapist is to help my clients understand and unpack and sometimes rewire the way their mind and body interact.

If you are suffering from chronic pain and have tried all of sorts of remedies, medication, and treatments without relief, you’re left with one very powerful ally that is often overlooked. Yourself.

This is why I am a proponent for mindfulness practices as a powerful tool for overcoming persistent pain. In many cases, by identifying negative evaluations of pain and the avoidance of chronic pain signals in the body, you can then begin to develop a new way of interpreting these experiences that are less intense and more explorative. In fact, many people can even discover a root cause to their pain in the emotional memories stored in their body.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic and renowned Buddhist meditation teacher, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” He has suggested that by increasing your awareness of intense and painful regions of the body, you can cultivate a new relationship with physical pain and with your own mind and body. This relationship is cultivated by beginning to notice the regions that are free of pain and those that are hurting.

By dipping our toes in the water, we might notice an increased acceptance of pain just as it is. The idea is that by developing a new relationship to pain we accept that although pain is unavoidable, suffering is optional to some degree.

Chronic Pain Management: Gaining Relief with Massage

Higher Practice

Have you been putting your life on hold because of chronic pain and discomfort?

A practical solution is literally just a touch away.

Clinical evidence demonstrates that massage is one of the most effective treatments in a holistic care plan for chronic pain.

This is good news for the 8 out of 10 Americans who suffer from some form of chronic pain on a daily basis. While we all experience physical pain at some point in our lives, most cases are temporary. Chronic pain, however, is the debilitating pain that lasts for long periods of time, often for weeks, months, or even years.

Chronic pain may have snuck up on you from the usual wear and tear that happens to our muscles and joints over time, or from years of slouching over your computer and sitting in your car in traffic.

When we consider the inseparability of the mind and body, which you can read about in my other blog posts on mindfulness, there is no doubt that a body that is free from excess tension and pain leads to improved mental and physical wellbeing.

As a therapist who works in the worlds of body-centered psychotherapy and separately in the world of therapeutic massage and bodywork, I am keenly aware of the emotional challenges that find their way towards manifesting in the body.

After many years of practicing therapeutic bodywork modalities, I’ve discovered that massage alone isn’t the entire equation to gaining lasting relief. There is another component to massage that is needed for it to have lasting effects for the majority of people.

When utilizing massage as an approach to chronic pain, I prioritize helping my clients bring awareness to their bodies in the form of sensation and feelings. By helping clients begin to cultivate body-awareness in the present, I find that clients are well on their way to learning how to navigate chronic pain in entirely new ways.

It's as if they are creating a new operating system for their mind that allows them to return to a fulfilled life even with extreme sensations in the body.

Here are just a few ways we can begin to create change in chronic pain patterns:

Release tension

When we are in pain, our bodies cause tension in our muscles to protect the area that hurts. For an instant, this can be an effective means to retract our body from a dangerous stimuli. However, this tension often remains in our body even after our environment is fully safe and secure. When our muscles stay contracted we limit the body’s natural range of mobility, which exacerbates pain. While there are many other aspects of chronic tension and pain that we will work with, massage facilitates muscle length and relaxation which are important aspects of pain relief from a manual perspective.

Improving movement improves pain cycles

As noted above, an injury often results in a limited range of motion. Perhaps you have found it difficult to perform basic tasks such as walking up and down stairs. Deep tissue work including myofascial therapy targets tension trapped deep within the fascia, the body’s connective tissues. When we live with tension trapped in our body, the default is to move in unnatural patterns that intensify pain. Working with, understanding and minimizing this tension in the body is important for healthy fascia, decreasing pain and proper mobility.

Feel more vitality and energy

Receiving a massage increases the endorphins in our body, the “feel good” chemicals that elevate mood and relieve pain. Receiving a massage triggers physiological responses that tell the body it is safe, thus lowering blood pressure, reducing cortisol levels, and raising endorphins. With massage, you gain amazing physiological benefits that are vital to feeling joyful, rested, and energized throughout the day.

As you can see, massage is not just a luxurious day at the spa, although it has that benefit too. Massage allows you to live and move with less discomfort, more energy, and ultimately a greater sense of who you are and what you want to accomplish in life.