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How should I think about pain?

The way you think about and respond to pain and discomfort in your body can make a big difference in how long it sticks around.

A lot of my clients come in with pain in their body. Low back aching, tension in the neck and shoulders, sore feet and legs, tired and arthritic hands.

I have clients that come in who are really mad that their pain is higher on the left side when, clearly, their right side is the problem. Clients who are upset that their pain radiates all the way down their leg, when they were only bending to pick up a paper off the floor! They didn’t do anything WRONG!

I get it. It’s easy to feel betrayed by our bodies when pain causes us to stop working a specific job, or interferes with their daily functioning.

And possibly the most frustrating part about pain is that pain isn’t obligated to make sense to you.

Pain is like a baby crying- it has one method of communication and its needs are relatively basic: pain wants you to pay attention. if you ignore pain, it will ramp itself up from an annoying whine to an incessant roar. You can’t beat pain, or outlast it. Eventually, you have to deal with it.

In my opinion: Pain is an indicator to pay attention. It isn’t, as a stand alone thing, an indication of something being broken, or failing on you, or betraying you. It’s just an attention getter.

Pain says, “Hey! You’ve been sitting for a long time and I don’t like it. Move, please.”

Pain says, “This movement you’re doing isn’t good; if you keep doing it, we’re gonna tear something”

Pain says, “You’re working too hard and too long, and I’m the consequence.”

What happens, though, is you overcomplicate the message. We like to make pain mean something else. We put words in pain’s mouth and make it mean that we’re broken. We make pain complicated and it doesn’t have to be. This is not to say that pain can’t be complex: there are entire medical foci dedicated to the deciphering and management of chronic pain. That’s not what I’m talking about here.

For the most part, if you treat pain and discomfort as a simple call to action, you’ll get the most out of the message our body is trying to relay. If we stop personalizing it and making it mean something more, we can take action to stop it. Because that’s the whole point, right? You don’t want it there!

Knowing this begs the question: so what action do I take? And as always I say: you probably know the answer to that, you just need to ask it to yourself.

There’s an intuition that shows up when we start paying more attention to our body and start becoming more aware of its signals. Pain, if you aren’t sure, can simply just mean: STOP whatever you’re doing and take stock. Sometimes it actually gives you no choice but to stop. But the earlier we catch pain (especially if you catch it at the discomfort level), the more subtle the cues. You can take a break or shift your position before it gets bad. And then instead of being laid up on the couch or popping anti-inflammatories to get through the day, you gain a better understanding of your body and you prevent crisis.

 

Jen Wright is an RMT and  co-owner of Whole Therapy. She is an avid gym-goer and loves to lift heavy stuff.  She sees clients of all ages and stages, especially those who are engaged in bettering themselves.  She believes that pain-free is possible.  For more about Jen, click here.

About Us

At Whole Therapy, we believe that two heads are better than one. Our team works together to help people: It’s simple. Because one therapy is not always the one for everyone. We know that every body is different, and everyone has different goals, preferences, and timelines when it comes to their health and their bodies.

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