Is all the pain physical pain that I am experiencing just in my own mind or are my mind and body connected?
I sprained my ankle last week, and whilst this was by no means the end of the world, it got me thinking about pain, and how we perceive it.
After spraining my ankle, I was consumed by the pain, all I could think about was how much my foot hurt, and I couldn’t really think about much else. It was making me miserable. However, after a couple of days of rest, a relaxing evening on the sofa with my foot elevated and my partner running around after me, I started to feel a lot better. It made me wonder if I’d needed the attention and care as much as I’d needed to rest my injury. So although the pain I felt really was real, were my needs around the pain actually psychosomatic?
As a sufferer of chronic illness, I experience pain of some degree every day, but usually I can switch my mind off and get on with my life. However, if I am feeling down, or stressed, the physical symptoms will be heightened, and I will want to be ‘looked after’ until I’m feeling better.
Recently, I have been reading some interesting pieces about how some physical pain could be down to our mind and our emotions. Most holistic therapies take are aware of the mind body connection taking it into account, understanding that there’s a deep connection between them.
‘I’ve met people whose sadness is so overwhelming that they cannot bear to feel it. In its place, they develop physical disabilities.’
Now, this isn’t meant to disregard illness or pain, obviously, if we are experiencing physical symptoms, they are really happening, but many doctors are beginning to recognize that some symptoms are actually caused or made worse by what’s going on inside our heads. If you are in a constant state of pain it can be hard to differentiate between the physical pain and the emotional suffering, often our suffering can feel like it is taking on a life of its own increasing the physical pain we are feeling.
Neurologist Dr Suzanne Sullivan has recently published a book called ‘It’s All In Your Head: True Stories of Imaginary Illness’. She says in a recent magazine article ‘I’ve met people whose sadness is so overwhelming that they cannot bear to feel it. In its place, they develop physical disabilities.’ It has long been said that people who have experienced trauma are more susceptible to chronic pain and illness, and it would make sense that our bodies are taking the brunt of our emotional pain.
Stress can play a big part in how we feel pain, and many of us have prolonged low levels of stress, that often we may not even be aware of. Our craniosacral therapist Philip Humphreys says ‘So much of our stress is perceptual, but for our bodies to heal effectively, we have to be out of prolonged stress’. Practises such as meditation, mindfulness and yoga can help to trigger a relaxation response in the body, helping to change the way that we react to stress.
The good news about this is that we can all work towards a better mind-set, helping to alleviate our suffering. There are lots of ways you can start to take back control. Balancing treatments such as craniosacral therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic care can help to deal with pain, and also bring balance back between mind and body. Counselling may be helpful to deal with past events that may have caused trauma can help to process repressed emotions, unblocking feelings that may be manifesting as symptoms, givingthe tools needed to move forwards.
Of course, we’re not saying that all pain is from the mind, and we know that everyone’s experiences of pain, illness, trauma and grief are personal to the individual. But if you think that your pain is all in your body, maybe it’s time to open your mind to a different way of thinking.
Here at the clinic we see a lot of patients who are dealing with pain for all sorts of reasons. We understand how pain and illness can be all consuming and we aim to provide a safe and friendly environment for people to come to. We have many different ways of dealing with pain, emotional, physical or both. If you need advice on how to deal with any of the issues mentioned in this article, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.