“It feels like a rock in my shoulder”, Marie says after I ask her to describe her pain to me.
My next question is, “Where is it, exactly?” She puts her hand over the muscles on top of her shoulder blade. OK, it’s getting clearer.
Onto my next question. “When is it?” When it started and when it shows up. Knowing when it started is a clincher to pain detective work. Marie isn’t sure, “I just noticed it was bothering me one day and it keeps coming back, more and more.” Now I know we’ve got what I call a “creeping issue.” It crept up into her life and got into her framework.
I ask when this feels worse; morning, night, grocery shopping? Anything stand out? The pattern of timing isn’t clear for her, “It’s more when I’m stressed,” she says…
Ahh, so stress is the “when”. This is a big clue that we’re talkin’
inner conflict creating a bio-mechanical breakdown
(rather than the other way around).
Maybe you’ve had symptoms similar to Marie’s before. Ruling out a cause like physical trauma like a car accident, rollercoaster or rock concert, we have to start looking even deeper for clues to what this pain is asking for.
The Two Sides of Pain
Pain speaks… is it saying, “Please lower your mouse – I can’t hold up our arm like that!” or, “Please stand up to our boss – we are not a doormat!”?
This example describes the different subtle influences of a bio-mechanical breakdown and an inner conflict. Which of these holds the most sway over Marie’s body message? Let’s find out.
We talk some more about her stressors and discover she’s taking care of aging parents, working and has an eighteen year old getting ready to go to college.
Some days feel so chaotic she wishes she could duplicate herself to get it all done. She says, “I get so overloaded, my eyes hurt and my shoulder gets locked up. I can’t even turn my head!”
This is an answer to my question, “How is it?” I’m asking what is it like, it’s description. We get to dig into our beloved adjectives (please allow for grammar stretching here).
We’re looking into the link between language and body messaging. We have to pass by the overthinking mind and let these words be descriptive. This is key to unlock the understanding of what’s really hurting you.
Here are Marie’s words…
Like a Rock
What does that sound like to you?
What might be an inner conflict in this circumstance?
Here’s my take on this. Marie needs two big things (maybe you do too):
# 1 Addressing the bio-mechanical breakdown.
Never underestimate the effectiveness of a headset over a shoulder-cradled phone! Little tweaks like that can prove to be permanent game changers for pain relief. You may need to still have some soft tissue work done, (heck, do that anyway-it’s good for you) but for the lasting change- remove the cause.
#2 Address unresolved emotions caused by a inner truth unsaid.
Her language told us what she needed. She needs a load lifted off of her. Her body has told her it’s stuck, it’s carrying the weight of the world and can’t see any other way out.
If this sounds familiar to you, it’s time for the tougher questions, the ones you have to be truthful and brave to answer. It needs to be answered by the person you want to be, not the person you feel you are right now. Here are a few examples.
Am I really the only one who could do this?
Am I carrying something that doesn’t belong to me?
What do I need to confront to feel empowered?
How can I take better care of myself to be able to do this?
Or my personal favorite tough question in short form,
The Good News
Marie started being open to looking at her situation differently, asking for help (and getting it!). She had to take a hard look at her belief that she has to overachieve to be enough, and that it was selfish to address her own her needs. She made a schedule of her time to ensure she eats healthy meals and has a little fun-friend time pre-planned and not skipped.
She got four acupuncture treatments and felt 90% better. A lingering awareness of pain remained, keeping her in remembrance that she isn’t out of the woods yet. She decided to come in once a month to continue to nourish her body, listening to my often repeated advice, “All caregivers must get care.”
Treating chronic pain is not about returning to a previous state of comfort. It is a transformation of self and the self’s relationship to the world. It is allowing a person to shake all their puzzle pieces out on the floor and see a new way to put them back together.
Whether your pain is bio-mechanically centered or triggered by the neurological connection to your feelings and emotions, getting the physical body worked on is a very helpful tool to begin with. Acupuncture and bodywork on a regular basis keeps things running smoothly. Use the resources below to get in touch with a therapy that is suited for mending and repairing both your body and spirit.
Re-frame your inner-conflict. Start asking the harder questions, and start acting on those answers. Please use your discretion when determining your choice of care and keep listening. Your medical care can be how you define it, let’s not leave the inner pain out of the healing conversation nor separate it from the body. It’s never a bad idea to stay in contact with the way your body is communicating with you.
In summary, let’s run your symptom through these questions and see what comes up. Share in the comments if you’ve discovered something about yourself, or celebrate how you have overcome and old piece of misunderstood baggage that you used to carry.
Where is it?
Exactly where. See my body zone chart to get a clue as to what issues may be trying to be heard.
When is it?
(When did it start and when does it return?) Rule of thumb, body pains in the mornings is more joint arthritic, night time more likely muscle weakness. Look at activity-related associations.
How is it?
This is Chinese medicine’s forte. We call it a climate. The specific description can clue you into both the physical nature and the emotional nature.
Which side of pain is dominating?
You rule out physical causes first. The bad pillow or couch potato slouch, the automobile trauma that is knowable. If there’s no known cause, or it doesn’t seem logical as to why it keeps hanging around then you start to entertain the notion that your body is showing you something from your vulnerable side that is yelling for attention.
What is the tougher question? (listening required)
What is my inner conflict that comes up when this hurts? What descriptive words I use are a metaphor to this conflict? How can I change this situation? Even better, How can I change the way I relate to this situation?
If we listen to what we say when we are speaking, we get clues to what our body messages are trying to tell us to change in the form of pain. You already have an idea of what you need, I don’t need to tell you how to change your life. But what I can do in the face of pain, is ask the right questions.