by Heidi Gerber, MS LAc, LMT, Director of the Live Well Program Tournesol Wellness
When it comes to pain, I have experienced it all and most important, I have learned how to manage it. A broken foot, wrist, dislocated knee, and I have even suffered from partial paralysis with surgeries on my knee, shoulder and cervical spinal fusion. These are just some examples of somatic (musculoskeletal) and neuropathic (nerve) pains. Of I’ve experienced visceral (internal organ) pains as well; stomach cramps, menstrual pain, anxiety, and so on. But, what do you do when you are in pain? Do you put a Band-Aid on it or find the cause of your symptoms?
If you take a pill to get rid of your headache, for example, you are masking your symptoms. However, if you lie down in a dark room, close your eyes, take deep breaths, and allow yourself to experience the pain, then you are finding the cause of the headache. First, let’s answer a few basic questions so you can understand why you got the headache in the first place:
- Fatigue: How many hours of sleep do you get per night? Do you sleep through the night?
- Food Allergies/Unhealthy Diet: What does your diet consist of? High/Low sugar and carbs? Do you consume processed foods?
- Alcohol Consumption/Smoking/Exposure to Smoke: Do you drink alcohol? Do you smoke?
- Dehydration: How many glasses of water do you drink per day?
- Menstrual Cycle: Are you ovulating? Menstruating?
- Muscle Tension or Strain: Do you exercise? What kind of exercise?
- Stress: What is your stress level? Are you dealing with your stress?
The next time you have a headache, don’t just take a pill. Sit down and pay attention to your body and become aware of your signs and symptoms. There are always reasons behind visceral pain; it is up to us to listen to our bodies and take care of it.
Somatic and neuropathic pains have obvious causes, soft tissue and nervous system injuries respectfully. How do we manage these pains?
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
- Drink lots of water
- Manage stress levels
- Sleep 8-9 hours a night
- Get regular massage therapy, acupuncture, and bodywork
- Gentle exercise, meditation, yoga
Pain has an emotional component as well. We have anger, fear, grief, loss, etc associated with our pains. The memory of trauma live in our cells and our subconscious mind blocks off and suppresses these emotions. Long after our pains are medically healed, our emotional pains can linger. These are the pains that doctors cannot understand, when all of their tests come back incomplete. Releasing emotional blockages frees up restricted muscles and energy, opens the channels of the central nervous system and enables the body to function and flow as intended. The body has a story to tell and when it is listened to and addressed, the pain usually significantly subside, if not disappear completely.