Living with pain

As a licensed massage practitioner and certified reflexologist, I work with many clients in pain, whether it’s their neck, low back, shoulders, knees, or feet. People want to get rid of the pain, and who wouldn’t? Not only is pain well, painful, but it can also affect your joint mobility, your exercise routine, and your mood.

Pain is defined (by as:
1. physical suffering or distress, as due to illness, injury, etc.,
2. a distressing sensation or torment
3. laborious or careful efforts (as in: Great pains have been taken to ensure that this pain never happens again)

Pain is both physical and mental as we can read in the first two definitions, physical pain often leads to mental and emotional pain as people come to terms with living with a significant amount of pain in their bodies, recurring bouts of pain, and the mental and emotional pain of grief and depression.

My own past experience of back and neck pain after an accident, was a significant learning tool about my body and my perception of it, prior to attending massage school. I noticed that part of me wanted to mentally block it out in order to avoid it, but when it increased in intensity, but when I did that the pain seemed to intensify even more, as if it was trying harder to get my attention.

I enjoyed doing Pilates, and it helped somewhat to do the mat exercises I knew, as well as going for a walk, that felt the best! Sitting was the worst, as the muscles of the left side of my back from below my ribcage down to the top of my left hip, and my whole neck would lock up in spasm after about fifteen minutes at my computer. Standing up at this point seemed to make things worse, and then my first few steps after getting up made me feel like I was ninety.

It was easy to let the pain affect my mood, and felt depressed when I’d imagine that at twenty-six, my body would never feel normal again. I received deep tissue and trigger point therapy sessions twice a week for several months, which helped ease the pain for about a week at a time to start, and then gradually, my muscles got used to feeling better and better, increasing the intervals of time between painful episodes. This in turn alleviated my mental and emotional stress, and I began to appreciate my body’s capacity for healing. Not to mention restoring my ability to be active again, which was amazing!

I empathize with my clients who live with any kind of pain, whether its mild, moderate, or severe pain, and I encourage them to pay attention to it. I ask them what makes it better, what makes it worse, as these answers are often the clues I need to determine what muscles are tight and contributing to their pain. I also make recommendations for easy self-care routines at home to manage their pain between massages. Using a heating pad, cold pack, topical pain-relieving cream (eg. traumeel, topricin, or tiger balm) stretching, and taking epsom salt baths are great ways to soothe tired and aching muscles.

Self-care is all-important whether you experience muscle or joint pain or not. Stretching (ie yoga), and strengthening exercises, combined with a cardio exercise routine that you enjoy, as well as receiving regular massages to relieve tired, sore muscles will prevent injury, reduce your stress, and increase your body’s longevity as you age.

Remember: stress makes pain worse! Releasing fear and other negative emotions that come up with receiving massage therapy sessions can help you cope with pain for however long it is with you.