Many of us don’t realise that chronic pain can be triggered by childhood traumas or stressful events in adulthood. We then take painkillers which aren’t addressing the root cause. We end up in a vicious cycle where we experience side effects from the medication and build a tolerance to it. Then we end up on more medication to control the side effects.
I went into counselling because as a massage therapist I saw this cycle all the time and wanted to be able to do something to help.
To be clear – this is not saying that all pain is “in the mind” or that you “need to pull yourself together”. It’s about empowering you to cope better and develop self awareness to deal with it. It isn’t your fault that you are experiencing pain.
If you are experiencing chronic pain now it’s important to see a doctor to check that you don’t have any underlying issues that need treatment. If you are currently having treatment then you can use counselling techniques alongside that (not instead of) to help you deal with the pain.
HOW IS PAIN CAUSED?
There are two types of pain – acute and chronic.
Acute pain comes on suddenly and you will usually know exactly what caused it. For example you fell over and sprained your ankle or you cut your finger. This pain is caused by damage to the body’s tissues. Acute pain usually goes away when healing takes place, however sometimes it doesn’t go away completely and becomes chronic pain.
Chronic pain is long lasting (months) and can be severe or mild. Sometimes the cause of chronic pain can be found – for example osteoarthritis but in other cases it’s never explained.
This is about chronic pain and the different factors that can cause it or at least cause pain to be felt more strongly in some people than others.
EARLY CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES
Our experiences as children affect the development of our nervous system. Unfortunately as children we can experience traumatic events which affect our development. Some examples are
- illness or injury
- parental divorce
Obviously very few people grow up without experiencing any trauma at all and for most people they are able to heal from it and move forward. If too much trauma is experienced then we are unable to process it and the nervous system can become “stuck” in red alert.
In an attempt to keep us safe the nervous system is constantly checking for threat and we become hypervigilant. Unfortunately this can affect the development of the nervous system so that the areas involved with sensing pain can become overactive and then pain is sensed more strongly.
ONSET OF CHRONIC PAIN
Chronic pain can start suddenly one day – for example an injury that never heals or it can build up slowly over time. Often though there are stressful life events that happen at the same time, for example
- stressful job
- health issues
- relationship problems
We reach a point where the stress of life overwhelms us and the coping strategies we have used throughout life aren’t able to protect us enough and the nervous system gets stuck in a hypervigilant (too alert) state. If we have had a lot of previous trauma or experienced a lot of pain in the past then the point of overwhelm can occur sooner.
What can then happen is a “weak point” in the body will start to cause symptoms like
- IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
- back pain
- an injury or health condition we don’t fully recover from
As we experience pain more often and with higher intensity unfortunately the body becomes more alert to pain. Eventually it can reach a point where the body will sense even a small stimuli as pain and this can become a downward spiral.
Six Week Chronic pain course
I have a 6 week course that looks at chronic pain, the causes and how to cope with it. It incorporates my years of experience as a massage therapist and experience of injury rehab. Alongside that I offer counselling and hypnotherapy to help you cope better.