Why We Hurt

By Susan Peterson, CAMTC, NCTMBguy-with-pain-in-the-neck


My web page has tons of practical helpful stuff on it, like how to use ice or heat to feel better. There is, of course more to it than one would think.

In the midst of all this practicality, let me say that the most practical thing I did for a client last week was to explain why we hurt even though “there is nothing wrong.”

I speak of the gulf between how cruddy one can feel even though all systems are functioning and ready to go. This fellow, in particular, is in the process of having every medical test ever invented because he has severe back and neck pain and a few other symptoms I won’t go into.

It is always a good idea to get everything checked, especially when one does not feel well. There are a lot of things that could be going wrong, a big long scary list that the doctor doesn’t need to share with anyone.

Getting a clean bill of health after a once-over, under and in should be good news, of course, but be prepared for that moment when the experts say: “There is nothing wrong.”

Lots of people have trouble with that news because it doesn’t address why they don’t feel better. Well, there may be lots of things wrong, but not anything that is going to kill a person. The pain may be caused by stress, overwork, tension and other issues that don’t translate into a “dis-ease.”

Massage therapists and other kinds of therapists work on a lot of these issues, and the plain fact of the matter is that pain can be pretty severe but simply be pain caused by stress and tension in the neck or back.

This is a tough realization. Let me recommend Dr. John Sarno’s book, “End Back Pain Forever.” Dr. Sarno is a stand-up guy with a bad back and was faced with the prospect that there was no disease-related explanation for why he is in pain. He was, as one might expect, just as hard-headed as the rest of us when it came to pain. The simple explanation – stress – didn’t suit him at all.

Stress had caused him to unconsciously hold his back tight. As the days wore on, the silent tension reduced blood flow into and out of the muscles until hi back got stiff and then started to hurt. That tension leading to pain is a very simple explanation for a major cause of pain in people’s lives. He used mediation, exercise and stretching to help himself back to wellness.

When I was in college I used to get a bad cold every time we had finals. My best friend used to get pneumonia. Another pal got green apple fever so bad that he would put a note on the men’s room door, cautioning folks to use another facility lest they die upon entering. Yes, we were all junior stress-heads and we didn’t know it. We just thought finals sucked.

As I matured, I used massage and Tai-Chi Ch’uan to get rid of my pain. Many of my clients have used massage and yoga to get rid of their pain.

Well, heck, stress can do a lot to the human body. That said, I am, of course, annoyed that Dr. Sarno didn’t get over his back pain with more massage. I think letting someone who understands tension and stress relieve pain through a massage is a great way to get on the road to recovery.

So there. Theory can be practical, at times, if it can make all of us less stressed out over having “nothing wrong.” It’s good for the economy, after all, and one has to figure one is good for another 100,000 miles after everything has been checked under the hood.

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Certification Number: CMT #1039