How many of us have been burdened with pain? How many of us share our pain with others? The crazy part about keeping silent is that we have all felt pain in our emotional, physical and/or spiritual bodies. Pain can be felt in the heart, the stomach, deep within our bones and throughout the musculoskeletal system. Our quality of pain can range from a deep ache, burning, stabbing, constriction, and pressure to something that can’t be verbally described. Severity of pain can range from mild to severe. So, What is PAIN and why do we hide it?
First, I want to address WHAT IS NOT PAIN and likely why we hide it…
Pain does not mean that we are weak or frail. It does not mean that our bodies have lost the ability to cope with the physical demands of life. It is a warning sign and/or a danger signal that the body has been invaded or is not adequately moving in a functionally healthy way. Most importantly, hear this with your heart, not your head… OUR PAIN DOES NOT DEFINE US!
SO, WHAT IS PAIN?
Pain is the body’s internal alarm system warning us of an intruder (bacteria, virus, parasite, fungus, etc…) and/or that our musculoskeletal system is being stressed beyond its function. It is the body’s way of telling us that SOMETHING IS HAPPENING THAT SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING or that SOMETHING THAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING IS NOT HAPPENING! It seems silly to have to address pain, but there seems to be an epidemic of exercise enthusiasts that still believe the motto, no pain, no gain…. this person may even be you (Yes, I am taking to all you CrossFitters out there)! These exercise enthusiasts push past the pain to get results. Whether it’s a competitive goal you are trying to reach with yourself or others, to not be something (overweight, weak, etc…), ignoring it because it’s in an inconvenience (that’s me), or plain old perfectionism (that’s me too), there is some kind of feeling about ourselves that drives us to endure pain. This drive to prove to ourselves or others that we are enough and/or are worthy of being loved if we can be something more or different from who we are. Self-care is the earliest form of medical care. Ignoring these messages by covering them up with stimulants, opioids, alcohol, inactivity, surgery and/or making the body conform to man-made “ergonomically” designed furniture is causing the hamster wheel of pain to become CHRONIC.
Our primary function as humans on earth is to move, we were given arms and legs for that one purpose. In this electronic revolution moving appears to be optional. Nowadays we can order everything online, even our groceries thanks to Amazon without ever leaving our home. And what happened to parents kicking their kids out of the house to play outside until dinner?
Our daily activities no longer engage our musculoskeletal system to move healthfully. The less we move the less we are capable moving. You know the saying, we don’t use it, we lose it. Well, it’s true. You don’t use you muscles your muscles will lose their strength.
THERE IS PAIN AND THERE IS CHRONIC PAIN…
Chronic pain is defined as pain that comes and goes and comes and goes and comes again. It can be unrelenting and mild to severe pain. It may completely affect activities required for daily living, relationships and work. The quality, the severity and location of our pain really doesn’t matter for those who suffer from it, the alarm system is being activated that something should not be happening that is happening or something that should be happening is not happening. What is happening is a tension and compression disorganizing our fascia, dumping into our joint spaces and compacting our organs. What is not happening is adequate functional movement.
Chronic pain causes a chronic activation of our stress response system as discussed in The Medicine Behind How We Occupy Ourselves In Space. We are chronically in a stressed state of to flee or to fight when we have chronic pain. Our stress response system either stays activated or gets repeatedly activated. This sustained activation affects the physiological functions of all your systems including the endocrine, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, reproductive and immunologic systems. It contracts the front body for protection. It floods the body with a cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters including norepinephrine, epinephrine, adrenaline, estrogen, testosterone, cortisol, dopamine and serotonin. The release of adrenaline and cortisol elevates our blood pressure causing our heart to beat harder and faster. Constriction of our visceral blood vessels shunts blood away from our internal organs sending it to the large muscles of our arms and legs so we can flee or fight. White blood cells stick to the walls of our capillaries, ready to be activated in case of injury, wound or infection. Energy sources, including sugar and fats, are mobilized from the liver to give us plenty of fuel. As you know from experience, this response kicks in very fast and takes some time to wear off. It may not wear off, if we are in a chronic stressed state.
THE EFFECTS OF SUSTAINED STRESS ON THE BODY INCLUDE:
- Inhibition of hypothalamic gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) which affects fertility
- Alters activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis affecting fertility
- Alterations of the immune system.
- High Blood Pressure
- High Triglycerides
- Insulin Resistance
- High Fasting blood sugar
- Increases our appetite causing overeating
- Cortisol causes all those extra calories to be stored as fat in worst most unflattering area – the abdomen, which is also the most dangerous area increasing your risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Lower’s bone density increasing risk of osteoporosis
- Linked to depression and memory loss
CHRONIC PAIN IS A SILENT EPIDEMIC IN THIS COUNTRY
I call chronic pain a silent epidemic because many with chronic pain rise in the morning, shower and put their clothes and faces on before heading out into the world with which they interact. You may never know who suffers from chronic pain because many have no bandages, no crutches, no braces and/or no wheelchairs. Many slap a smile on their face and move about the world. They could be your neighbor, a best friend, or your yoga teacher. I know this because I suffered from chronic pain. The #1 cause of chronic pain is both physical and emotional stress. Stress and pain feeds off of one another and often become elevated at the same time. The American Psychological Association reports that chronic stress is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
Shockingly, there is an estimated 100 million adults in the US who suffer from chronic pain. Most chronic pain is from back pain, joint-related pain and headaches with back pain being the leading cause of pain and disability the US. 75% of emergency room visits are from chronic pain with an annual cost of $635 billion dollars per year, well above chronic illnesses including diabetes, heart disease and cancers combined. Chronic pain likely leads to anxiety and depressive disorders, opioid addiction (11.5%) and suicide. From 1999 to 2009, Medicare costs have increased by 629% for epidural steroid injections for back pain, 423% for opioid prescriptions and 220% for spinal fusion surgeries with studies revealing no improvement in patient outcomes! OMG, what are we doing!!!!
HOW ABOUT WE FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS…
Many people with chronic pain lose body awareness. We emotionally and physically disconnect from our bodies wishing and hoping we could get new ones. We know that, if left untreated, physical and emotional pain and stress will only worsen. Here’s the problem, healing our physical and emotional bodies take work, a lot of work. This work is NOT fun, in fact, the work, in and of itself, causes more pain and requires a lot of discipline. I can promise you this, you cannot heal the physical body without healing the emotional body. The question you must ask yourself… “Are you in enough pain, that you have no other option, but to do the work and make the changes that need to be made?”
Back and joint pain are not only uncomfortable, but can be debilitating, making it difficult or impossible to perform simple activities of daily living. Although, a majority of compressions are located within the spine, painful compressions may be in the sacrum, pelvis, shoulders, and even the skull. Yoga and ELDOA create structural balance and proprioception (where we are in space). Remember, our unhealthy behaviors become unhealthy gestures, unhealthy gestures become unhealthy habits and these unhealthy habits create structural musculoskeletal misalignments in the body.
ELDOA creates structural space within our joints. The ELDOA postures help de-coaptate joints and increase fluid into the joints which relieves pain and restores function and balance. Through these postures, the fascia will be normalized throughout the body encouraging increased disc hydration and blood circulation, improved posture, increased flexibility, reduction of stress, and joint inflammation and arthrosis. Those of us who suffer from chronic pain may have compressions in various parts of our bodies, and with ELDOA postures, pain can decrease and even disappear over time. If left untreated, compression and our pain worsens. For example, compressions of the intervertebral disc can lead to disc degeneration and herniation. When ELDOA exercises are performed on a regular daily basis, it can prevent these changes. Anecdotal evidence, evaluating pain and MRI studies, have shown that ELDOA exercises eliminate the need for surgical procedures or expensive treatments in some individuals with surgically indicated disc herniations. With a regular ELDOA practice, you may notice a decrease in pain, therefore improving both our physical and mental wellbeing.
With regards to yoga, there are now over 3,150 published studies on health benefits of yoga. The Journal of the American Medical Association published the study “Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reductions vs Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Usual Care on Back Pain and Functional Limitations In Adults With Chronic Low Back Pain” that concluded “Among adults with chronic low back pain, treatment with MBSR [mindfulness-based stress reduction i.e, yoga and meditation] and CBT [cognitive behavioral therapy], compared with usual care, resulted in greater improvement in back pain and functional limitations at 26 weeks, with no significant differences in outcomes between MBSR and CBT groups. These findings suggest that MBSR may be an affective treatment option for patients with chronic low back pain.
MY PLEA, MY THANK YOU…
If you are out there suffering from chronic pain, like I once was, know there are solutions. I was not a believer until I was. I had a team, a very expensive team and I am not wealthy! Each and every one of my healers and doctors played a role in my recovery. They did not heal me, I DID that. They gave me tools to heal myself. Thank you Fred Lerner, D.C, Magdy Guirguis, D.C., Jerome White, L.Ac., Gaya Bhola, Homeopath, Drs. Stefan Hagopian, Kirsten Mackey, and Adam Silver, Doctors of Osteopathy, Jasmine Lieb, yoga therapist, all my Ala-non Sponsors and therapists who will remain anonymous, my collegue who introduced me to the teachings of the French Osteopath, Dr. Guy Voyer and mentees, Bryce Turner, Brent Meier, and Jason Amstutz, D.C. and all my friends and family who supported me during my time in absolute hell! Please contact me if you need resources. I have access to an amazing community of body workers all around the world!
Best wishes and Namaste,