As I reached over to switch off the bedside lamp I suddenly felt a wave of pain shoot across the middle of my back. I must have strained something the day before when I was gagging over an in-date, but decidedly dodgy, raw egg. So I decided to lie down on the floor in the Alexander Technique posture, to let my back settle and realign the spine and muscles. Oh my goodness! It was like random fireworks of pain and muscle spasms shooting all over the middle of my back! I could barely breathe. No matter how I lay or relaxed or breathed, the pain kept firing. Then I wondered how I'd get up again. If I didn't move soon I wouldn't have time for my shower and breakfast to get to church in time. Did I need help? Well my mobile phone was on the bedside cabinet, so it might as well have been a million miles away. Plus my front door was locked. AND I was in my tartan pyjamas!
Carefully and extremely slowly I eventually got up and made it through breakfast, shower and getting dressed, with a great deal of tension and apprehension. I thought the walk to church would do me good but my back hurt and was tense, every restricted step of the way. I sat carefully in my seat and relaxed as much as I could. When we all stood up for the worship music, I let out a yelp as a sharp wave of pain shot across my back again. This was ridiculous! I had never had anything like this in my life and I took care of myself with regular yoga, walks and kinesiology. And all this caused by simply gagging, and not even being actually sick, the day before?
The Complexity of Back Pain
Ironically, there had been a big influx of client appointments for back pain in the previous six months. People would arrive in such pain, with so much overall tension, pale faced and anxious. To see them go out at the end of an hour of craniosacral therapy, relaxed, smiling, posture upright and a huge sense of relief, was the deepest satisfaction for me as a practitioner. Most clients were in need of weekly sessions because their back pain was so bad. Their condition commonly meant they didn't get a full night's sleep and then struggled through their working day, ending up exhausted. Unable to heal like this, some people needed time off sick and heavy doses of pain medication in order to cope. Every person I saw had consulted their GP and most had seen a specialist medical consultant. I was surprised how hard it was for them to get an MRI scan to investigate the underlying physical problems. Back pain has a massive impact on every aspect of daily life and can leave a person in fear of something as minor as sneezing. My own experience of back pain had given me the ability to empathise more closely with those clients who had suffered much worse conditions than mine. I really understood the need for immediate pain relief and ongoing treatment for a permanent solution.
The reasons for developing back pain seemed to fall into two main categories with my clients. One category was physical injury from accidents or high risk work or leisure pursuits. The other was from long term habitual tension and an inability to fully relax or cease from busyness. In Chinese Medicine, energy is described as Yin or Yang, and I noticed Yin or Yang patterns in these two categories of back pain. Yang energy is masculine, outgoing, sudden and fast moving. These were the clients who hurt themselves by their risky activities. Over time I observed they had a tendency to damage their back again, by heavy lifting at work, engaging in risky sports again or pushing themselves to breaking point in domestic tasks. No matter how well their craniosacral treatment went, the client would sabotage their progress through their own damaging behaviour. Yin energy is feminine, inwardly focused, constant and slow moving. Yin clients had developed their back pain over many years of holding back their emotions, constantly on the go without being able to fully relax and slowly accumulating tensions that eventually became too much to sustain. Over time I saw they would resort to numbing their pain with strong drugs or look for a quick fix operation to avoid facing the changes needed in daily life. Denying the underlying cause of their back pain left them at risk of it coming back again at any time.
Harnessing the Power of Pain
Pain tells you to stop. It gives you a powerful message that things have come out of alignment with the healthy flow of life and natural energy. If you've experienced pain in the past, it can give you the wisdom to avoid it in the future and heed the warnings that come from discomfort or unease. Better still, you might embark on a programme of healthy lifestyle changes that promote flowing energy, robust health and resilient personal development. Of course pain isn't only experienced on the physical level. It can also be emotional as emotions are also our feelings. We feel emotions in our body. When a person suppresses emotional pain, it becomes stuck somewhere in the body. We hear expressions like 'through gritted teeth' or 'doing my head in' and 'a pain in the neck'. These expressions are usually an excellent metaphor for what's happening in the body. So what does back pain tell us and how can we harness the power of these messages?
Could the pain be rooted in something you've put behind you now? Or has something hurt the very core of your being? Interestingly, my own surprising back pain occurred the day after a really lovely night out, relaxing with a group of people who were both enjoyable and considerate company. My understanding of pain in a migraine is that it's actually a relief and release of built up tension - it's the resolution of a problem. So could back pain sometimes be a release of old tensions too - and therefore actually a good thing? When I had my next kinesiology session, the Gateway I came to was 'Embodying Our Destiny'. In the Clearing I came to a new Step 'Letting go of the patterns within that are set by others'. In my past I have been hampered in the fulfillment of my destiny by patterns of mind games, meanness and various forms of bullying by others. It has hurt me at the very core of my being. Those patterns set by others threw me out of alignment with the destined course of my life. Now those patterns are behind me and I rarely encounter such behaviour in the people who are around me. I also understand that the dysfunctional behaviour of others is nothing to do with me and I can let it go and walk away. So perhaps the power of pain is a release from the past and a signpost to a better future.
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To understand more about how body memories can be released, I highly recommend this book, by Babette Rothschild, which I read in March 2007. It’s suitable for lay people and excellent for therapists. Find out more, and order your copy, through the link below.