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Listening to Your Body When it is in Pain

Respecting Pain

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A couple of years ago, I woke up with an excruciating pain in my lower back. Although it was a very limiting pain, I was sure that as soon as I started moving around it would disappear. My denial was based on the scientific fact that movement dissipates tension, although why would I have tension after several hours of deep sleep? I told myself that I had probably slept in a forced posture. However, the day turned into night with no relief.

In the past 14 years I haven't taken medication of any kind, except for a few vitamins and supplements, whenever I've felt my body needed them. So, I ruled out using analgesics from the beginning.

The following day not only the pain was still there, it had worsened and it irradiated to my right thigh. I could hardly bend down to put my socks on and when I tried to go for a walk each step felt like a hammer hitting my lower back. My pelvis felt the pulsating squeezing of giving birth, but of course, it was not the case. My medical mind told me I had herniated a disk in my lumbar spine. But what would I do with the diagnosis?

Breathing deeply made the pain grow, sneezing made me agonize. I knew that a doctor would order X-rays or an MRI, which would confirm the diagnosis and localize the lesion with accuracy. After the tests, the doctor would prescribe muscle relaxers and a pain killer, and recommend a hard bed, but taking any kind of medication was out of the question. I had long ago decided not to ingest any chemicals that could disturb the communication between my organs.

I played my relaxation cassettes, administered Reiki to myself and made an online healing request through the Distant Healing Network (the-dhn.com).

I could hardly sit in a chair, so I straddled my kneeling chair, the one I use on my computer workstation most of the day, making frequent pauses to give rest to the muscles in charge of that posture. I also modified my nutrition to add extra anti-inflammatory foods like tart cherries and natural analgesics like green peppers. I used vitamin C and Complex B to reinforce my connective tissue and support the inner healer in the process of repairing any injured nervous tissue. I took magnesium pills to keep cartilages flexible and bought ripe pineapples that are rich in the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromeline.

Although the pain and the muscle spasm were limiting, I knew they served the purpose of protecting my tissues from further damage. That's why I decided to respect the pain. I knew that Reiki and relaxation techniques would keep it within a bearable range and pain would guide my recovery. I knew the pain was a body alert that I needed to listen to. My cousin, for example, after having herniated a disk was prescribed with a strong dose of cortisone and analgesics. His pain was gone in hours and after a few days he felt so well that he decided to play soccer with his vigorous 8-year-old son. Because the body didn't have enough time to heal, he caused himself an even more serious lesion that rendered him in a wheelchair for a while.

In my case, after a few days, the pain was almost completely gone but the spasm continued to protect the spine for several weeks. I avoided driving, running and bearing weight. Rolling on the floor, Tai-Chi-like exercises and mindful moving helped my body take care of the problem while keeping my muscles flexible and relaxed. Still, the body continues to remind me with pain in the same area that I should not bear more weight than necessary, that I should change posture frequently and that pauses are desirable.

Pain Has a Purpose

If the purpose of pain is to protect the body from further damage, we need to listen. Usually, only when the pain is acute and limiting we are forced to pay attention. In most cases, we just ignore the pain as when we have been sitting for hours in front of a computer and the overloaded muscles are asking for a change in posture. Because we ignore pain, our muscles tense and develop spasms, which contribute to deform our posture causing misalignments. If we stop using groups of muscles they will shorten and weaken and in time, unattended areas become vulnerable to injuries.

Most of us run looking for medication to alleviate a symptom. But is it really necessary or desirable to counteract a normal defensive bodily response? It is preferable to listen to our body. Forcefully silencing the body cuts our relationship with it.

If necessary, natural therapies such as Reiki, Trager, relaxation techniques and acupuncture will help reduce pain without the undesirable secondary effects of medication. Only in extreme cases should we go for pain killers, and always under a physician's advice.

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