Back pain is not as straightforward and simple a condition as it sounds.
I was a young woman abroad, travelling around and teaching to pay my way. It had begun as a very enjoyable adventure, exploring and interacting with the many different cultures, people and places I came across as I savoured the sense of freedom and play that being abroad seemed to bring.
Then one day I got up in the morning to go and deliver my class as usual and felt a nagging and persistent pain in my back It came across as a deep, tired ache. Bending backwards was a real problem for me. Where did this back pain come from?
It was the ability to bend forwards that led the doctor to say I was fine and should go to work. By the look in his eye, it was obvious what my back pain meant to him ‘that I was playing a ‘fast one’ to get out of a day’s teaching!
To me the backache meant the following:
* suffer silently, ignore the problem and pop the pills as I go to work so I don’t lose my job (bend over backwards to please others!)
* not being able to deliver my teaching well through lack of concentration and energy
* that when I need help no-one listens as often happened in childhood
* feeling unsupported and alone – that no-one cares or understands, or even wants to.
* feeling like a victim – ‘why me?’
* that my efforts to be happy are usually sabotaged by unexpected events
* remembering the car accident a few years before, during a traumatic kidnap attempt where my back took the brunt of the impact
* being burdened with yet another challenge and having to make the best of it
* a drain on my energy turning a natural zest for life into an act of suffering and ‘bearing up’ under the strain
I think the conclusion of all of this is that back pain is not as straightforward and simple a condition as it sounds. We need to look at what MEANING it has for the person who is experiencing it and understand that all of these thoughts, memories and accompanying emotions can act as additional stressors to aggravate or even cause the condition in the first place.
So any treatment of the pain needs to include an investigation into what meaning it has for the patient and a way needs to be provided to work through or let go of these stressors which otherwise can get in the way of our body’s natural healing processes
We could explore what ‘new meanings’ might be assigned to the experience to enhance and encourage restoration and wellness.
* seeing the pain as a ‘wake-up’ call, a message that something needs to be addressed. Being the ‘victim’ is just one way of seeing it. I can make a more empowering choice for myself and see the pain as a simple and supportive message from the body that ‘something needs to be addressed’
* It is an opportunity to take a nurturing attitude towards myself. I can experiment with laughter or EFT for example, since it is well known that these techniques are very good for pain relief and wellness
Understanding the effects that ‘meanings attached to pain’ can have gives me the choice and opportunity to address the underlying factors and come up with a cure instead of just ‘putting up’ with the pain or popping pills that can often do more harm than good