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Making Sense of Pain – A Perfect Storm of Mind-Body Disharmony

Pain is almost always a perfect storm. Rarely does pain occur due to a singular cause and effect. Instead, pain potential tends to accumulate within us until the nervous system decides it’s time to get our attention. 

In order to make sense of pain, we have to understand what pain is. Pain is the body’s way of getting our attention. Chances are, before you experienced acute pain your body was trying to get your attention with subtle sensations and gentle nudges, but these may have escaped your notice. 

The human body will produce subtle aches and sensations of tension, burning, numbness, twinges of sharpness or other signals that something is amiss. Often though, it takes a more acute and intense level of pain to spur us to action. 

Why is this important to understand? 

Modern medicine likes to make us believe that pain is abnormal, and if you experience pain there must be some dysfunction in your body that can be identified and treated with pharmaceuticals or surgery. We image everything in our attempts to “diagnose” pain with a singular cause. Bulging discs, degenerative discs, tendinopathy, bursitis, tendonitis, inflammation…

But pain is not singular in nature, it is a systemic experience requiring a systemic perspective for real healing to occur. 

There are a lot of videos on Mobility Mastery offering you single fascia release techniques for pain like back or knee pain, plantar fasciitis or shoulder pain…but I hope I’ve made it clear over the years that these are my best “one off” suggestions for getting the most immediate relief, while stressing that the root cause is likely something else altogether. 

Here are a few important considerations if you’re on a path of self healing:

  1. Physical pain can become emotional pain. 
  2. Emotional pain can become physical. 
  3. Every emotion we experience as human beings has an accompanying flood of physical sensations. Think adrenaline/fear response. Think feeling loved when embraced by someone you feel safe and seen with. 
  4. Pain is nothing more than a danger signal from your brain, but that danger signal could be due to unhealed trauma, repeating traumatic nervous system patterns, being in an abusive relationship or just the wrong relationship for you; it could be due to being in the wrong career, or not feeling seen by your family; it could be physical danger due to pelvic instability or your patella (kneecap) getting pulled off the protective bursa, causing bone on bone rubbing…or it could be a combination of these or thousands of other possibilities. 

I don’t want to overwhelm you. But I also refuse to bullshit you. A lot of people out there want you to think pain is simple or easy to “fix.” Sometimes it is. Often, it is not. But thinking it should be simple when it is not will guarantee you frustration and spinning your wheels. 

Or worse, it may cause you to feel defective, because if you believe healing “should” be fast but your pace is not “normal” (a lie told to you by someone) then you’re likely to not feel normal, which can cause shame and self-blame. 

If you’re willing to acknowledge that your pain feels complex, that’s a starting point for simplifying it. 

So how do you find the root cause of your own pain? 

Start here: try to find some patterns. Patterns can show you what is happening and guide you to the root cause, and when you find the root cause you will know what to do for healing. 

Patterns can feel labyrinthian in nature, so if you’re new to pattern recognition and it’s not coming easily…then it may feel like you’re walking a maze with no outlet. But I promise (remember, I will not BS you), there is a pattern to the madness of your pain. 

Patterns can be found in fascia; in your nervous system; in your lifestyle and habits, and each of these link back to each other in patterns too. 

Example: 

You played soccer in high school and college, then got a desk job and now you sit a lot during the week, but on weekends you mountain bike and play tennis. 

You were told repeatedly as a child “don’t cry like a girl” and a few times they even used the paddle on you. Your response to this was to turn around and say “is that all you got?” in defiance, committed to never showing the pain. 

The pain started in college, with sharp pain radiating down your left leg. Sciatica. You went to the doctor and they gave you a cortisone injection (which stung like crazy but whatever you have to do, right?) The injection worked for a little while, but then the pain came back. You decided to live with it since you were done with college and competitive soccer anyway. 

A year into your new desk job you start feeling pain in your right knee, which gets a whole lot worse every time you play tennis. So you stop playing tennis. Hey, as long as you can mountain bike and work out in the gym, right? 

Meanwhile, your marriage is experiencing a lot of tension. But you’re in so much pain physically, it’s really hard to handle this additional stress. So you spend as little time at home as possible, because those confrontations just aren’t worth it and besides…you never resolve anything anyway. 

But now, despite your best efforts to avoid the triggers, your knee pain and sciatica are worse than ever. 

So you take to google, and your internet search for answers leads to you a YouTube channel called Mobility Mastery. This girl is telling you that sciatica is coming from your quads?! 

You have a foam roller in your closet that you’ve never really used, because…ouch! But you get that thing out and follow along with the video. Only…her method is even more excruciating than just rolling! Holy cow! 

Your mind screams “this can’t be normal, is this normal? Is this ok? Am I going to hurt myself?”

Do you see any patterns? I’ve done my best to encapsulate the important elements impacting all of us when it comes to physical pain: our nervous system orientation to pain; our emotions and stress levels; our willingness (or refusal) to confront “what is”; physical patterns of lifestyle, sports and habits…

I’m not actually going to solve this for you. That would do you a massive disservice. I want you to cultivate the capacity for pattern recognition yourself. If I tell you what the patterns are, I’ll cheat you out of actually learning anything. 

But…I’d love for you to share your best answers to this puzzle in the comments section below! Only one rule: no cheating and reading other answers first 😉

Your body has a story to tell.

Your life has a story to tell. There are patterns present that can illuminate your mindset, your physical reality, your emotional and nervous system patterns, your automated behaviors…and freeing yourself from these automations is what I am all about. 

Ultimate freedom is about extracting our consciousness from anything that enslaves it to habitual or automated thinking, feeling and (re)action. 

Free your mind, and your body follows; free your body, and your mind can follow…

* Disclaimer: The contents of this blog and accompanying YouTube channel are for informational purposes only and do not render medical or psychological advice, opinion, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided through this website is expressly the opinions of each author and should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. This is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a medical or psychological problem, you should consult your appropriate health care provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Links on this website are provided only as an informational resource, and it should not be implied that we recommend, endorse or approve of any of the content at the linked sites, nor are we responsible for their availability, accuracy or content.

  • Lily says:

    Elisha wishing you a speedy recovery.. be kind to yourself. Since finding mobility mastery I have learned a lot and now understand I am not alone in my pain. I hurt my back 3 years ago .. bulging disc and I am only now beginning to release my pain..After many visits to physios, chiropractors, counsellors etc I eventually found a physio who is trained in Chinese medicine , myofascia release therapy, acupuncture etc who has helped me to start releasing all the emotions and tensions locked in my fascia.. I am now beginning to understand the mind body connection.

    With love and Best Wishes for a full recovery.. 💕

    Lily

  • jennifer says:

    Only responding to what the body asks for when it shouts and the symptoms/sensations have reached a point where they stop you in your tracks. It’s the enjoyable and emotional growth stuff that suffers though, the tennis and the relationship issues, which leads to even less life fulfillment, more resentment, more putting up and shutting up. Clearly, avoiding the triggers isn’t working, just making life smaller and less stable. More likely to develop worse problems with the existing issues, or new problems, as you haven’t got the message first time round. You’ve set a high bar for tolerance – is that all you’ve got? – so the body will keep generating new, ever greater problems until you address the underlying issues. You’re depriving yourself of the chance for real movement in your life until you address the underlying feelings of not letting yourself feel either end of the spectrum, serious pain or serious joy. Not a very technical answer, sorry!

  • Deidre says:

    Hi Elisha, I do hope you are recovering well from the fall. So glad the bear decided to go on his merry ol’ way. Your video is exactly where I’ve been these last few years. I’ve grown a lot using Eastern Medicine and I have learned so much about myself. I have regulated hormones, blood flow and deficiency, gotten rid of birth control side effects, have no inflammation due to proper eating, learned reiki-level one for self-healing and have had acupuncture (although my acupuncture and massage therapist that worked best together have moved away). I still choose to find a way on my own to heal my chronic pain due to muscle tension on my OWN. I am currently asking through my thoughts and law of attraction that I understand what has been at the root of this pain and or what it requires me to understand. I know it is energy based…causing the tension….I’ve had ALL the scenarios, sports trauma as a kid, compensating for years, emotional attachments…I could explain something under each category on your chart. I choose for the puzzle pieces to fall into place with ease, soon. I feel that your clients aches and pains, although stemming from sports trauma, also have an attachment to not being in control of situations, both as a kid and as an adult. Overtime, their parasympathetic nervous system has been overstimulated causing anxiety and frustration of not just the pain, but how they are reacting in relationships. Self-healing is not easy, quick, or cheap (well somethings are free), but I do know surrounding yourself with the right people can sure help a lot. I’m sure I missed a lot in your client’s story…but that is my gut answer for now.
    With Grace and Gratitude, Deidre

  • Becky says:

    I think nutritional status plans a role as well. But just another piece.

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