You’re getting under my skin. Something is eating at me. My hands are full. My heart is aching. You’re a pain in the…. These are common phrases that we’ve used in this society for decades. But what if they’re more than just off the cuff expressions? What if they are showing us what our physical pain is telling us about our emotions? As a massage therapist with over 20 years of experience, I’ve observed numerous clients who have pain, both chronic and acute that seems to have its roots in emotion. Yes, they may have lifted incorrectly or have a repetitive stress injury, but I see a large correlation between the area of the pain and the emotional reaction that goes with that body part. Like a client that was having anger and frustration at his boss that would eat at him and then bubble up. He had an ulcer and esophageal reflux disease. When he quit the firm, the problems went away. Or the client that is going through a divorce and has shoulder pain when she feels like the weight of the world is on her shoulders or she feels spineless or unsupported.
Paying attention to the area of the pain can be a hint at an emotion that you might not be acknowledging. For example, low back pain tends to correspond to money issues, sex issues and personal support issues. And when I mention that to my back pain clients they laugh and ask which one I want to hear about first. Usually they are experiencing one of those challenges, if not all three. Well, we all go through times of those issues, why don’t we all have low back pain? A valid question; it seems that it expresses physically when it hasn’t been expressed emotionally. Like the man mentioned above with the ulcer. He couldn’t yell at his boss so his anger went unexpressed until his body had enough and said, “Let me take care of getting this out for you”. And it contributed to an ulcer. Now, I’m in no way saying that all our pain and illness is caused by emotion, just like I wouldn’t say everything is environmental, genetic or purely physical. But emotions certainly contribute.
We know stress is a killer. It’s estimated that 70-80% of all doctor’s visits are for a stress related illness. So if stress can deplete our immune system, slow wound healing and speed aging, who’s to say it’s not that emotional stress that contributes to our pain? And it that’s true, it stands to reason that it reveals itself in a way that might hint at what is unexpressed. And with it estimated that we have about 60,000 thoughts a day with 50,000 being negative, it’s no wonder that negativity is building up and coming out in our bodies.
So, what can we do about this? The first thing, get to know your body. Pay attention to where the aches and pains happen. Is it the same basic body part every time? Do you constantly twist an ankle? Maybe you have an issue with taking the next step or moving forward. Do your hands or wrists ache? Perhaps you feel like your hands are full or you can’t get a grip? Next, once you’ve identified what the pain might be telling you, talk about the issue. Even if you just acknowledge the problem to yourself it can be enough to start to deal with the emotions. And further, talk to your partner, parent, clergy, therapist, whoever can help you deal with the stress and emotions in a positive constructive way. If you keep it stuffed inside, it will just fester until it becomes too much and contribute to illness. And don’t forget the physical aspect of the problem. Have a massage, do physical therapy, see a chiropractor or physician, whatever you need to do to assist the healing. I encourage to you to look at all aspects of your health; body, mind and spirit. And hope you have a healthy day.
Kathy Gruver, author of The Alternative Medicine Cabinet has earned her PhD in natural health and studied at the famed Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Harvard. She is a frequent expert on radio and TV, and lectures nationwide. She is currently in development for her own health TV show with a network in Los Angeles.