Pain starts in the brain, and clinicians have had to get creative with how to reframe pain in the body.
I work on the acupuncture meridians that calm the nervous system and the organs in the body that deal with detoxification: kidney, liver and lung. Helping these organs do their job, whether they are underactive, overactive or stagnant, can take a lot of pressure off how we process our environment and our pain.
Instrumental sound therapies and meditation exercises awaken the parasympathetic nervous system and can decrease stress hormones, calm the body and bring openness to lessen tension from personal histories and physical distress. Art therapy, a powerful relaxant, provides a platform with which to externalize the physical and emotional pain of life transitions; in a feeling of emptiness, it can spark insights and self-knowledge. The practice of yoga, with its heritage of healing and supportive technologies, can empower a broken heart, impassion our lives and goals and grace a wounded body with fluidity and flexibility.
Reflexology works with the nervous system. The action of a reflexology session directly addresses the more than 8,000 nerve endings in the feet. Through the alternating pressure of reflexology technique, your nerves become relaxed, and a few wonderful outcomes occur.
As your nerves relax, pain naturally subsides. Sometimes this is temporary symptom relief. Depending on the situation this can be enough to allow the body to create more permanent relief. In this state, your body is triggered to move into physiological relaxation, which is essentially “maintenance mode”. While in this mode, your body kicks into self-repair, and that is the real magic. General inflammation is reduced and your body is allowed the time and energy to work to heal itself.
From a scientific point of view there are many studies that show the efficacy of acupuncture for pain, as well as for other symptoms. New theories and observations are frequently coming to light, backing up acupuncture’s time-tested, 2,500-year-old reputation. For example, acupuncture has the ability to reduce inflammatory chemical messengers like TNF-α and increase levels of natural painkillers called endorphins.
Energy healing works well for both chronic and acute pain. Among the most popular are reiki and Healing Touch. As a Healing Touch practitioner, I look at pain from a holistic standpoint and understand that some physical pain might not have solely physical roots, but roots in the subconscious, or stored at the cellular level, where energetic disruptions occur. Some potential causes may include challenging life circumstances, ruminating thoughts, unpleasant memories, emotional perturbations or unsettling past experiences.
How do yoga, yoga therapy and meditation work to address pain?
Through breath-centered meditation and movement meditation, or yoga “asana” postures, the vagus nerve can be toned and the parasympathetic relaxation response can be turned on. It’s commonly said that there’s a “smoothing out” that happens when breath is focused on the places where pain is experienced. The phrase “send your breath to your knee” refers to the act of sending the energy, expansiveness and calm that can create that smoothing effect. It’s all because of the power of the mind, which doesn’t necessarily take away the actual pain but gives the person a different relationship to the pain by putting some space between them and the sensation.