By Claire Fitzpatrick, D.C.
In my office, I see people with shoulder pain, knee pain, headaches, low back pain, and neck pain. What most of us don't realize is that if our bodies find it necessary to shunt resources to areas of pain, it means the body understands that there is an underlying health problem that needs attention. It also means that there are less available resources for our bodies to regenerate properly.
If there is chronic pain (pain that began over three months ago), that means there is flawed neural patterning that began months or years earlier, when something happened in our lives that we couldn’t properly integrate. Maybe it was abuse. Maybe it was a jolt from a bike accident. Maybe the cause is black mold in the walls that we would never think to look for. Maybe it is continuing sorrow, disappointment or the nagging realization that life is not turning out the way we think it should.
If we are lucky…
If we're lucky, our imbalances express themselves with pain and sometimes anxiety. This doesn't feel like a blessing, but pain and anxiety encourage us to find help to relieve our symptoms. With real luck, you find practitioners who want to find the root of the problem.
I happen to think chiropractic is crucial in this process. Chiropractic helps us repattern our bodies and minds so that our bodies AND our minds are more flexible, more adaptable, more able to heal properly. But it often takes a team of dedicated integrative health professionals to help one person with multiple chronic health issues.
It’s easy to find physicians who will provide a quick fix to deaden pain. But a lack of symptoms does not equal good health. If I take painkillers and they deaden the pain, the pain may disappear, but the problem remains. It also means that my body has to deal with a foreign substance that, by definition, interferes with the nervous system’s ability to keep clear the lines of communication between brain and body.
I understand that, sometimes, we need to deaden pain temporarily in order to get through a situation. But many of us rely on painkillers to get through life. And that is not a workable strategy in the long run.
Pain is a cry for help.
Pain is a sign that our neural systems are not firing properly, that there is an improper feed in our bodies due to a buildup of stress. That stress could be chemical, physical, environmental, emotional and spiritual, or a combination of all.
But sometimes healing hurts.
Many times, we think that if our pain goes away, we are healed, and that the goal of our chiropractic care is to go back to our desperate lives, pain-free at least. Sometimes we find something else. Sometimes we hurt more during the process of healing.
Awareness brings consequences. As we heal and as our brains reconnect with our bodies, we can sometimes become aware that there is a bigger problem than the pain.
Awareness also brings us choices.
We now have a chance to face life full on, with awareness of the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. Many of us cannot stomach this awareness right away, and we blame everyone and everything else for the way we respond to others in our environment. We must be patient with ourselves and others during this healing process.
While we must ultimately take responsibility for our choices, when we are subluxated (i.e., in a state of less light, less awareness, inflexibility, inadaptability, holding nerve system interference), we often cannot make the right choices right away. While we are subluxated, our ability to access our full capacity is still limited.
We must be gentle with ourselves while healing.
We mustn’t be hard on ourselves during the healing process, just as we mustn’t be unduly harsh to others during this time.
It’s when we are “painless” — we are disconnected from our bodies, minds and spirits, yet have a sense of dis-ease and dissatisfaction with our lives — that is when we are often the most dangerous to ourselves and those around us.
Pain as a blessing.
We who have pain symptoms at least have the blessings of some level of awareness. There is a chance of reorganizing our patterning. It also gives us the chance to grow in ways that we would never have been aware of without the pain.
We need inner connection desperately. That is what true health is. That is what chiropractic, and other forms of natural health care, offer us.