In a recent article in Time Magazine, the Institutes of Medicine estimated that 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, and an alarming number are on prescription pain killers. While all of us have something that ails us, what’s curious is how we respond to the pain. It’s far too common that a suffering individual chooses to create a distraction from it, to push on through, and/or to medicate. I know two such individuals; one continues to run on a previously broken ankle that hurts and swells, the other spends hours upon hours, including weekends, working on a computer even though her wrist and neck are in constant pain. What makes someone choose to over-stress an already stressed area and ignore that it hurts?
Pain gets ignored and pushed away because it’s really no fun. It’s limiting. It’s the uninvited party guest. I mean, who wants to be in chronic pain? I don’t, and you probably don’t either.
Here’s my call to action to those of you who are suffering. Instead of avoiding pain, give it your attention. It’s not trying to harm you, it’s trying to get your attention. Have you ever found yourself referring to a painful body area as “My bad shoulder” or “My annoying ankle”? If we attend to the area of pain from a place of wanting to provide it attention and curiosity rather than with blame and criticism, the body might respond differently. In fact, it will respond differently.
The practice is so simple, I can tell you in 3 short steps.
- Sit or lie down. Set a timer for your desired time frame. Twenty minutes is ideal, but even 10 minutes will make a difference.
- Close your eyes, take three slow, deep breaths, then scan sensations throughout your entire body. Start and end wherever you like. As you scan, notice areas that are hurting as well as areas that feel good.
- Hone in on one area that hurts, and simply pay attention to it. Sense it and let the pain be felt without trying to change anything. Notice how it clenches, pulses, zaps, moves or changes. If you stick with it, you will notice movement and changes. Another area might “light up”, so follow wherever your sensations take you.
That’s it. That’s it? Well, almost. The real key: consistent practice. Commit to this approach daily for 10-20 minutes for one week, and I guarantee you will feel results. Jump start the process by scheduling a massage. Give your body and spirit the attention it is seeking.
Want to help others heal from chronic pain? Become a massage therapist at Indiana Academy of Massage, conveniently located on the north side of Indianapolis in beautiful Zionsville!