A client messaged me today — a local farmer who had started seeing me as a personal trainer. Routinely complaining about his shoulder pain during sessions, I suggested we focus on rehabbing his pain first, but was met with resistance as he had already “tried more than six therapists and nothing had worked.” I left it at that and focused our training sessions on “shoulder-friendly” and preventive upper body work alongside the total body workouts.
Weeks passed and there was still shoulder pain, so I informed him we’d be doing therapy that day instead of a training session, just to see if there would be any improvement.
A little while later I receive a message. This is a week after I treated him. Once. For shoulder tendonitis.
The message expressed shock at how his shoulder no longer hurt as he had tried so many things already and none of them had worked. “How do you do it?” he asked.
We all experience pain at some point in our lives. Many suffer from chronic pain (pain lasting more than three months consecutively), and pain is still one of the most ignored signs our body gives us. We try everything to suppress it, even ingesting drugs that suppress our nervous system and brain for just a short period of relief. We try therapy after therapy, fix after fix, and when nothing works we ask the doctor for more pills. More short-term relief. Or, alternatively, we just learn to live with it.
Pain and chronic illness are manifested in a number of ways. Pain that lasts a long time sometimes stops feeling like pain, and becomes a part of who we are, sometimes appearing as other health conditions (think IBS, Crohn’s, anxiety, depression, heartburn, high blood pressure, cancer, etc.). Clients with chronic pain have told me that they don’t feel physical pain as much as they recognize other symptoms (grumpiness, indigestion, anxiety).
Most of us live in a stressed state, in the fight-or-flight response. Our breathing pattern has changed, we stop using proper mechanics and use a handful of the hundreds of muscles in our body for daily life. Then we wonder why we’re sick, in pain, and stressed.
Our bodies work as one unit — all systems and parts feeding into the next. Pain and health come and go; all life is ebbs and flows. The trick is to learn how to ride those waves and not try and stop them. Pain is always a message from the body. If we don’t listen to it, how can we respond appropriately? Don’t stifle it, do something about it. GN