A theory about pain


What actually is pain? There are several theories that have been developed over the years. Ancient Oriental belief is that our energy or chi, or vital life force travels along pathways known as

meridians and pain is stuck energy. When the energy becomes trapped or congested due to trauma or illness of some kind the end result is pain.

At least one traditional western study known as The Gate Control Theory by Melzack and Wall (l965) concludes that pain is our brain’s perception. This theory suggests that the transmission of pain impulses can be modulated by a gating mechanism in the base of the brain’s signaling system. An open gate results in pain; a partially open gate, less intense pain; a closed gate, no pain. This theory would then explain why each individual could have a different or varied response to the same stimulus. We are no more or less of a person because of greater or lesser feelings of pain. Our pain is our pain.

Whatever the experts may agree or disagree upon, pain is a warning system. Very simply it’s saying pay attention, something is wrong. If we ignore our pain instead of releasing it, or correcting the root cause, the pain maybe become chronically stubborn and difficult to manage.

Studies have shown that during periods of trauma, illness, disease or injury, the mind will make indelible imprints of those experiences. Attached to those very same experiences comes heightened sense of emotions. If the pain is too intense to handle at the moment physical or emotional shock (as a protective mechanism) will ensue. The body will then simply store that information below the conscious level for processing later leaving those memories to become dissociated or lost- not gone, just not available to the conscious mind.

The memories are state- or position dependent and can therefore be retrieved when the person is in a particular state or position. This information is not available in the normal conscious state, and the body’s protective mechanisms keep us away from the positions that our mind/body awareness construes as painful or traumatic.

The memories surrounding these painful events are stored at the cellular level via our fight or flight hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine and are literally encoded into the system. Although we do not have a total conscious awareness, our mind/bodies will not allow us to forget as a protection against further injury. Without full recognition and release of these events the person progresses into the state of resistance and possibly chronic pain.

Let’s test this theory. Remember a childhood injury or illness. Something that caused you PAIN! Now in your mind bring forth as many memories of that incident that you can. Visualize where you were, who was there, what kinds of treatments were incurred because of the injury. Bring forth the emotions- grief, pain, and fear. If the area is scarred, touch it. If it’s a limb bend it. You may be surprised just how much pain is still associated with that old injury.

Positional release a technique that is frequently used during massage and can be learned for home use can bring awareness of a past event or trauma allowing the individual to grasp the previously hidden information that is creating or maintaining symptoms. With this information at the conscious level, the individual is in a position to learn what holding or bracing patterns have been impeding progress back towards wholeness and healing. For more information regarding positional release read about Rolfing, The Alexander Technique or The Rosen Method.

Till next time, Rebecca